Monitor engineer Duriel Mensah brings immersive in-ear monitor mixing to the top afrofusion artist’s massive band and the results are on fire

 

Solotech serves as the production provider for Burna Boy’s tours worldwide

 

With more than 19 million monthly listeners on Spotify, not to mention over 300 million streams of his song “Last Last” alone, Nigeria’s Burna Boy—née Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu—is by all counts a major international success. In July, the Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and record producer became the first African artist to headline a US stadium concert when he drew more than 40,000 fans to New York’s Citi Field to celebrate his 32nd birthday. But that wasn’t an isolated incident; he’s packing massive venues around the world on his latest Stadium Tour, sonically reinforced by Solotech, who is supplying a DiGiCo Quantum338 and two Quantum7 mixing consoles, one of which is loaded with a DMI-KLANG module for immersive in-ear monitor mixing.

Burna Boy doesn’t do anything on a small scale, evidenced by the swarm of musicians and singers that surround him onstage. “Burna’s core band is called the Outsiders; it includes a drummer, bassist, guitarist, two keyboardists, and a saxophonist, and I mix each of their IEMs,” says Duriel Mensah, who pilots a KLANG card-equipped Quantum7. “I’m also mixing ears for the brass section—trumpet, trombone, and tenor sax—plus the front wedges and side-fills onstage. Joshua Adeyosoye, our other monitor engineer for Burna Boy is on another Quantum7. He’s responsible for mixing our three backing vocalists, a ten-piece choir, a very diverse percussion section that can have eight to ten people playing talking drums, omeles, marching band elements, and any additional guests that might join us for a particular show. It’s a very busy stage and Joshua and I work closely to keep everyone out there happy. It’s also a crazy amount of channels—there are approximately 120 lines coming off the stage—which is why we needed the Quantum7s.”

 

Duriel Mensah, one of Burna Boy’s two monitor engineers, mixes the lead vocal, core band, and horn section on a DMI-KLANG-equipped DiGiCo Quantum7 console (photo credit: Tosin Orojinmi, Doxa Studio)

 

Although Mensah has been Burna Boy’s monitor engineer since 2019, when he mixed the artist and his band for a big show at SSE Arena Wembley, 2023’s Stadium Tour marks the first time that he has ever used KLANG’s immersive IEM mixing platform, and he’s been delighted with the results.

“The integration between KLANG and DiGiCo is flawless,” he enthuses. “If I’m in someone’s mix—let’s say drums, for instance—and I want to bring the click up, I can do it through KLANG:app as well on the touchscreen, and it effects the fader on the console. It triggers a send on fader mode on my DiGiCo and I can see those changes happening. Also, on the DiGiCo, if I’m on the channel, I can click and see exactly where in the immersive field it’s panned to. That seamless integration of being able to move back and forth is just fantastic. And if the guys on stage tell me they need just a touch more of something, or want to move something around, I can very quickly do that for them on the touchscreen monitor using the KLANG:app. I love how everything works together so smoothly. It makes my job easier. I can just focus on what Burna and the band need without having to think about it too much.”

Mensah credits Burna Boy’s longtime front-of-house engineer and production manager, Temidayo Oladehin, for his initial spark of interest in KLANG. “I must have first read about KLANG on an email, because I subscribe to just about anything subscribable when it comes to sound,” laughs Oladehin, who is mixing the show on a Quantum338. “I’m always trying to stay on top of what’s new. But one of the things that really drew me to KLANG was the information about how it gives you this perceived loudness of almost an extra 6dB. That was something that I found very appealing. If we can get people to hear themselves louder without having a negative impact on their hearing, that’s a great thing.”

 

Burna Boy FOH engineer Temidayo Oladehin runs the show’s house sound on a DiGiCo Quantum338 console

 

“I immediately wanted to take it out with us, but I didn’t want to try it out on the road,” Oladehin continues. “I wanted to wait until we could take it into rehearsals to properly evaluate it and not worry about adding a learning curve to our shows, which are already complex. When I told our band members that Duriel and I were planning to switch them over to KLANG mixes at some point, one of them in particular said that he really didn’t want to use it. But once we actually got the DMI-KLANG into rehearsals for our stadium run, I think he was actually the first one that told us how much he liked it!”

Mensah appreciates that the KLANG system can easily cater to what Burna Boy and each band member want to hear in their in-ears. “A lot of our band guys are studio-based, so they’re used to producing music and want things to feel nice and wide and even in their ears,” he says. “Our drummer, who is also our musical director, is a good example. He likes the brass to be panned out from left to right across the front of his mix, and everything be present and full. Some of the other elements, like choir tracks or click, I’ll tuck just behind his head a bit in the mix so they can be heard but aren’t a distraction, because as the MD, he needs to hear everything, including his own drums. I put his toms on the outer ring of the 3D tab, which gives just a little bit of a push imaging-wise. The toms literally feel like they’re sitting on top of my head when I listen to his mix, and the way that they pan is amazing. Everything feels very polished and produced in his mix, as if you’re listening to a spatial audio studio recording.”

Other band members prefer a different arrangement, he continues: “Our first keyboard player, Michael, wants to hear everything according to its relation to him on stage. He sits at stage right, next to the guitar, so guitar is panned just a bit to his left. And all of the horns are on stage left, so I’ll pan them even further that direction. I give the keyboardist a stereo field of his own mix so it’s nice and even, but then I place live elements of the band in the sonic field as to how he sees them on stage, because that’s how he likes to hear them.”

 

The native integration of KLANG within the console combined with an external touchscreen gives Mensah fast and intuitive control of the performers’ immersive IEM mixes (photo credit: Tosin Orojinmi, Doxa Studio)

 

Mensah points out that KLANG has also been well received by Burna Boy himself. “We run a pair of ambience mics, especially for Burna’s mix, to keep him connected to the crowd and space,” he says. “It’s been a journey to get him on in-ears over the past few years; he’s indicated that they don’t always feel natural, and he’s been prone to popping one or both of them out. But when we added the KLANG system in rehearsals, as soon as we threw up the ambience mics in his ears, we found that he’d leave his IEMs in all day, which was a great sign. It meant that everything just felt ‘real’ and he was enjoying himself. That was achieved with KLANG.”

Oladehin reveals a detail to Mensah about how things are going with the latest gear addition: “Duriel will be hearing this for the first time, but I recently did a review with the band, and coming from where we’ve been, the guys are very, very happy with their in-ear mixes,” he announces. “The impression that KLANG has made on the guys is amazing and it’s something that we always want to take on the road. They’ve been giving it such great reviews that we’re planning to soon add a second DMI-KLANG card to Joshua’s console so the rest of the performers onstage can be just as happy with what they’re hearing as well.”

Having wrapped up the 2023 Stadium Tour with a final performance in Detroit, Michigan on August 19, Burna Boy just released a new album, I Told Them…, on August 24, which will be supported with a US tour this October and November. For details on details on Burna Boy’s upcoming shows, visit www.onaspaceship.com. Solotech can be found online at www.solotech.com.