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7 Crossover Moments That Highlight Africa's Influence on Pop Culture In 2018

African music, dance and fashion continues to influence global pop culture, and these seven examples prove it.

Africa's impact on global pop culture was undeniable in 2018.

On several occasions, many of the biggest stars in the wold incorporated elements of youth culture from across the continent into their sound, music videos and performances, further highlighting the value of the continent's cultural exports.

Everyone from Beyoncé to Diddy to Janet Jackson drew inspiration from the culture as part of their artistry—a testament to its growing international visibility.

Below are seven unforgettable moments that we covered in 2018 when African aesthetics, music, fashion dance and more crossed over into popular culture by way of some of biggest names in the industry.


Rihanna Hits the Gwara Gwara at the Grammys

Rihanna set the internet on fire this February when she hit the gwara gwara effortlessly during a performance of "Wild Thoughts" at this year's Grammys, bringing the popular South African dance to the big stage. The reactions to the megastar's performance were just as priceless as seeing her break it down on stage.

Beyoncé Pays Homage to Fela Kuti at 'Beychella'


Beyoncé, who's expressed her admiration for Fela Kuti on several occasions through her work, brought the Nigerian legend's 1976 classic "Zombie" to her historic headlining set at Coachella when she had her band perform a horn-filled rendition of the song during her unforgettable 2-hour set. It was one of the many highlights of her internet-breaking performance.

Janet Jackson Does the Akwaaba at Billboard Music Awards

Janet Jackson gave a nod to afrobeats dance back in May when she hit the Akwaaba, popularized by Nigerian artist Mr Eazi, during her Billboard Icon Award performance in May.

Janet Jackson's "Made For Now"

Ms. Jackson also looked to aforbeats for inspiration for her single "Made for Now," featuring Daddy Yankee, which dropped back in August. While the song itself was met with mixed reviews, the African influence on the both the track and music video was undeniable. The video featured a number of African dancers who did moves like the shoki and was choreographed by Senegalese instructor Omari Mizrahi. The singer also sported several colorful looks by Cameroonian designer Claude Lavie Kameni.

Beyoncé and Jay Z Channel 'Touki Bouki' for On The Run II

Beyoncé and Jay-Z drew inspiration from the classic 1973 film Touki Bouki by legendary Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty for a promo poster for that announced their On the Run II tour. The star couple recreated a famous scene in which the two protagonists ride a motorcycle embellished with a bull skull, and drew on the Wolof-language film's premise of love, adventure and escapism.

Ciara Heads to South Africa for "Freak Me'

Ciara made some noise online this summer when clips of her dancing to her Tekno-assisted single "Freak Me" in Soweto were shared online. In them the singer can be seen doing the gwara gwara in a dance sequence choreographed by thee renowned Sinovuyo Dunywa, she also rocked a look from the South African fashion brand Rich Mnisi, also recently seen on Beyoncé during her recent trip to the country for Global Citizen.

Diddy Continues to Obsess over Fela Kuti

It's no secret that many black artists are inspired by Fela Kuti's mission and sound, but Diddy took his love of the artist to another level in 2018. The music mogul, was spotted on several occasions jamming out to various Fela songs like "Let's Start" on his Instagram, and getting fly with Naomi Campbell while Fela's music plays in the background. He even included the late musician in his Black 100 list of individuals across a number of fields who've shaped black culture. Music critic Joey Akan, writes about Diddy's love for Fela and why his image continues to resonate with many influential black artists.


News Brief

Prominent Zimbabwean Activist  Sheds Light on Current Crisis

Doug Coltart, a vocal activist and human rights lawyer based in Harare, speaks to Okayafrica about what's currently happening in Zimbabwe.

A few days ago, the Zimbabwean government issued a directive to major cellular network providers Econet and TelOne to disable the internet and all access to social media. The directive was an attempt to prevent any information from spreading outside the country's borders with regards to the nationwide protests which have led to the deaths of at least five people and the injury of at least twenty-five others.

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The front page of The New York Times on January 16, 2019

Kenyans Are Furious at the New York Times for Posting Photos of Terrorist Victims

After the the deadly attack on Tuesday, many are accusing the American newspaper of having a double standard on which dead bodies they allow into the paper

Is the New York Times guilty of a double standard when it comes to publishing images of dead bodies?

Kenyans, and others fed up with the coverage, took to social media in the hundreds to denounce a Times article that included an image of victims of Tuesday's Nairobi terrorist attack, bloodied from bullets, and lying hunched over their laptops, dead.

It has cause enough debate online to where the Times' incoming East Africa Bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura felt the need to explain their photo policy, which is to show the dead only if their faces cannot be seen in the image. The photo in question fits the policy as the faces are facing away from the camera. She would later apologize before posting the official policy to her Twitter account. The photo remains up.

The Times' official response, as those tend to do online, has only created more anger. But unlike many unruly Twitter mobs, those responding to the official statement have a rather coherent message—"you wouldn't do this with photos of the American dead."

Some of the responses to the Times' official statement.

In a response to the controversy from the Poynter Institute, a typically astute observer of journalistic practice in the United States, they run through the typical American journalism school approach to publishing photos that might shock or offend. They write:

Should the Times have run the photo?
There is no easy answer.
The first question any news organization must ask when deciding to publish violent images is: WHY show it?
In other words, what is the news value? Does the public need to see such an image to fully grasp what happened? Does the public need to see such a photo to confirm or disprove the official account of the events?
An argument could be made that a writer's words could accurately describe the scene without being as disturbing as the image. In addition, when it comes to an act of terrorism, might publishing such a photo actually advance the cause of the terrorists, showing the damage they caused, thus fueling dread and panic?
Also this: The photo on the Times website came without warning. As a reader, you didn't know you were going to see a photo of dead people until you actually saw it.
Those are arguments to not run such a photo or, at least, warn readers of its graphic content.

While it's a fine analysis of when to show a violent image, it misses the central issue at play for those aggrieved by the Times' posting—that the American news-gaze values certain lives differently. Black, brown, foreign, poor—American journalism organizations, including the New York Times, cannot escape a base ethnocentrism in their coverage. It's so embedded into how these institutions operate, and the gap in understanding is so wide, that to much of the world, the Times' official response is laughably wrong at first glance.

"We take the same approach wherever in the world something like this happens--balancing the need for sensitivity and respect with our mission of showing the reality of these events"

And while there are examples from the Times that complicate this feeling, like these images of the dead in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, it doesn't discount the wider and correct feeling that the white victims of American mass shootings are treated differently than their African counterparts. And while there are complicated and systematic reasons for this which will always make discussing it difficult, to simply deny that different standards exist, does not increase the Times' credibility with Kenyans or the newspaper's growing online audience which will only become more vocal about how they're portrayed.

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Falz 'Moral Instruction'

The 10 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

The best music of the week featuring Falz, King Monada, Zlatan, Yemi Alade and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow OkayAfrica on Spotify and Apple Music to get immediate updates every week and read about some of our selections ahead.

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