What a time it is to be a living, dreaming African creative. Academy Award Winner Lupita Nyong’o once said, ‘Until I saw people like me, doing the things I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure it was a possibility’. The last 12 months have been filled with incredible breakthroughs for the continent on a global scale that denote that Black Panther wasn’t just an incredible moment, but a catalyst within a growing movement. Whether it’s Wizkid, Black Coffee Tiwa Savage, and Burna Boy growing their international presence as global superstars, Bollywood launching productions with African leads, or the continuous insurgence of global streaming brands like Netflix and Spotify, the focus on our continent is clear and mounting. This week has brought another major breakthrough that’s been nothing short of breathtaking with the release of The Lion King: The Gift. Curated by Beyoncé as a love-letter to the continent, The Gift stands as a dazzling celebration of African music, from the artists to the songwriters and producers, the projects is littered with a compelling list of African creatives from all across the continent. Within this article we aim to dive into who these amazing contributors are and where they’re from within our great continent.
Find Your Way Back
Find Your Way Back finds Beyoncé inhabiting the contemporary sounds of South African House and Afropop. On-board as contributors for this project were Nigeria’s Bankulli as well as South Africa’s Bubele Booi and Robert Magwenzi. Bankulli shares songwriting credits whilst Booi and Magwenzi are listed as both producers and songwriters. Bubele Booi is currently one of South Africa’s rising hitmakers with a string of smashes under his belt including Manu WorldStar’s Nalingi and Craig Lucas’ Smother. Robert Magwenzi is a highly sought after bassist and music producer, having also played the bass for the record. Bankulli is a prolific A&R, vocalist and music executive having previously managed acts like D’Banj and Teni The Entertainer. He’s previously worked with Beyoncé before, having provided vocals for The Throne’s 2011’s release Lift Off.
Interesting Fact: Bankulli’s contributions on Find Your Way Back can also be heard in The Stars (Interlude)
Don’t Jealous Me
Don’t Jealous Me is a collaboration of titanic proportions featuring some of the biggest names in West African music. On board as contributors are Nigerian megastars Yemi Alade, Tekno and Mr. Eazi with additional songwriting credits by Ghana’s Lord Afrixana. Lord Afrixana is a rising singer-songwriter based in LA with a couple of singles out including Graceland and Holy Water. The rest of the contributors have been major hit-makers with a long track-record. Yemi Alade has been one of the most prominent female voices in the continent with major hits such as Johnny, Oh My Gosh and most recently Bounce. Tekno has been a major hit-maker both as a performer and a producer, his own hits include Pana, Jogodo and Woman as well as having produced smashes such as Davido’s If and Flavour’s Catch You. Mr. Eazi is an artist who is as prolific for his music as he is for his business ventures and music knowledge, both pioneering genres like Banku whilst propelling movements like emPawa. Some of the hits his most well-known hits include Leg-Over and Pour Me Water.
Interesting Fact: Don’t Jealous Me includes multiple West African languages including Yoruba and Twi. The post-chorus of Don’t Jealous Me is performed in Twi, A Ghanian language.
Ja Ara E
Ja Ara E stands as the only solo showcase in The Gift that doesn’t belong to Beyoncé, that honor belongs to Nigeria’s Burna Boy. Burna Boy is one of our biggest exports and is having a dynamite year internationally. Burna Boy recently won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards as well as being spotlighted by Apple Music as July’s Next Artist Up. All of this priming the release of his next studio album, African Giant, due to drop on July 26th. Burna Boy is known for hits such as On The Low, Soke and Ye.
Interesting Fact: Benson Idonije, broadcasting pioneer and Fela Kuti’s manager, is Burna Boy’s grandfather.
Mood 4 Eva
Beyoncé is joined by her Lion King love interest, Childish Gambino, as well as her real life one, Jay-Z, in another star-studded affair on The Gift. On board as contributors are South Africa’s Anatii who earns a songwriting credit and Mali’s Oumou Sangare. Also referred to as The Songbird of Wassolou, Oumou Sangare is a Grammy Award-winning artist that stands as one of our greatest musical exports as well as one of the more traditional influences on the project. Mood 4 Eva is built upon a sample of one of her greatest hits, Diaraby Nene. Anatii stands as one of the more prominent voices in South African Hip-Hop both as a performer and a producer. The 26 year old has been behind massive hits like 10 Fingers and Ntloni as a performer as well as having produced for artists like Cassper Nyovest and original Lion King composer, Lebo M.
Water is a frenetic production with intense West African influences, pairing Cameroon’s Salatiel with Pharrell and Beyoncé. On board as contributors are the aforementioned Salatiel and Ghana’s Lord Afrixana, who earns his second songwriting credit on The Gift following Don’t Jealous Me. Salatiel is a veteran within Cameroon’s music industry, functioning as an artist, producer and the founder of Alpha Better Records. Apart from his own hits like Toi & Moi and the recent smash Anita, Salatiel has been behind the hits for stars such as Mr. Leo, Manu Di Bango and Blaise B.
Brown Skin Girl
Brown Skin Girl is an infectious ode to dark-skinned women that finds Beyonce sharing the stage with her daughter, SAINt JHN and Wizkid. On-board as contributors Nigeria’s Wizkid and South Africa’s Anatii, who earns his second songwriting credit on The Gift following Mood 4 Eva. Wizkid is one of the most successful and prominent African brands on a global scale following the successes. In 2016 he became the first Nigerian act to top Billboard Hot 100 with the Drake collaboration One Dance and he’s consistently followed that up with more collaborations with international acts like Normani, Goldlink and Skepta. Some of his recent hits include Fibadi and Gbese.
