News Brief
Photo still courtesy of Netflix.

'Been So Long' Starring Michaela Coel & Arinzé Kene Is Coming to Netflix Very Soon


Netflix's black film vertical Strong Black Lead took to Twitter to announce the release date for Been So Long—a feature-length musical starring the illustrious Michaela Coel and artist to watch Arinzé Kene.

We first got wind of the project being in development last year and it'll finally be available for viewing globally via Netflix on October 26.

Check out the synopsis from Netflix below:

Romance, rage and revenge. 'Been So Long' is a neon soaked, modern day romance set on the streets of London's musical hot-bed of Camden. We follow Simone (Michaela Coel), a dedicated single mother who, on a rare night on the town is charmed by a handsome yet troubled stranger, Raymond (Arinzé Kene), igniting old and new feelings. Set against the backdrop of an ever-changing city, 'Been So Long' is a fresh take on love, life and moving on.

Been So Long is also based on the stage play created by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill. It's been well-received by critics since its premiere at The Young Vic.

The solid cast for the feature film is rounded out by George Mackay (Gil), Ronke Adekoluejo (Yvonne), Ashley Thomas, Luke Norris, Joe Dempsie, Rakie Ayola and Mya Lewis.

Shadow and Act reports Netflix snagging the global rights to the film is their biggest UK deal yet. The film is supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) and Film4 with Lizzie Francke, Eva Yates, Jane Wright and Indira Guha as the executive producers.

UPDATE 10/01/2018: The trailer for Been So Long is here.

Take a look at a glimpse of the musical feature below.

Photo Credit: Khaled Desouki DESOUKI / AFP

Egypt Demands That Netflix Drop Content the Country Deems 'Offensive'

The content that is being referenced is understood to be media that features members of the LGBT+ community.

Egypt became the most recent country to join six other Arab nations — including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman — to demand that streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ drop content it deems "offensive." The content that is being referenced is understood to be media that features members of the LGBT+ community.

This comes after a recent statement from the UAE's media regulatory authorities was released earlier in the week. The organization is asking Netflix to take down media content that goes against the societal values of its country. In the public statement, the office noted that they would be in touch with the streaming company about next steps. The joint notice from the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi called out Netflix and its broadcasting practices.

The organization directly cautioned the company to have the content removed that especially targeted children.

Although many of Arab organizations calling out western streaming services did not directly specify what type of content was offensive, reports state that in recent years, several Arab nations have condemned movies and series with same-sex depictions within their story lines.

The recent developments do not signify the first hint of tensions between Arab countries and western streaming services. Earlier in June, several members of the Muslim community worked to ban the public showing of Disney’s Lightyear, an animation by the streaming service that depicted two lesbian characters.

According to an exclusive statement that Esra Assery, CEO of the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media made to Arab News, the organization would take "all legal measures" if their warnings were not adhered to.

“All legal measures will be taken to protect the Kingdom’s sovereignty, citizens and residents from any intellectual attack aimed at affecting its societies, values, safety of upbringing their generations and protecting them from harmful content.”

Courtesy of Showmax

These Documentaries Are Giving Afrobeats the Origin Story it Deserves

From Netflix’s ‘Afrobeats: The Backstory’ to Showmax’s ‘Journey to the Beats,’ Africans who were there are finally telling the true story of Afrobeats.

A lot has happened since afrobeats rose to global fame near the end of the last decade. Multiple sellout concerts, Grammy awards, and critical acclaim have become common occurrences as popular music from West Africa has maintained a ubiquitous presence across the world. However, the narrative around the genre has been centered around talking points raised by corporations, agencies, and individuals who don’t often possess a contextual understanding of its origin, rise, and evolution.

For years, critics, historians, and academics have raised concerns about the continued absence of African voices on frontline platforms documenting popular African music, its key players, and landmark moments. Most of the criticism that has emerged is predicated on the subtle attempt of western institutions to interpret, contextualize, and classify our music through European-American lens that has often left important stories and key details adrift.

Attempts to have African voices documenting the progression within the genre have reached a crescendo in 2022 with a slew of documentaries following the rise of afrobeats from a scattergun industry of talented music producers, recording artists, video directors, and choreographers to global pop powerhouse.

Netflix’s Afrobeats: The Backstory — helmed by filmmaker, manager, and lawyer Ayo Shonaiya — offers an intimate take on the development of the genre. The other docuseries, a 10-part Showmax original titled Journey of the Beats, was produced by creative entrepreneur Obi Asika and takes a complex approach to documenting the genre, situating the rise of afrobeats in the wider context of black artistic expression, starting from slaves forcibly taken away from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade.

