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“Love Letter to Africa”: Will Beyoncé Spark a Trend?

Beyoncé is at the heart of the recently released album named “The Lion King: The Gift”. Alongside other visually and lyrically stunning songs, The Spirit has grabbed everyone’s attention, due to its lively theme. It aims to depict African beauty and has been called a love letter to Africa.  

During an interview on Good Morning America, Beyoncé said that the album is a love letter to Africa. The song is heavily themed after the natural allure of the Africa continent and its legacy of stunning brown women. 

I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa and not just use some of the sound or my own interpretation of it.

Beyoncé
Beyonce in Africa
© bet.com

Moreover, besides having four solo songs on the album, Beyoncé has collaborated with many house-hold names in African music. These include: Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, among others. 

Also featured are Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy. Hence, the album is already generating hype and is expected to create a high impact internationally. 

A unique love letter to Africa

Incidentally, releasing an album for a franchise as phenomenal as the “The Lion King” has the potential to create a loop of acknowledgement for Africa and its artists. It can help considerably in enhancing the reputation and popularity of African music and culture. According to the music analyst, Segun Akande, the album is doing great, in terms of the Afrobeat genre.

He told CNN,

“When you consider how big the Lion King franchise is, the album has the potential to put Afropop in the global conversation and introduce a younger generation across the world to our music,” 

Again, some, among the featured African artists are well-known celebrities in the continent’s entertainment industry. Wizkid, for example, is one of the most successful Afrobeats artists from Nigeria. In 2016, he topped the US Hot 100 chart with his collaborative work with Drake, ‘One Dance’.  

While Wizkid and others have undoubtedly made a mark over Hollywood music, there is a host of other relatively unknown African Indie Artists. It is these artists who will hopefully gain fame and exposure through Beyoncé’s song. Among them are Nigeria’s Tekno, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage, as well as Cameroon’s Salatiel, South Africa’s Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly. Also, album features several African producers whose contribution in The Spirit could potentially scale the African music industry.  

Love letter from Africa

In addition to its deployment of Afro-diversity, the song has already started to get positive reviews globally. Black people from all over the world are expressing their overwhelming responses through social media. Lupita Nyong’o, the Kenyan-Mexican actress who was praised in the song, is one of those who couldn’t wait to express her joy over the album’s release. Following Beyoncé’s mention of her when she sings,  

She needs and Oscar for that pretty dark skin. Pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in.

love letter to africa
Beyonce in love with Africa © Entertainment Tonight

Lupita responded on Instagram by dancing to the song, thanking Beyoncé for the shout-out.  Beyoncé has also mentioned the names of her musical sisters, Kelly Rowland and Naomi Campbell for their enigmatic beauty.   

The Spirit includes lyrics from many different languages across Africa, including English, Swahili, Pidgin English, Zulu, Xhosa and Yoruba, which some have said will help break the linguistic stigma that some African artists may have experienced while singing in their native tongues. Moreover, the album has a fusion of several genres from Afrobeat, Pop, R&B, Hip-hop, and the South African version of house music known as Gqom

Not entirely a love letter to Africa?

Nevertheless, while the album is in talks for being a phenomenal step towards acknowledging African culture, beauty, and talent, not everyone is happy with this “love letter” to Africa. The East African community has expressed their disappointment for not being part of a project that is supposedly created in celebration of Africa.  

Kenyan Singer, Victoria Kimani, shared a tweet on July 16 2019: 

“We were not represented in her love letter to us. It hurts.” 

However, only less than a handful of people have something negative to say about the project.  Most of the industry’s professionals and the common public appreciate Beyoncé’s efforts to highlight African talent.  

The perfect blend of Afrobeat, mainstream Pop, and R&B sounds is a smart attempt for making African music familiar to a non-African audience. The genre is most likely to dominate and thrive on being a global success.  

A boost to African music

According to the Nigerian broadcaster, Adesope Olajide, who is also known as Shopsydoo, the music of the new album is understandable for the listeners unfamiliar with pure African beats, and that is an advantage. He said,  

“It eventually becomes a sound that is not Afrobeats in its purest form but the best of sounds that a Beyoncé audience will be able to digest.”  

The African Music industry has recently experienced rapid global growth. According to the digital music distributors, TuneCore, African music’s popularity has increased to 57% in 2018. In addition to that, Africa’s local music streaming statistics have spiked to 146%, leading the music streaming charts. Kareem Mobolaji from the marketing company, Inglemind Concept Digital, thinks that projects like ‘The Spirit’ can uplift the African industry, helping to overcome the barriers the industry has endured, and hopefully leading African artists to becoming a part of Universal Music Group.  

Universal Music Group predicts that Beyoncé’s album will interest more major labels in collaborating with the African music industry, including more of the local artists. The record label has already established studios in Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast and South Africa. 

So how does the future look?

Other music labels are also expanding their business in Africa. Beside Universal Music Group, Sony Music also has its trails in Nigeria and South Africa. The global record label, Warner Music Group, has associations in South Africa. It has recently established a partnership with Chocolate City, a Nigerian record label.  

Beyonce's emotional attachment to Africa
The Spirit © Wonderland Magazine

Ezegozie Eze Jr. is the General Manager of Universal Music’s office in Nigeria and holds a very favorable opinion about the recent evolvement in the African music industry. He said,  

“The talent on the ground is burgeoning and blooming, and the international market is yearning for more.” 

He further added that the Nigerian artists have already shown the potential to excel in the global music platform. African music is streaming on the internet and radios worldwide, hence it is high time for investors to take it to the next level. 

As far as the album is concerned, it has already set the pace to be on the number one spot of Billboard 200, which is a record chart ranking the 200 most popular music albums and EPs in the United States. 

Industry gurus have also predicted the album’s sales collections to be in between the range from 50,000 and 70,000 in the first week, which is an indication of massive success.  

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