It seems that Disney’s new The Lion King is the gift that keeps giving. Not only did the remake bring diversity to Disney’s notoriously white-washed history, but it brought forth the latest and greatest music produced by the one and only Queen B—bringing Afrobeats into the mainstream.
As The Lion King debuted in theaters, Beyoncé was simultaneously dropping “The Lion King: The Gift” as the perfect companion piece. The album features 14 original songs and 13 remasters from the Disney feature film—and showcases stateside superstars Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, as well as Nigerian stars Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Tekno, Wizkid, and Tiwa Savage; South African singers Moonchild Sanelly and Busiswa; Cameroonian singer Salatiel and Ghanian star Shatta Wale.
Referring to the album as a “Love Letter To Africa,” she told ABC TV:
I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa and not just, you know, use some of the sounds and give my interpretation of it. I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.
As a “sonic cinema” the album allows each musical artist to explore a theme in The Lion King saga, mixing songs and short clips from the film and adding rich cultural flavor to both beloved classics and new original content. “A lot of the drums, the chants, all of these incredible new sounds, mixed with some of the producers from America, we’ve kinda created our genre,” Queen Bey explains. “And I feel like the soundtrack, it becomes visual in your mind, it’s a soundscape, it’s more than just the music because each song tells the story of the film.”
While this is certainly not the first time African music has been placed at the center of a Hollywood movie—the Black Panther soundtrack has already beaten The Lion King to that punch—it marks a tipping-point moment for African artists breaking into the North American market. When you think of a film as big as The Lion King, and an artist as powerful as Beyoncé, the opportunity to put the music into the hands of a much wider audience is unparalleled.
Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” not only brings awareness and support to African culture, but it also attempts to dissolve genre borders and bring forth a global melding of cultures and music. And though it stands to spotlight African music artists, it also does what Beyoncé does best —uses storytelling to explore social implications and potent themes in a spectacular way, and dare I even say, flip racial hierarchy on its head.
Photo Credit: beyonce.com