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Amazing Artists From Africa I Learned About From Watching Africans Celebrate Them In Beyoncé's Black Is King

Ghanian artist Shatta Wale in a scene from Black is King.
Ghanian artist Shatta Wale in a scene from Black is King.
Screenshot: @beyonce (Instagram

I love Beyoncé. But more importantly, I really love when members of the global Black diaspora connect with each other.

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It brings me joy to listen to Afrobeat, the genre that dominates the soundtrack for The Lion King which turned into the visual album Black Is King that Beyoncé released on Friday. I remember the first time I realized I could understand a lot of what Nigerian artist Burna Boy was singing in his country’s dialect, because something of our shared African ancestry lives on in the patois language I grew up speaking in Jamaica.

I say all this to explain why much of the enjoyment I got from watching Beyoncé’s latest creative production came from seeing images of Blackness in Africa (a continent which I haven’t yet had the privilege to visit) that felt somehow familiar to me and also magically, wonderfully new.

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Even after two watches of the visual film, I knew I couldn’t fully appreciate the all those wonderfully new images with my own limited knowledge about the place where much of it was made.

Given the lengthy list of African names in the exhaustive credits at the end of the film, I was immediately curious not only to hear more about those who helped make the masterpiece but also to see how Africans themselves are reacting to this showcase of artistry from their continent. Luckily, the film aired across the continent on Saturday through a deal with Disney and a number of African television networks, according to Billboard.

Below are just some of the incredibly talented African creatives I’ve learned about from reading the reactions of people watching the film in Africa.

There was Mary Twala, a South African actress who fittingly played an elder in Black is King. Blitz Bazawule, a Ghanian director who also worked on the film, revealed on Twitter that Twala died recently and the performance was likely one of her last.

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South Africans have also been celebrating the performances of actors Nyaniso Dzedze, Nandi Madida, Folajomi Akinmurele, Warren Masemola, and Connie Chiume, who all play starring roles in the film.

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There’s also South African artists Busiswa and Moonchild who did the damn thing in the part of the film dedicated to the song “My Power,” alongside scenes with Beyoncé, Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack, American singer-songwriter Nija Charles, and Future Queen of Everything Blue Ivy:

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Creatives and artists from other African countries who worked on Black Is King have also been proudly talking up their involvement in the masterpiece, including Ghanian dancehall artist Shatta Wale who features in the song “Already” and accompanying video:

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Also celebrating her appearance in Black Is King is Nigerian singer Yemi Alade, who magnificently dances in the film to her song “Don’t You Me Jealous Me” with Afrobeat artists Tekno Miles, Mr. Eazi and Lord Afrixana.

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There were also Nigerian dancers Papi Ojo, who features in a memorable dance duet with Bey in “Already”, and Picture Kodak, who sadly died earlier this year:

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Outside of those in front of the camera, there were countless creatives from Africa informing the film behind the scenes—not to mention all the other members of the global Black diaspora who contributed to it.

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Basically:

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If it’s one thing I took away from this gorgeous and inspiring visual album, it’s that Africa is in all of us. Shoutout to Beyoncé for the reminder and opportunity to learn more about our beautiful brothers and sisters from the motherland.


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Writer, speaker, finesser, and a fly dresser. Jamaican-American currently chilling in Chicago.

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DISCUSSION

It brings me joy to listen to Afrobeat, the genre that dominates the soundtrack for The Lion King

Small but important correction: the genre that dominated the Lion King soundtrack appears to be (I checked via web search rather than listening) Afrobeats. Afrobeat artists tend to get offended by that mistake, as Afrobeats has a reputation for being tacky and composed for mass distribution as ring tones (how a lot of Africans buy their music libraries). It’s pretty easy to tell the difference, as Afrobeat sounds like the American classic rock, oldies, and somewhat R&B it was contemporary to (early stuff sounds a bit like Jump Blues), to the point that you could probably sneak it into an American oldies/classic station rotation and have the only reaction be curiosity about the sudden deep cut, while Afrobeats is most closely related to the Grime genre of hip hop.

Afropop Worldwide is the first podcast I ever subscribed to and still a candidate for my favorite.