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"Spirit" Cover Art.

Beyoncé Enlists African Artist and Producers for 'The Lion King: The Gift' Album

The upcoming album, curated and produced by Beyoncé, is "steeped in African influences from various corners of the continent," says Disney.

The wait for Disney's live action remake of The Lion King is almost over. Ahead of the film's release next week, Disney has announced that none other than Beyoncé, the voice of Nala, is producing and curating the film's album The Lion King: The Gift, which will feature African artists and producers, according to the studio.

"With The Lion King: The Gift album, Beyoncé curated a masterful recording, a robust soundscape bringing together some of her favorite artists with the most talented and important African artists of the day to both pay tribute to the iconic film and bring the authentic sounds of African music to the world," Disney tells Shadow & Act. "[It features] a beautiful, multi-genre symphony, steeped in African influences from various corners of the Continent, with unexpected collaborations, pulsating rhythms and crisp production that celebrate the African diaspora. This love letter to Africa highlights the setting of the film, rooted in African culture and wondrous narratives"

READ: Here's Every African Designer Beyoncé Wore During Her Trip to South Africa


While details of specific artists and producers featured on the album are scarce, Beyoncé herself, shared a similar sentiment about the project in a statement, describing the album as "sonic cinema," and emphasizing its cross-genre influence:

"I wanted to do more than find a collection of songs that were inspired by the film. It is a mixture of genres and collaboration that isn't one sound. It is influenced by everything from r&b, pop, hip-hop and afrobeat. Each song was written to reflect the film's storytelling that gives the listener a chance to imagine their own imagery, while listening to a new contemporary interpretation. It was important that the music was not only performed by the most interesting and talented artists but also produced by the best African producers. Authenticity and heart were important to me.

The singer has released the song "Spirit," which is the first single from the album. "Spirit" opens with lines sung in Swahili: "Uishi kwa mda mrefu mfalme," sings one voice, with another responding "uishi kwa." As noted in BBC Africa, the phrase means "Long live the king." The song will appear during one of Nala's scenes in the film. Listen to it below.

Spirit (From Disney's "The Lion King") www.youtube.com

The full tracklist will be shared ahead of the album's release, according to Shadow & Act. We're excited to see which of the continent's many talents are featured on the project.

Disney will also release the original soundtrack for the film on July 11, which will feature Beyoncé and Childish Gambino's rendition of 'Can Your Feel the Love Tonight," as well as productions from Pharrell, Hans Zimmer, Elton John and more.

The star-studded Hollywood premiere of the film took place last night, and initial reactions have been notably positive. The Lion King stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Seth Rogen and more. Both the film and album are set to be released on July 19.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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