Over the past three decades, Beyoncé has played a major role in shaping global popular culture and spreading African cultures, writes James Chikomborero Paradza.
Beyoncé is from exit his seventh solo studio album, titled Renaissance (2022). The album, which is creating an event in global popular culture, is the first of a three-part project. His previous opus, the visual album Black is king (2020), was produced in collaboration with many african artists.
In history, the Renaissance (XIVe century to XVIe century) is characterized by the desire to rediscover the cultural grandeur of the Greco-Roman past and the revival of scholarship in Europe after a period of stagnation. Even today, art (painting, music, fashion) influences how people dress and behave, what they choose to display and say, and how they view themselves. and perceive society.
Over the past three decades, Beyoncé has played a major role in shaping global popular culture. She has consistently empowered her listeners and sparked debate, and her song lyrics have often been quoted in discussions of social issues. His take on monogamy in the album Dangerously in Love (2003), for example, offers a counter-narrative to the patriarchal portrayal of hypersexuality among black women.
Public chat Lemonade (2016), Beyoncé uses very diverse musical genres, which go beyond the stereotypes usually associated with a black artist. In doing so, she questions the mechanisms of discrimination of which she is a victim. On Black is king, it testifies to a renaissance of African art forms at a time when cultural norms dominated by Western thought are in decline and Africa is a rising star in popular culture.
In this article, I wish to demonstrate that throughout her career, Beyoncé has contributed to a renewal of narratives in popular music and, in doing so, has made a significant commitment to African culture and music.
Beyoncé has associated various African artists with her projects and has often presented them to international audiences. Before Black is king, we can quote the poetry of Warsan Shire, originally from Kenya, on Lemonade, a quote from the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Flawless (2013) and a choreography by Tofo Tofo, which is a dance group based in Mozambique, in the video by Run the World (Girls).
Although the cultures of the African continent are not as present as on Black is king, Beyoncé has also called on African artists on Renaissance, especially on the song "Move", whose style is inspired by Afrobeats and featuring P2J (Nigeria) and GuiltyBeatz (Ghana) as producers, as well as Tems as writer and performer.
Tems (Temilade Openiyi), a versatile vocalist, rose to prominence after collaborating on Gasoline (2020) by Nigerian star WizKid. His discography crosses different genres, including alternative R&B, neo-soul and Afropop. Her debut single “Mr Rebel” (2018) showcases her R&B talents (both as a producer and singer), while her 2021 featuring on “Fountains” by Canadian rapper Drake shows his ability to convey emotions through his voice.
The name of Tems has been on everyone's lips since the release of the bande-annonce of the second opus of the film Black Panther, in which she resumes No woman No Cry by Bob Marley. She has helped popularize and renew our perception of Afropop and commercial African music.
Black is king
"I believe that when black people tell their own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our TRUE story of generational richness and soul richness that is not told in the history books. »
Black is king, Beyoncé's previous album, is a celebration of African traditions with a modern twist. In this visual album, she adopts a Pan-African inspired perspective and incorporates elements from several African countries. It partners with various African actors, directors, designers, choreographers and musicians, thus highlighting the cultural diversity of the continent.
Viewers are exposed to elements ranging from music genres like Afrobeats (Nigeria) and gqom (South Africa) to popular dance styles like the Network (Ghana) and the Kpakujemu (Nigeria). It also shows landscapes from all over the continent.
Beyoncé should not be credited with inventing these elements, or even giving her all the credit for popularizing them. They existed and were appreciated long before she started showing them. However, there is no denying the instrumental role Beyoncé has played in bringing these elements to the fore in global popular culture, thanks to her status as an international star.
Furthermore, the visual album gives a truer representation of the African continent and its diversity than other works that draw inspiration from African cultures in global popular culture. Black is king introduced a revival of the image of Africa in popular media and empowered many Africans and black people, who finally feel better represented in mainstream popular culture.
Beyoncé has once again incorporated an element of revival into Renaissance. Across the album's 16 tracks, she takes listeners on a journey with the stated intention of creating a safe space free from judgment, perfectionism and overthinking. Listeners are exposed to the music of the STUDIO 54, from the disco era of the 1970s, with effortless transitions to more contemporary genres (pop, R&B and house).
Early disco was influenced by late 1960s funk, soul, and jazz, and combined these styles with technologies such as synthesizers, multitrack recordings, and drum machines. This spawned a lavish, decadent form of dance-driven pop music characterized by a steady beat and prominent, high-pitched vocals paired with reverb effects. The genre had its heyday between 1975 and early 1979, with artists such as D et Gloria Gaynor who dominated the music charts.
On the aptly named title Renaissance, Beyoncé brought this style back to the forefront of pop culture, introducing it to many young listeners. From the first single Break My Soul, listeners are exposed to the album's ubiquitous dance-pop and house style. Beyoncé successfully incorporates musical genres such as pop, electronic house, afrobeats, trap and soul, to name a few, in combination with various disco influences. The album's lyrics portray an overall sense of self-love and pride. It sounds like the music of one of South Africa's and the continent's most important pop artists, Brenda Fassie (1964-2004).
Throughout her career, Fassie, one of the queens of African pop, has made disco and pop music influenced by her experience in the black ghettos. His iconic music told the story of black South Africans at the time of theapartheid.
Beyoncé's work, throughout her career, serves as a platform for African artists on the world stage, using various musical genres to counter stereotypes associated with black musicians and renew the narratives associated with their realities. His latest album continues in this direction by introducing new listeners to a revival of disco with a contemporary twist.
This article was translated by Eléonore Roussel.