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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.


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Tay Iwar: Nigeria's Most Reclusive Musician Opens Up

In his most open interview ever, the Nigerian artist demystifies himself, opening up about his reclusive personality and why emotions are the biggest drivers of his art.

Tay Iwar won't touch anything that lacks a strong emotional pull. It's a driver for all the music that he makes.

He has been a satiated lover ("Satisfied"), a vulnerable sage ("Weather Song"), an existentialist thinker ("Utero"), and a straight-up loser ("Sugardaddy") across his debut album's songs. "I fell in love with you and I almost died," he sings on "Monica," the lead single off that album, Gemini.

When I ask Tay about Gemini on a hot, sweaty afternoon at his Bantu Studio in Abuja, Nigeria, he seems proud of it. Staring into the distance, he says he considers the RnB fusion record his first album which doesn't have him selling emotions to people. He is simply expressing himself now, rather than the more "packaged" offerings on his previous projects Passport (2014) and Renascentia (2016). It's huge artistic growth for a 21-year-old, one in which he is basking.

Tay, born Austin Iornongu Iwar, hated it when his father forced him to take classic piano lessons at an early age. But by the time he was 13, and midway through high school, that sentiment had become the opposite; he had fallen deeply in love with the art, making music on his computer, and teaming up with his brothers—Sute and Terna Iwar—to co-found the Bantu Collective. His first love was the guitar, but something about making music on the colourful "video game" early version of the FL Studio software got him hooked. Mastering instruments, and becoming a sound engineer gave him a high-level of understanding of music creation. At 16, he released his debut project, Passport, which became an instant niche favorite, offering him a modicum of fame and demand that surprised the artist.

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Danielle Ekwueme.

This 21-Year-Old Entrepreneur Is Bringing Nigerian Palm Wine Into the Future One Bottle At a Time

With her bottled palm wine company "Pamii" Daniella Ekwueme is improving on tradition and filling a void in the Nigerian spirits market.

In 2016, Daniella Ekwueme, the founder of the Nigerian palm wine company Pamii, had a casual thought when looking out at her mother's land in Abuja. "She just had this farmland and she wasn't doing anything with it," she recalls. "So I was like 'Oh, have you ever thought of planting palm trees and getting palm oil or palm wine and boxing it up?"

While her mother's answer was no, the thought took hold in her young, entrepreneurial mind. She'd had palm wine—an alcoholic drink made from the sap of various species of palm trees and endeared to many Nigerians—at weddings and gatherings in the past, but it never quite "hit the spot" so to speak. "I realized that every time I've had palm wine in Lagos or Abuja, it's always off or sour. Because palm wine ferments, so the longer you leave it, it gets bitter and [undrinkable]. So anytime I've had it at weddings it just doesn't taste right to me."

This presented an opportunity for the young student who was just 18-years-old at the time and moving between Lagos, London and Abuja: she could improve upon an age-old product, still very much in demand, by revamping the production process and packaging it. After extensive research and visits to local palm wine farms in Abuja, Ekwueme decided she was ready to experiment. Along with a small team, she bottled her first batches of palm wine in December 2017, calling the product Pamii—a naturally-brewed, premium palm wine. Ekwueme's product is different—it fills a void in the Nigerian spirits market because it's actually Nigerian-made. She reminds me that while her company isn't the first to try bottling the beverage, others fell short due to "poor execution, poor branding," and failure to "cultivate a brand and lifestyle around it."

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Music

Rouge, Moozlie, A-Reece, J Molley & The Big Hash Will Be Part of Sway’s South African Cypher

Sway will certify more South African hyenas next month.

Sway is coming to South Africa for the #CastleLightUnlocks event. The renowned media personality has proven fond of South Africa's hip-hop scene (who wouldn't be?). Sway has hosted the likes of Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Nasty C, Stogie T and Kwesta on Sway In The Morning in the last three years.

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