Both documentaries credit the golden age of R&B and hip-hop in the 1990s as an undisputed creative influence on afrobeats. “When the likes of The Remedies and Plantashun Boiz came out, we were just happy that we had our own version of what we saw in America,” Ayomide Tayo, a respected music critic and executive, says. “It was hip-hop but it was local to us. It had a lot of slang, and a lot of local languages put together, and the instrumentation wasn’t just pure hip-hop, they were fusing indigenous Nigerian records into it. To us, we felt like that we were at the highest [point] we could get.”

Made Kuti is Fela's grandson and Femi's son -

Made Kuti being interviewed for Showmax’s ‘Journey to the Beats.'

Courtesy of Showmax

Asika also agrees that the infusion of Nigerian language and slang over hip-hop instrumental, explored in the second episode of the docuseries, was a game-changer for the genre. “I would say I knew [we were creating something new] as far back as 1989, but I knew definitely when we had Junior and Pretty back in 1991,” he says over a Zoom call with OkayAfrica in mid-August. “We were the hip-hop generation and were not making traditional music in that sense, not like Femi Kuti and all those guys were doing. We knew we were doing something different, the question was if we had the talent and will to bring it to the world. I’m happy that we did because once we infused our own language and expressions into the music and changed the beats to our own music — it became afrobeats.”

A significant part of the early exchanges in both documentaries is dedicated to investigating the etymology of “afrobeats” with a straight line being run through Fela Kuti's Afrobeat — an electric fusion of jazz, highlife, and soul — and DJ Abrantee coining afrobeats as a catch-all term for popular music coming out of Africa. Jide Taiwo, a writer on both documentaries and the author of History Made: The Most Important Nigerian Songs Since 1999, believes that the name is a misnomer. “I was privileged to be around when 2face, Tony Tetuila, and people like that were making music and what they did at that time wasn’t called Afrobeats,” he said. “We all know that afrobeats is just a portmanteau term that somebody just came up with. The nature of Nigerian music is very eclectic and very varied so it is impossible to just put all of them under one umbrella term. But again, that’s the name that the world has come to adopt in the last five to seven years that we’ve had mainstream global appeal, so I’m a reluctant accepter of the term even though I might not used it myself.”

For Asika, the need to start documenting what was happening in the genre started to crystallize in his mind a little over 10 years ago, even if he didn’t necessarily have the tools for it then. “By ten years ago, it was already necessary to document what was happening on the scene because a lot was going on,” he said. “We had to ensure that the right information was being presented to the world as our music was going global.” According to Shonaiya, the idea to create Afrobeats: The Backstory came after watching Davido’s headline show at the O2 in 2019. “The day I actually decided I was going to start this documentary was when me and my friend and partner, Abass, were at the O2 watching Davido. It was absolutely crazy. Idris Elba came out and Davido came from the sky. I looked around and saw over 20,000 people at the 02 Arena.”

According to Taiwo, Afrobeats: The Backstory leaned heavily on Mr. Shonaiya’s work in the industry. “He’s been a lawyer, he’s been an exec, and he’s been a producer. He’s done all of these things and this documentary is his way of telling his experience of meeting certain people, doing certain things and trying to find all of those connections," Taiwo said. "If you look closely, there are always connections. One of the stories that he told is that he met Freestyle first who then introduced him to eLDee and the rest of Trybesmen and that’s how he got to know that they were not just three people but about 10.”

On Journey of the Beats, Taiwo worked as part of a team — led by Nigerian historian Ed Keazor — to investigate the history of afrobeats from pre-colonial times. “Ed Keazor led that team but there were a bunch of writers who got involved at different times,” he said. “I grew up in Ibadan, so how I saw it coming out of that area was different from Ayomide Tayo who was born in Lagos and broke the story of Da Grin’s death. So, we just came together to join our views of the culture and filter it to give the most accurate representation of our music.” Tayo believes that this approach to making Journey of the Beats is important to understanding afrobeats’ current trajectory. “It’s about heritage. You can’t celebrate Nigerian music without celebrating what came before because doing that leaves a huge vacuum,” he said. “It would feel like today’s singers just fell from space with their music. That’s why the documentary is taken in decades, which allowed us to properly navigate how a Joeboy or Rema is just the modern reincarnation of a pop singer from the '80s.”