Keys to the Kingdom
Keys to The Kingdom is another collaboration filled solely with West African artists and influence, performed by Tiwa Savage and Mr. Eazi. On board as contributors are Nigeria’s Tiwa Savage, Mr. Eazi and producer Northboi The Oracle as well as Ghana’s Guilty Beatz, who also earns a producing credit. Northboi The Oracle is one of the contemporary Afropop hitmakers, rising to prominence producing hits for acts like Wizkid, Davido and Starboy as well as finding success state-side producing for acts like Tory Lanez. Guilty Beatz is also a seasoned hitmaker and DJ having produced hits for artists like King Promise and fellow collaborator Mr. Eazi. He also has hits of his own including smash single Pilolo. Tiwa Savage is an award-winning veteran entertainer who is as prolific for her songwriting as she is a performer. Her song writing credits span longer than a decade and include works for artists like Monica, Fantasia and David Guetta. Earlier this year she became the first African artist to sign a global deal with Universal, her hits include All Over, My Darlin’ and Ma Lo.
Interesting Fact: Tiwa Savage was once a top 24 contestant on X-Factor UK.
Already is a dancehall-hybrid that finds Beyoncé collaborating with electronic dance trio Major Lazer and Ghana’s very own Shatta Wale. On board as contributors are Ghana’s Shatta Wale with songwriting credits from Mali’s Toumani Diabaté. Toumani Diabaté is one of the most prominent and important figures in Kora music, a style of traditional Malian music. The multi-Grammy Award winning artist has been playing Kora music for over three decades, a tradition that’s stayed within his family for over 77 generations. Some of his works include Afrocubism. and The Mandé Variations. Shatta Wale is a seasoned musical performer, producer and brand. Monikered as the King of African Dancehall, Wale is one of Ghana’s most celebrated musical acts with a career of hits spanning 15 years. Some of his hits include Bullet Proof, My Level and the recently released Melissa.
Otherside stands as one of the few stripped productions on The Gift, performed by Beyoncé. On board as a contributor is Nigerian music executive Bankulli, gaining his second songwriting credit following Find Your Way Back.
Interesting Fact: Beyoncé chants in Swahili towards the end of the song.
My Power finds Beyoncé travelling back to contemporary South African sounds like Gqom on what stands as the project’s only all-female line up, collaborating with Tierra Whack, Nija and Moonchild Sannelly. On board as contributors for this project are South Africa’s Moonchild Sannelly, Busiswa and DJ Lag, who earns a production credit, as well as Nigeria’s Yemi Alade who earns her second credit following Don’t Jealous Me. DJ Lag is a producer and DJ that stands as one of the pioneers of the Gqom sound that has dominated South African during the latter half of this decade. The 24 year old is consistently building an international presence including his recent collaborative with EP with British producer Okzharp. Busiswa is one of the forefront figures within contemporary South African dance music. The veteran entertainer has been a consistent force on South African airwaves since her breakthrough hit, My Name Is, in 2011. Her hits include Banomaya, Bazoyenza and Midnight Starring. Moonchild Sannelly, instantly recognizable through her trademarked wig, is an outspoken poet, musician and trailblazing originator of ghetto funk. Some of her hits include iWalk Ye Phara, F-Boyz and Africa Express.
The list of contributors on this project is incredibly rich and vast and includes Africans born and raised within the greater diaspora. Some of the contributors I’d like to highlight further are Michael Uzowuru, P2J Music and Ariowa Irosogie, more commonly known as Ari Pensmith. P2J Music, British-Nigerian, is one of the most prominent contributors on The Gift having produced on 6 records; Don’t Jealous Me, Ja Ara E, Brown Skin Girl, Keys To The Kingdom, Water and Scar. P2J is a seasoned producer and songwriter who has produced music for acts like Mark Ronson, Chris Brown, Tiwa Savage and YouTuber-turned-rapper KSI. Michael Uzowuru, Nigerian-American, wrote on two songs Brown Skin Girl and Mood 4 Eva. Uzowuru is an extremely versatile composer and producer who has written and produced for acts Frank Ocean, Goldlink and Anderson Paak as well as having composed the score for Donald Glover’s critically acclaimed music film Guava Island. Ari Pensmith, British-Nigerian, wrote on both Keys to The Kingdom and Don’t Jealous Me as well as having produced on Scar. This 22 year old is a rising triple threat, singer-songwriter-producer who has worked with acts like Mario, Chris Brown and Krept & Konan, as well as having executively produced and performed on Goldlink’s latest project, Diaspora.
As previously stated, The Gift is as a dazzling celebration of African music, an exposé showing just how far the African voice and influence is reaching. The amount of representation found within this project is nothing short of majestic and awe-inspiring. With over 20 contributors born and/or based within our great continent The Gift asserts itself as a landmark, a symbol aspirant creatives can use and motivate themselves to keep pushing. What a time it is to be a living, dreaming creative. To bare witness to such expansive breakthroughs, labors of love and skill. To know, that this is just the beginning and there’s more to come. Beyoncé’s gift is one of hope, an assertion of our significance and a reminder that this moment represents something way bigger.