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The biggest issue for discussion in the entertainment landscape over the past couple of week has got to be the Lion King album released by American pop singer and actress, Beyoncé. Beyoncé, or Queen Bey, as her fans call her, is a massive star.
Let’s not mince words, she is arguably the biggest star in popular music at the moment. Of course we have known this for ages, but this fact became even more real to me during the concert to mark Africa’s version of the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg last December.
It was a great concert of with some of the greatest music stars of global repute performing to raise funds to end world hunger and poverty, the whole posturing ended up as though it was a concert organized for and by Beyoncé with her rapper husband Jay-Z tagging along to Africa.
More than half of the performance time by Beyoncé and Jay Z was not broadcast live to audiences across the world, because the power couple had done a deal to own the rights to the remainder of the time; which I have a feeling would end up in a Netflix documentary film. Or something like that.
Talking about which reminds me of the Netflix special documentary film by Beyoncé released earlier this year, that depicted her preparation and performance at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. This event is an annual music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, in the Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert, USA.
You are said to have arrived as an artiste if you get an invitation to perform at Coachella, which pulls crowds in in the region of 300,000 annually and Queen Bey in the docu film showed a lot more than just someone who had been invited to perform. She prepared, went there and conquered and then made a movie out of it titled Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé.
From the foregoing, it does appear that every major event or project that Beyoncé is involved in, she likes not just own the narrative, but even more, leverage the show to express her art and then own whatever pecuniary advantage her mega star power can command.
Given this history of Bey owning the space in projects she is involved with, it did not come as a surprise for many when it was announced that she was going to produce an album around the remake of The Lion King, in which she lends her voice as the lioness and eventual queen Nala.
The surprise however was what the album eventually became. Last week Disney released The Lion King soundtrack, produced by Beyoncé and packed with some of the big names in Nigerian music including Yemi Alade, Tekno, Mr. Eazi, Burna Boy and Wizkid. Not just that, but our own dancehall king, Shatta Wale, as the only artiste from Ghana featured on the song titled Already. We’ll come to this presently.
Apart from the aforementioned West African stars, the album titled The Gift also featured South Africa’s Moonchild Sanelly and Busiswa, her recently turned billionaire husband Jay-Z, Childish Gambino (whose real name is Donald Glover and who voices Simba in the movie), and Kendrick Lamar.
There were many who wanted to know why Beyoncé would fill her album with so many African artistes. As I have noted above, Beyoncé doesn’t get involved with or does any project without the strategic intention of owning the space.
In an interview on US network ABC TV, the former Destiny’s Child member called The Lion King soundtrack “a love letter to Africa”. She noted “I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it. I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.”
Back home, the announcement that Shatta Wale had been featured on album with Beyoncé was hailed to the high heavens, not just by the many fans of the artiste, but also many Ghanaians who felt this was good enough catalyst for the industry and many of the local musicians who congratulated Shatta made that point.
This was encapsulated in a congratulatory tweet by his arch competitor, Samini. “This is huge man … congrats guys and most importantly to man like @shattawalegh for putting #gh on the map chale this is all the way up my Gee …. pah pah pah pah #akyesaaaaaaaaa”
The man some have considered as his “former enemy”, Stonebwoy came out with all gun blazing to congratulate Wale on Twitter. “Congrats On This One.. Chaiiii Ghana Let’s Not Sleep On This One @shattawalegh features On @thelionking Track List. As The Only Ghanaian Out of 10000 Nigerians #DemDead #Ghana2TheWorld #PaaPaa another One for the Genre #AfroDancehallReggae #BhimNationEndorsed!! (sic).
Ghana’s undisputed rap king, Sarkodie also came through with his own version of congratulations to Shatta Wale, even in the midst of heavy trolling by Shatta Wale fans who have not forgiven him since he released the Advice song. “Welcome home Queen @Beyonce officially Big shouts @shattawalegh !!! And all our brothers and sisters on there … Big One for the culture,” he tweeted.
There were many other artistes who congratulated Shatta for leading the way to this obviously important awareness that Ghanaian music would gain in the market that almost every single musician in the world look forward to have relevance in.
Many fans of Shatta Wale were convinced that their King had arrived with that feature by Bey on the song titled Already. As to whether the song met their expectation or not, Shatta fans believe it more than did and anyone with any other opinion has to reevaluate their sense and knowledge of music.
On the issue of who benefits most from this collaboration, there are as many opinions as there can be. Some are convinced that Beyoncé wanted to be relevant in Africa in general hence the decision to partner these African acts and by extension the Ghanaian superstar, Shatta Wale. That argument has been espoused by Fuse ODG.
Speaking to Giovani Caleb on the 3FM Drive last week on the matter, the London-based Ghanaian artiste said the feature provides an opportunity for the American singer to make a mark in Africa. “I think Beyoncé benefits the most from obviously Africa certifying her, because there is nobody cooler than Africans right now. So Beyoncé actually being a part of this sound track to me, it benefits her a lot greater. She’s getting certification from real African people.”
Others also believe that the reverse is true and that this feature helps the African stars the most. As I have already enunciated in this piece, Beyoncé has worked her way up to the very top of the pop music pole and would need no relevance, if anything it is to establish her hegemony even further.
However, any how you look at it, Shatta Wale and the other African stars deserve the congratulations and other adulations they are receiving since the announcement was made and the album was released. Such endorsements don’t come cheap.
The Queen has cast her net wide and it has caught many big fishes in Africa and all should be happy, and we are, that one of Ghana’s leading artistes is in that bracket and raising high the flag and the culture. We hope that it leads to greater things for the Ghana music industry too.
By Francis Doku|3news.com|Ghana
The author is the General Manager for Radio and Digital at the Media General Group and also an arts, entertainment and tourism critic and reviewer. This article was first published in the Graphic Showbiz of July 25, 2019. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect the editorial position of www.3news.com