Asika believes that Journey of the Beats is a historical effort that contributes to the body of knowledge about African culture. “What we did is not Obi’s opinion, it’s our history, documenting what has been happening in African music since pre-colonial times,” he said. "Our documentary tracks what happens since pre-colonial Africa to the essence of who we are in relation to our music and how the music has travelled because hip-hop is us, rock is us, and R&B is us. That’s what happened when we arrived in the new world 500 years ago, we impacted music and music changed. Then there are the last 200 years when Africans have been coming back to Africa and, as they have come back, they have brought new things and that has also affected us here. The Journey Of The Beats was about that journey that many people had not acknowledged and it’s important we tell it from our perspective because the world has been hearing the perspectives of others for so long it’s time they heard our perspective too.”

Journey of the Beats also takes in the point-of-view of actors like journalists, fashion designers, academics, intellectuals, and show promoters, giving a rounded edge to the journey of the genre. “I think the key takeaway of this documentary is that in a way we are not seeing anything new but you have to respect the stage and level that the Wizkids, Davidos, and Burna Boys are playing at, we cannot take it for granted because it’s not easy and there was no roadmap for what was possible," Asika said. "The impact that these guys and others like them have is what I’m excited about because afrobeats is no longer just about music, there's an entire culture around it."

Following the release of these documentaries, there’s been some criticism for some inaccuracies with veteran musician Dare Fasasi, aka Baba Dee, pointing out the lack of credit for his efforts. “The poor attempt to change the narrative of the evolution of the Afrobeat Music genre by latter participants who took the narrative from their own perspective while disregarding important events and players is not a true representation of Afrobeat back story,” he wrote in an Instagram post. Others have pointed out that both documentaries place a heavy focus on Lagos, London, and Accra, smudging the influence of regional hotspots like Enugu and Port Harcourt.

Still, there’s a belief that this is only the beginning of an archiving effort that has been years in the making. “The immediacy that technology enables makes it criminal if we have all of these tools now and we’re not the ones telling our story,” Taiwo said. “You can bring out your phone right now, record a podcast, and send it out right now, that’s the advantage that we have these days. It’s criminal if we’re not doing it now and all of them do not have to be Netflix exclusives or Showmax originals.”

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Travel Diary: The Warmth & Beauty of Senegal is Unparalleled

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, Nigerian photographer and storyteller Sope Adelaja heads to Senegal to learn what it's like to embrace the "Teraanga" lifestyle.

After about 10 hours of flying and stopovers I landed in the city of Dakar, Senegal at about 11pm. I approached immigration to have my passport stamped and then proceeded to get my luggage. I immediately noticed that almost everyone spoke French and very few people understood English. I understand little French, so I knew then that it was going to be a struggle. With the help of Google Translate, I was able to then negotiate and hire a cab to drop me off at my residence for the night.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

The language barrier was not as much of as an obstacle as I thought it would be. This largely had to do with the generosity and warmness shown by the community during my visit.

Senegal is known as the “ Land of Teraanga." Teraanga, which is a Wolof word, is often defined as meaning “ hospitality." But that is a very loose way of translating it. It's so much more complex than that. It is a process of discovery and expression. It is a way of Life. Teraanga is aimed at showcasing a narrative of hospitality and beauty that exists across different cultures.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Unity over adversity is a running theme of Saint-Louis, a town located on an island at the mouth of the Senegal river. It is an outstanding example of a colonial city by its natural setting and colonial architecture which gives it a distinctive appearance and identity. (These features are why the island is on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list.)

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Saint-Louis is a city that will charm you. Beyond tourism, this community has come to embody its resourceful spirits. A big part of the way of life is fishing. It is the main occupation of people living in Saint-Louis, also known to the locals as Ndar.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

When shooting in Africa, it’s easy to lean on visual crutches — like ornate jewelry or bright, striking clothing. But that’s only skimming the visual surface of the community of people. Digging deeper requires an extended stay, as well as collaborating with locals who have grown up in the area.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

In the course of digging deeper, i discovered Ndar had a lot more to offer beyond beautiful aesthetics, very rich culture, and history it holds strong remains of past colonial times.

Next up was Gorée Island and the destination is an exceptional testimony to one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity: slave trade. Even with its complicated history, Over the years, Gorée Island has become a well known destination, with figures like Nelson Mandela and even Unisted States President Barack Obama and his family visiting the island.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Storytelling is so powerful. And as a photographer, it's my intent to show the warmth, beauty, and hospitality of Africa across different regions. I strongly believe we as people of Africa have a responsibility to further shape the narrative of Africa’s unique culture and people.

See more photos from Senegal below.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo via Mavin Records

The 9 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Mavin Records, Asake, Stormzy x Amaarae x Black Sherif, Fally Ipupa, Pheelz x French Montana, and more.

Every Friday, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column, Songs You Need to Hear. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

Keep reading...Show less

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