The biggest artist of our times is Beyonce. Hands down. Hi five to the entire Bey-hive – all gazillion of you! It’s almost safe to say that she’s dominated the entire second decade of the 21st century. Why am I writing about her when I’m supposed to be focusing on Africa? you ask. Well, there are connections to be made and possible appropriation to be concluded because her originality can and needs to be challenged.
It’s actually quite interesting how, in her crafting and curating herself, she has sprinkled or rather doused who she presents herself to the world with the magic of *whispers loudly and raspily* “Africa”. Admittedly, I see African influences in every freaking thing and as someone who is an animated and trained dancer with an ear for music from all over the world WITH a BLOG..!! I’ll just run through a few of them as seen through a particular/single song and performance and bring it all together at the end:
Beyonce performs Grown Woman at Bercy in Paris as part of the Mrs. Carter tour:
- acacia trees in the savanna themed background
- high stand up ponytail a la Coming to America
- handwoven hand fan used either to fan oneself or reignite the dying embers on a fire
- Bey dances the popular Congolese dance known as malembe (literally means gently or slowly in Lingala) that can pretty much be considered sweepingly “African” dance
- her dancers come out rocking some fly rompers by renowned Ghanaian designer Christie Brown (fanning themselves with the hand fans)
- Bey and her lineup of dancers proceed to do a tame version of the popular [rather graphic and suggestive] Ivorian dance called the “mapouka reculer” (couldn’t find a video appropriate enough to link – Google it)
- Les Twins come on and sample a South African gumboot dance sans the gumboots
- the screens in the background are flashing zebras on the gentle prowl – we all know they’re indigenous to the continent
- melodic bellows from the Guinean crooner Ismael Kouyate and Beyonce avec Les Twins proceed to do a safe mapouka or what some in the US only know recently as the twerk
The song continues on it’s jammingness, but the part where she really gets down on her Grown Woman-ness is when the drums are the heaviest and the song sounds the most African. Beyonce’s so original *insert dramatic eye roll*, but all these things are not for nothing. They are part of a continuum in her life and involvements between she and her husband. Who knows when it will end. Will she keep ripping dance moves, will Boko Haram release the Chibok girls to only her, ….
To not risk coming off as a Beyonce hater I will say what her greatness comes from is the fact that she does not let her left hand know what her left hand is doing. To me, many people know Beyonce only from her albums, world tours, cute Lil’ Miss Lady Blue Ivy and somewhat mysteriousness – the right hand. They do not know much of what she does in, for and about Africa. I am fascinated by what I discovered her left hand is up to.
I’m ok with what OkayAfrica referred to as the “Africanization of Beyonce” as long as we don’t see Beyoncification of Africa. Like the song says, Africa is a Grown Woman and she can do whatever she wants.