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Here Are 10 Times Beyoncé's Work Has Drawn From African Culture

All of your favorite artists look to the continent for inspiration.

The culture, religion, music and aesthetics of the continent have long been a go-to source of inspiration form some of the biggest artists of our day, and when we say big, we mean Beyoncé big.

Beyoncé has looked to African artists and creatives for artistic direction on numerous occasions, and their influence has helped produce some of her most notable works.

Most recently, her and Jay-Z referenced the classic 1973 Senegalese film Touki Bouki In their On the Run II promo poster.


This, of course, is just one example of Beyoncé's affinity for African culture. Below are nine previous instances when Beyoncé looked to the continent for creative vision.

"African-Inspired" Push Party

Ahead of the arrival of their twins Rumi and Sir Cater, Bey and Jay threw an "African themed" push-party that had guests show up in their best African inspired garb. Beyoncé—whose sported ankara print effortlessly on a number of occasions—donned a colorful ankara-style wrap-around skirt and blouse, with henna embellishing her belly. While Jay-Z kept it simple in a black fila and African continent chain.

Beyoncé's 2017 Grammy Performance

While still pregnant with the twins, Beyoncé gave a moving performance of at the 2017 Grammys. The singer performed adorned in a gold beaded number and halo crown, once again paying homage to the Yoruba Orisha Osun.

Beyoncé Channels Orishas In Viral Maternity Shoot

She channeled Yoruba spiritualy once again in her interenet-breaking maternity shoot announcing her second pregnancy. Shot by Ethiopian fine art photographer Awol Erizku, a portion of the shoot featured Beyoncé floating underwater, draped in bright yellow garments reminiscent of the Yoruba orishas Oshun and Yemoja.

'Lemonade'

Beyoncé's seminal work was packed with references to Afro-diasporic religion. In the standout video for "Hold Up," Beyoncé channeled the Yoruba goddess of fertility Osun as she emerged from water wearing a flowing yellow gown, drawing on popular depictions of the deity.

In the music video for "Love Drought" the singer drew on the story of Igbo Landing, the mass suicide in 1803 of a group of Igbo captive, who instead of submitting to slavery in the United States, decided to resist by drowning themselves in the ocean instead.

Several African creatives were commissioned to bring the project to life. Somali poet Warsan Shire's work, which also draws on themes of Yoruba and Santeria, provided the visual album's unforgettable narration, while Nigerian visual artist Laolu Senbanjo provided his Sacred Art of the Ori in the music video for the single "Sorry."

"Grown Woman"

"Grown Woman," an afrobeat-inflected bonus cut from Beyoncé's self-tiled sixth studio album, featured striking vocals from Guinean singer and dancer Ismael 'Bonfils' Kouyaté, whose chants appear throughout and illuminate the song's bridge.


Beyoncé quotes Chimamanda Adichie on "Flawless"

The singer sampled the famous words of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie on her 2013 single "Flawless," which Adichie gave in her unforgettable TED Talk, "We Should All Be Feminists."

Beyoncé's Fela-Inspired Album

Back in 2015, R&B singer and producer The Dream, revealed that Beyoncé had recorded a 20-track album inspired by the music of Fela Kuti prior to the release of her 2011 album 4. Though the album never saw the light of day, it did inspire one of 4's standout tracks "End of Time."

Beyonce x Pantsula

For the music video for Run the World (Girls) her lead single from the album 4, the singer sought out Mozambique's Tofo Tofo Dance Crew, who helped create the video's intricate dance number, inspired by their popular Pantsula dance routines.

Fela Kuti Musical

Back in 2009, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and fellow moguls Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith signed on as co-producers on the Broadway hit Fela!, chronicling the life of the legendary musician. Jay Z, like many hip hop artists, is inspired by Kuti's music and revolutionary prowress. The artist named Kuti's 1976 antimilitary anthem "Zombie" one of his "songs for survival" on his 2016 Tidal playlist.

Interview

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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