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The Roots Of… Erykah Badu Discovers Her African Ancestry

Erykah Badu discovers her African ancestry in the latest installment of 'The Roots Of...' series on Okayafrica TV.


Photo credit: Kyle Goen

Erykah Badu's musical and stylistic oeuvre has long played with Afrocentric references, from her personal iconography of ankhs and gracefully patterned headwraps to the poetry of her lyrical allusions to the bright continent ("They call you indigo, we call you Africa / Go get baptized in the ocean of The People" - "The Healer"). Even the adopted surname 'Badu' has a West African pedigree, being a suffix reserved for a 10th-born child among the Akan people of Ghana. And although she had been curious – even going so far as to consult with a few shamans – she had never been too concerned with tracing where she was from, physically. As she put it, she was "satisfied with just the knowing that I'm part of the all."

Still, she agreed to be the newest subject of Okayafrica's “The Roots Of…” series, in which Erykah Badu aka Badoula Oblongata; aka Sara Bellum; aka Maria Manuela Mexico; aka Annie the Alchemist; aka Fat Belly Bella; aka DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown; aka "She Ill," aka Analog Girl In A Digital World (okay, player?) – or more simply the Q.U.E.E.N. – takes a DNA test to trace her roots back to the precise region, country, and tribe of her maternal ancestors. What she learns during an encounter with some of her newest extended-extended-extended family members – getting baptized, so to speak, in the waters of her maternal people – both illuminates and underscores some of her own distinctive qualities, and changes the way she sees her path unfolding towards the future – helping her to become, as she puts it, a "better Erykah in Amerykah." For our part, Okayafrica is proud to have played a part in the historic addition of a new name to the illustrious roll call of dopeness that unfolds when Ms. Badu steps up to the mic and introduces herself. To learn her newest name, though, you'll have to watch "The Roots Of…Erykah Badu" below:

If you haven’t yet seen our first episodes of “The Roots Of…” series, check here to watch The Roots‘ African ancestry revealed to Questlove and Black Thought, here to check out Q-Tip‘s real tribe, here to see Flying Lotus trace his own soul makossa to the motherland, here to see why Michael K. Williams has the “Heart of a king, blood of a slave,” and here to see comedian Wyatt Cenac and Comedy Central‘s The Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams swap saliva with a fuzzy piece of cotton to determine where in Africa – and what tribe – some of their ancestors may have come from. You too can discover the country and even tribe where it all began: to get your own DNA test, check out our partners over at African Ancestry.

 

Videographers:

Lance Steagall, Jake Remington, and Kevin Ornelas

(Collabo!)

Editor: Jake Remington

All music: Sam Champion

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Shirazee. Photo: Tiara Marei. Courtesy of the artist.

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Shirazee is back with his latest single "Juju."

The new song sees the Benin-born singer-songwriter linking up with none-other-than Saint Jhn for a highly-addictive tune built on afro-fusion beat work. The striking new music video for "Juju," which was directed by Tiara Marei, follows Shirazee and Saint Jhn to New Orleans, Louisiana.

"This one is special to me 'cause the song was recorded at a time I needed to break a love-spell that I felt was put on me by a serious crush of mine [laughs]," Shirazee tells OkayAfrica. "Shooting this video in New Orleans, a city with historical ties to my Benin, was such a privilege and does so much justice to the song and theme.

"[I'm] looking forward to releasing new music this year and the first of two EPs called LOST is on the way and it's exciting," he adds.

For more on him, revisit our interview with Shirazee on his journey, taking risks and going independent. As you remember, Saint Jhn featured on Beyoncé and Wizkid's "Brown Skin Girl," one of our favorite songs last year.

Get into Shirazee and Saint Jhn's "Juju" below.

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Antibalas "Fight Am Finish" (Youtube)

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Pioneer NYC afrobeat ensemble Antibalas is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the release of their latest album, Fu Chronicles.

The new album takes listeners to older pre-gentrification days in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when the band was formed out of lead singer Duke Amayo's kung fu dojo.

Today we're premiering the new music video for album highlight, "Fight Am Finish," a song that about being ready for our daily battles and ultimately overcoming them. The music video was filmed in between Badagry and the New Afrika Shrine in Nigeria, as well as Grand Street in Brooklyn, the same street where Amayo's kung fu dojo was located and where he met founding Antibalas members Martin Perna and Gabe Roth.

"In 1803, Igbo slaves from Nigeria committed mass suicide off the U.S. coast near Georgia," Duke Amayo tells OkayAfrica. "It was the largest known mass slave suicide and uprising. The mutiny and suicide by the Igbo people has been called the 'first freedom march' in U.S. history. [This video] is my vision of a Nigerian slave returning to Africa to reclaim his freedom, land, and spirit. Fight Am Finish! Never ever let go of your dreams."

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The ornate gilded copper headgear, which features images of Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles, was unearthed after refugee-turned-Dutch-citizen Sirak Asfaw contacted Dutch 'art detective' Arthur Brand. (Photo by Jan HENNOP/AFP) (Photo by JAN HENNOP/AFP via Getty Images)

A Stolen 18th Century Ethiopian Crown Has Been Returned from The Netherlands

The crown had been hidden in a Dutch apartment for 20 years.

In one of the latest developments around art repatriation, a stolen 18th century Ethiopian crown that was discovered decades ago in the Netherlands, has been sent back home.

Sirak Asfaw, an Ethiopian who fled to The Netherlands in the '70s, first found the relic in the suitcase of a visitor in 1998, reports BBC Africa. He reportedly protected the item for two decades, before informing Dutch "art crime investigator" Arthur Brand and authorities about his discovery last year.

The crown is one of only 20 in existence and features intricate Biblical depictions of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. Historians believe it was given to the church by the warlord Welde Sellase several centuries ago.

Read: Bringing African Artifacts Home

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Watch Samba Yonga's Kick-Ass TED Talk on an 'African Superhero Curriculum'

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Co-founder of the Zambian Women's History Museum, Samba Yonga, is on a mission to reclaim Africa's history and indigenous knowledge in a way that allows Africans to centre themselves in their own narratives and become their own superheroes.

She recently spoke at TEDxLusaka about developing a "blueprint for the African superhero curriculum". It's the TED talk that you definitely need to watch this year.

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