On the event of recently launching its first ever official US Afrobeats Song Chart, Billboard in an announcement article credited the likes of Beyoncé and Drake for the widespread recognition of the Afrobeats genre.
This was however received with mixed reactions as many felt the article should have highlighted the true Afrobeats pioneers, instead of crediting the likes of Beyoncé and Drake who only borrowed from the genre, simply due to their huge global stardom.
Today, we talk about 5 times Beyoncé’s work was inspired by Africa.
1. Beyoncé – Run The World (Girls)
Run the World (Girls) is the lead single from Beyoncé’s fourth studio album aptly titled “4”. The song’s title and lyrics comprise an unapologetically assertive message promoting female empowerment.
Described by critics as electro-pop and R&B, the song also incorporates dancehall influences and African percussions; as it borrows samples from the club song “Pon de Floor” by Major Lazer and Vybz Kartel.
For the music video, Beyoncé enrolled Mozambique’s Tofo Tofo Dance Group, who helped create the video’s intricate dance choreography, inspired by their popular Pantsula-inspired dance routines.
Pantsula is a highly energetic dance form that originated in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid era. It developed into a form of social commentary for black South Africans and has undergone several transformations with the country’s changing political tides.
2. Beyoncé – End of Time
Back in 2015, R&B singer and producer The Dream, revealed that Beyoncé had recorded a 20-track album inspired by the music of Fela Kuti prior to the release of her 2011 album 4. Though the album never saw the light of day, it inspired one of album 4’s standout tracks “End of Time.”
An uptempo song, “End of Time” exhibits the influence of Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti; with the song’s bass line being inspired by the Afrobeat pioneer and multi-instrumentalist’s work. Also displaying elements of Afrobeat, the song’s instrumentation includes marching band drums, African percussion, and horns.
3. Beyoncé – “Grown Woman”
Produced by Timbaland, “Grown Woman” is an afro-influenced bonus track from Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth studio album which arrived unannounced in December 2013.
“Grown Woman” is described by Genius as: “displaying a tribal theme-like essence which is powered by African drummings, chanting and Knowles impressive vocal harmonies that she boastfully flexes superbly on the track with simple lyrics.”
The song is brought to life by the spectacular voice of Guinean singer and dancer Ismael ‘Bonfils’ Kouyaté, who riddles the song’s bridge with tribal chants.
Beyoncé performed “Grown Woman” for the first time in Paris on 24th April 2013, and later permanently included it in the set list for the other stops.
4. Beyoncé ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Flawless
“Flawless” is a hard-hitting hip-hop cut that is also lifted from her self-titled fifth studio album.
On the girl-power-themed record, Beyoncé samples the now-famous words of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which were first delivered in her unforgettable TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists.”
The seasoned Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer, and short story writer has been called “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors that is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature”.
In an interview with the Dutch publication de Volkskrant, Chimamanda spoke about being credited as a featured act on “Flawless” saying: “Of course, Beyoncé asked permission to use my texts, and I did give her permission…… I think she’s lovely and I am convinced that she has nothing but the best intentions.”
5. Beyoncé – “The Lion King: The Gift”
Described by Beyoncé as a “love letter to Africa”, “The Lion King: The Gift” is a soundtrack album for the 2019 live-action remake of the Disney classic The Lion King and for Beyoncé’s 2020 visual album Black Is King.
In an interview with ABC, Beyoncé expressed: “I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the (African) sounds.”
Tapping into the motherland, Beyoncé recruited African artistes such as Shatta Wale, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi, Tiwa Savage, Tekno, Busiswa, and Moonchild Sanelly.
A full body of work dedicated wholly to Afrobeats, from arguably the biggest recording artiste in the world, The Lion King: The Gift is the biggest international endorsement the Afrobeats genre has received yet!