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Laolu Senbanjo is Using His Voice (and a Powerful Video) to Challenge His Brothers & Sisters in the Diaspora to Vote

Nigerian painter and musician Laolu Senbanjo premieres a stunning 'Sacred Art of the Ori' music video for his new song, "Mama Africa"

In the past year, the Sacred Art of Laolu Senbanjo has taken off. From Beyoncé to Ibeyi, to Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats, to Jidenna and Black Coffee, the Nigerian-born visual artist and musician has become a painter to the stars, and in the process, a star in his own right.


It’s been just over three years since the former human rights attorney left Lagos to become a full-time artist in Brooklyn. Since moving to the U.S., Senbanjo says he feels blacker than ever.

“Whether you like it or not, as an African living in America, if you’re Black you kind of inherit everything that Black people go through here. You inherit everything Martin Luther King, Jr. said,” he tells me just a few hours before Americans will begin heading to the polls to elect their next president.

While Senbanjo has never been one to shy away from social and political issues, he’s becoming increasingly more vocal about it.

V O T E!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ? @thecannon5 Muse @skiinnyminnieproject

A photo posted by Laolu (@laolunyc) on

It was Jesse Williams in particular that inspired an unshakable civic duty in the artist. Senbanjo was in attendance at the 2016 BET Awards in Los Angeles, where the outspoken actor and activist gave his groundbreaking speech on racism in America. That was when Senbanjo made up his mind to use his voice as an artist.

“People are beginning to understand the fact that art can actually be used to translate ideas and tell a message. It’s a unique space to be in and it’s something that I cherish,” he says.

Through the popularity of his Sacred Art of the Ori, and with a little help from social media, Senbanjo sees himself as a bridge connecting African-Americans to Africa and vice versa. “Not everyone has that road to be able to live in both worlds almost at the same time,” he says.

It’s a bridge and road that he explores on his new song, a Yoruba-language hip-hop tune which we’re excited to premiere here today on Okayafrica.

Produced by the New York-based Simon Sez, “Mama Africa” opens with an excerpt from Williams’ powerful BET Awards speech (“Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real”) and those familiar notes from Beyoncé’s “Formation,” an obvious spiritual and political inspiration for the song and its accompanying visuals. (Incidentally, Senbanjo lent some spiritual and aesthetic inspiration to Lemonade.) In it, the painter-slash-rapper looks at his ancestry and roots on the Continent alongside the Black experience in America.

Now more than ever, Senbanjo feels it’s time to use his voice as a cultural ambassador of Africa. And while he isn’t able to vote in Tuesday’s election, he’s using his platform to encourage others to do so.

“Mama Africa,” he tells me, is a challenge to his brothers and sisters in the Diaspora—African-Americans that can vote—to use their voice and vote in today’s U.S. presidential election.

“Their voice speaks for those who can’t vote, immigrants like us that aren’t citizens of America.”

Today's election, he says, is important not just to America but the entire world. “As an immigrant, you hear some of the things in this campaign, and you’re like “What exactly is going to happen if Trump becomes president?”

Watch our premiere of “Mama Africa” above. Keep up with Laolu Senbanjo on Instagram and Twitter.

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Janet Jackson Returns With Afrobeats-Inspired Song & Video 'Made For Now' Featuring Daddy Yankee

The icon's latest is a nod to the sound, fashion and culture of the diaspora.

Ms. Jackson is back.

The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, even hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

It's obvious that Jackson has been studying and drawing inspiration from the culture for some time now. She even hit the Akwaaba dance, popularized by Mr Eazi, during her Icon Award performance at this year's Billboard Music Awards.

The bouncing video, directed by Dave Meyers, features contributions from a number of creatives from Africa and the diaspora who were involved in the creation of the video, including designer Claude Lavie Kameni and choreographer Omari Mizrahi. Ghanaian health guru, Coach Cass pointed out some of the many dancers involved in the production on Instagram, who hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad, Grenada and the US.

Ahead of the video's release, it garnered attention on social media when Jackson was spotted filming in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing what many thought was a questionable fashion ensemble. The outfit in question only makes a small appearance in the video, and we're glad to see that Janet's other looks appear, at least slightly, more coordinated.

Watch the music video for "Made for Now" below. The singer is set to perform the song with Daddy Yankee live for the first time tonight on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so be ready!

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You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'


New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

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News Brief

FIFA Refuses To Meet with Nigeria's Sports Minister as Ghana Takes Steps to Avoid Ban

This could jeopardize Nigeria's qualifier against Seychelles in September, while the Ghanaian government has pledged not to dissolve its football association.

In lieu of the ultimatums Nigeria and Ghana's football associations faced from FIFA, one country is on its way to dodge the threat of being banned, while the other is not going down without a fight.

FIFA has refused a proposed meeting with Nigeria's sports minister, Solomon Dalung, to discuss problems in the country's football federation, BBC Sport reports. They say their leadership and the FIFA president is unwilling to meet during the proposed time period.

FIFA is giving the NFF until August 20 for Chris Giwa, who was acknowledged by the courts as the president of the federation, to leave the NFF offices.

Giwa's lawyer Ardzard Habilla asserts that FIFA can't ban Nigeria as the federation's issues need to be sorted out internally by the country's judiciary.

Habilla questions, "Do we take it that FIFA laws are superior to the judgment of the highest court in our land—the Supreme Court, and has FIFA elevated itself before the constitution of Nigeria?"

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