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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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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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