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The Lion King Music Story | Presented by Disney Africa

The Lion King: A Music Story | Presented by Disney

We take you behind the scenes to find out just how big an impact 'The Lion King' and African music has had on the global music space.

Sponsored content from Disney.

Twenty-five years later and the music of The Lion King still holds up. The live-action remake of the beloved Disney film has only further affirmed this, with folks still more than ready to sing along to its grand and unforgettable soundtrack. Since it first came out, African artists have carved out an indelible space in the international music scene, and the universal appeal of the Lion King's music is a testament to that.

African music is worldwide. From Johannesburg to São Paulo to New York City, we caught up with the likes of music composer Lebo M, veteran actor Dr. John Kani, choral director Khaya Mthethwa and artist Rincon Sapiência, for a new video to discuss the rising popularity of African music and culture in mainstream media and its global impact.


Speaking to OkayAfrica's CEO Abiola Oke, Lebo M talks about his musical journey with the film saying, "The Lion King is probably the first film that speaks of Africa, Africans and our culture in a way that is so positive." He adds that, "The impact of the music starts with the very first two-and-a-half minutes of the opening of the movie which I did as a demo. The music became the inspiration for how the rest of the soundtrack was going to be developed and therefore complemented the script and the story line."

Dr. John Kani, who is the voice of Rafiki, speaks about seeing Lebo M's work on The Lion King on broadway when he was in New York, simply describing it as "magic."

The Lion King music's varying elements presents something different for every music lover. Brazilian artist, Rincon Sapiência, echoes this sentiment by describing how he could even hear a tinge of funk coming through in the sound, representing a unique musical diversity that is sure to stick with listeners. While Khaya Mthethwa, the director of Choral, says the music will continue to carry on for generations, ultimately becoming an undying musical legacy.

Back in New York, we spoke with choreographers Izzy Odigie and Luam Keflegzy, who speak on the growing prominence of afrobeats and describe how they've personally been moved by the iconic music from The Lion King.

The original Lion King came around at a time when Africa's musical contributions seemed to be overlooked, and for many, the film helped bring it to the forefront. Now, there's absolutely no denying it's cultural impact.

"It's kind of beautiful and serendipitous that the Lion King came out the way it did," says star producer Pharrell Williams. "Because it was kind of a commercial reminder to the world—the accepting cultures, the resisting cultures—that Africa is a force."

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Video Credits

Director: Chika Okoli

Producers: Chika Okoli, Oyinkan Olojede + Sazi Mbalekwa

Production Assistant: Nadia Balogou

DPs: Bonga Nkomo, Leandro Caproni + Shaheen Soofi

Sound: Anaka Morris

Editors: Kanil Ward, Sheriff Ahmed + Shaheen Soofi

Colorist: Shaheen Soofi

Post Sound: Eric Stapleton

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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