OkayAfrica's 100 Women
Image courtesy of Bose Ogulu

The Internet Doesn't Know Mama Burna At All

She might be your favorite internet auntie, but Bose Ogulu is a woman and a professional in full.

At the top of the year, Bose Ogulu—the mother and manager of one of Nigeria's biggest Afro-fusion stars—won the internet with three simple words: "Expect more madness."

She uttered those words into the mic at the 2018 Soundcity Music Awards (broadcast live on Jan. 5, 2019), where she accepted the biggest accolade of the night on behalf of her son, Burna Boy. The response on Twitter was swift; tweets praising the artist's badass mother for her youthful energy populated the social media platform immediately after she confidently strolled off the stage.

"Burna Boy's mom be shaking tables and chairs—in fact all furnitures [sic]," wrote one Twitter user. "Burna Boy's mom is the real MVP!!! Now we know where he got it from," wrote another. Her unapologetic delivery at the awards show, followed by another widely shared clip showing Ogulu warmly embracing her son (while he holds what appears to be a joint), quickly earned her the title of the "cool mom" amongst young Nigerian social media users. Fans had yet another reason to tweet out their admiration for a woman they dubbed Mama Burna. She's fun like a sister. She's familiar like an auntie. She loves fiercely like a mother. It seems, according to internet praise, we have her pegged. She's Burna Boy's mom, and many who have watched her boost her son's career have only seen her through this singular lens.


This characterization is not unfitting—she certainly doesn't come off as your archetypal Nigerian parent—but as Ogulu puts it, she's been called the "cool mom and the cool auntie" long before her internet fame and it's far from the most exciting title she holds. It's the disservice that's done to most women who are reduced to just their motherhood or their work title. But as Ogulu notes in our interview, she's much more than that.

In fact, despite being a topic of discussion on social media, Ogulu, like many mothers, is mostly unconcerned with what happens on the world wide web, "I forget that things like Instagram exist. And going viral and trending is all not, honestly, part of my reality," she says. And like most women, "cool" or otherwise, she wears various hats that directly inform the way she moves through her career. With a Bachelor of Arts in foreign languages (she speaks French, Italian, German, English, and Yoruba), and a Masters of Arts in translation, Ogulu has gone through many successful professional iterations, first as a translator for the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce, then as the CEO of Language Bridges (1997 to 2015), a language and music school, where she organized cultural immersion trips for over 1,800 young people. She also taught French for 10 years at the University of Education in Port Harcourt, retiring just last year.

These are the facts the internet forgets. Mama Burna isn't just a caricature of Nigerian motherhood. She's an academic, a professional, a wife of 29 years and a mother to three children, including her superstar son. All nuances that also inform how she moves through the world as a mother and a mentor to youth as well.

Her parenting style bears parallels to her own upbringing, which she says was marked by a unique sense of gender balance between her and her younger brother. "There was no importance placed on gender, it never came up," she says, adding a mention that she grew up with a distinctly close proximity to the Nigerian art world during what many consider to be its golden age. Her father, Benson Idonije a well-known radio host, was the legendary Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti's first band manager, exposing her to the inner-workings of the music industry from an early age (and to the possibility of following alternative career paths). It's why she felt confident committing fully to her love of language, despite pleas from educators to follow a more traditional route. "I studied languages. and went around the world doing it," she recalls with observable pride. "I remember in 'uni' they called me back three times. They said 'do you not want to change to the law department?' You are a very smart student.' I [simply] said, 'No, I want to study languages.'

The importance of allowing youth to realize their dreams is a point she emphasizes throughout our conversation, and because she holds this idea dear, her children were part of the small but fortunate group of Nigerian kids who weren't pressured into following one of the few careers considered lucrative enough for Nigerian parent's standards. They were given permission and support—which is key—to become something other than a doctor, lawyer or engineer—unless of course, that was where their talents and desires happened to be leading them. "I'm honored to have been part of the vessel that is helping them achieve their dreams and through them we're doing it for many more young people," she adds.

It's led to a comfort in her relationship with her children, but there remains a fine line to tow between being an authority figure and an approachable mentor, a battle Ogulu is quite familiar with considering her role as a "momager" who spends months traveling on packed tour buses with her son while taking "$12 showers" at rest stops. She makes it work, though. "I still am, friends with my parents. We were friends. So, I learned to be friends with my children. It's a tough balance. Because, you have to whoop their backsides as well. And then, know when to sleep."

These tougher, less glamorous parts are indeed part of what makes Ogulu a "cool" mother, but the internet has chosen to mostly focus on other facts—whether true or not. It's how a rumor of her being one of Fela Kuti's dancers became Nigerian blogosphere fodder, although Ogulu was practically in diapers when she first met him.

"How could I have danced for him? Chronologically, it doesn't add up...when did I dance for Fela?" she says laughing, adding that the musician was, instead, the closest thing she had to a godfather.

It shows how easily the internet can build false personas around people's lives and it's part of why she doesn't take it too seriously. "When the speech went viral and everyone supposedly loved me, or whatever, I remember telling one of my daughters that I don't get excited about this love because they're going to abuse me in a minute, because I'm going to keep saying and doing exactly what I think," she says plainly.

It's about knowing who you are—regardless of social media murmur—knowing what you want to do, and then giving yourself fully to that cause.

This is especially important for artists, says Ogulu, who should be willing to lead with "integrity" above anything, especially money. "I'm not saying get yourself locked up like Fela, but speak your truth. If it's a lie and you know it's a lie, don't say it. Don't get paid to say it."

Ogulu urges ambitious young women to not wait for others to give them recognition, but to instead continue to do the work that will make their presence impossible to ignore. In other words, if we waited on others to create room for us to thrive as individuals, we'd be waiting too long. "I've never gone through life looking for anyone to make space for me. I try to create my own space or fill the space that is available so that I am relevant."

"I am capable," she says with added emphasis.

And when it comes to expressing who she is as a mother, teacher, talent manager, leader, and so much more, for Ogulu, even a space as massive as the internet isn't quite big enough.

Style

OkayAfrica and B4Bonah Share New 'B4Beginning' Capsule Collection

We've teamed up with the Ghanaian artist ahead of the release of his debut project for some colorful new merch.

Rising Ghanaian star B4Bonah, premieres his catchy debut track "See Body," and to mark the song's release, OkayAfrica has teamed up with the artist to share a new collection of tees, that'll fit nicely into your summer wardrobe.

The artist's latest track is a party jam, that sees him flowing "over an earworm flute melody and afrobeats percussion," using "his rasping flow to celebrate the girl of his dreams." The track was produced by J.Rocs.

B4Bonah - See Body www.youtube.com

In conjunction with the song's release, two new shirt designs are available for preorder at our Okayshop. The vibrant shirts feature the artist's image on colorful blue and green colored blocks, with the words "B4BONAH B4BEGINNING," on the back—referencing the artist's debut mixtape, which is slated for release in late July. The project features Medikal, Mugeez (R2Bees), Amaarae & Ivy Sole.


B4Bonah is an artist to watch, as he continues to make his presence known in the Ghanaian music scene.

Watch the music video for "See Body" above, and head to shop.okayplayer.com now to pick up to pre-order a shirt (or two). You can also preorder B4Bonah's B4beginning mixtape here.

popular

Watch EL, Joey B and Falz' New Video for 'Ehua'

Ghana meets Nigeria in this hilarious new clip.

Ghanaian rappers EL and Joey B connect with Nigeria's Falz for this addictive new collaboration and music video for "Ehua."

"Ehua" is built on energetic afro-electronic beat work produced by EL himself. Joey B handles the hook while Falz kicks things off early with a solid verse.

The eye-catching and hilarious music video for the single, directed by Yaw Skyface, features EL as a policeman, Falz as the 'oga' bossman, and Joey B as a worker for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

Falz takes Joey B's woman by showing off his money and status, so Joey B enlists policeman EL to get back at Falz. The plan backfires however as the officer decides to stick around and party with the rich instead of helping the everyday worker out.

For more GH hits check out our Best Ghanaian Songs of the Month roundups and follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Watch the new music video for EL, Joey B and Falz' "Ehua" below.

EL ft Joey B & Falz - Ehua (Official Video) youtu.be


News Brief
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Nigeria's Super Falcons Were Forced To Threaten a Sit-In Protest Over Unpaid Bonuses After Women's World Cup

After negotiations, the Nigerian Football Federation have agreed to run the players their money.

Nigeria's own Super Falcons had a great run during the Women's World Cup. But instead of the players heading back home or to their respective professional clubs after losing to Germany 3-0, they were forced to strong-arm the Nigerian Football Federation to pay what they're owed.

According to ESPN's initial report over the weekend, the Super Falcons threatened to stage a sit-in protest at their hotel in France until all of their unpaid bonuses dating back to two years ago were paid, along with their World Cup allowances and bonuses.

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