Beyoncé has helped usher in a renaissance for African artists
Published on: August 05, 2022 07:30 (EAT)
Beyoncé on stage in South Africa in 2018.
- Beyoncé's previous outing, the visual album Black is King (2020), collaborated with a host of African artists.
- Renaissance pays tribute to black dance music and again features African artists, including Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems, who is having a global moment of her own.
has released her seventh solo studio album,
titled Renaissance (2022). The album, an event in
global popular culture, is the first of a three-part project by the US artist.
Her previous outing, the visual album Black is King (2020), collaborated with a
host of African artists. Renaissance pays tribute to black dance music and again features African artists, including
Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems, who is having a global moment of her own.
history, the renaissance era (from the 1400s) was
characterised by the rebirth and renewal of culture and scholarship in Europe
following a period of stagnation. Today, still, art – paintings, music, fashion
– contributes to how people dress and behave, what they choose to post and talk
about, and how they perceive themselves and society.
the last three decades, Beyoncé has played a major role in shaping global
popular culture. She has continuously empowered listeners and sparked debate,
and her lyrics have often been quoted in discussions on societal issues. Her
views on monogamy on the album Dangerously in Love (2003), for example,
offer a counter narrative to the patriarchal depiction of hypersexuality in
On Lemonade (2016), Beyoncé uses music genres beyond those expected
of a black female artist. In the process she challenges the discrimination she
faces. On Black is King she reflects a renaissance of African art forms in a
time when cultural norms dominated by western thinking are on the decline and
Africa’s star is rising in popular culture.
this article, I argue that throughout her career, Beyoncé has contributed to a
renewal of various narratives in popular music and has in so doing engaged
meaningfully with African culture and music.
has involved various African artists in her projects and many a time introduced
them to international audiences. Before Black is King, these include poetry by
Kenyan-born Warsan Shire on Lemonade, a quote by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Flawless (2013) and choreography by Tofo Tofo – the Mozambique-based dance
group – in the Run the World (Girls) video.
not as prominently as on Black is King, Beyoncé has included African artists on
Renaissance too, particularly on the song Move, which has an Afrobeats-inspired style and features P2J
(Nigeria) and GuiltyBeatz (Ghana) as producers, as well as Tems as a writer and
(Temilade Openiyi), a versatile vocalist who also writes songs, rose to fame
after being featured on Essence (2020) by Nigerian star vocalist
WizKid. Her discography consists of music across different genres, including
alternative R&B, neo-soul and Afropop. Her debut single Mr Rebel (2018)
displays her R&B talents (as both a producer and vocalist), while her 2021
feature on Canadian rapper Drake’s Fountains shows her ability to convey
emotions through her voice.
name is on everyone’s lips following the release of the trailer for the Black Panther movie sequel
set to her cover of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry. She has contributed to the
renewal of perceptions towards Afropop and commercial African music, and its
popularisation across the globe through her unique style of music.
that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world
and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are
not told in our history books. – Beyoncé
is King, Beyoncé’s previous album, is a celebration of African traditions with
a “modern twist”. In the visual album, she incorporates a Pan-African-inspired
lens and integrates elements from several African countries. She partners with
various African actors, directors, designers, choreographers and musicians,
highlighting the continent’s diversity.
are exposed to African elements ranging from music genres like Afrobeats
(Nigeria) and gqom (South Africa) to popular dance
styles like the Network (Ghana) and Kpakujemu (Nigeria). There are also
visuals of landscapes across the continent.
must not mistakenly be credited with originating these elements, nor even
popularising them. They existed and were appreciated by people long before she
started filming. However, one cannot deny the instrumental role Beyoncé has
played in bringing these elements to the forefront of global popular culture as
a result of her platform as an international star.
the visual album portrays a more accurate representation of the African
continent and its diversity than other works that adopt an African label in
global popular culture. Black is King has introduced a renaissance of Africa’s
image in popular media and empowered many African and black people as they
finally feel more represented in mainstream popular culture.
has once again incorporated an element of renewal on Renaissance. Through the
16 tracks on the album, she takes listeners on a journey with the stated
intention of creating a safe space, free from judgement, perfectionism and
overthinking. Listeners are exposed to music that channels the Studio 54 disco era of the 1970s with
effortless transitions to more contemporary pop, R&B and house genres.
Early disco music was influenced by the funk,
soul and jazz of the late 1960s, and combined these styles with technology such
as synthesisers, multitrack recordings and drum machines. This created a lavish
and decadent form of dance-orientated pop music characterised by a steady beat
and vocals that are prominent, high and reverberated. The genre was at its peak
between 1975 to early 1979, with artists such as Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor dominating the charts.
the appropriately titled Renaissance, Beyoncé has brought this style back to
the forefront of pop culture, introducing many young listeners to it. From the
outset of the lead single Break My Soul, listeners are exposed to the album’s
pervasive dance-pop and house-inspired style. Beyoncé successfully integrates
music genres including pop, electronic house, Afrobeats, trap and soul, to name
a few, in combination with various disco influences. Through the lyrics on the
album, an overarching sense of self-love and pride is portrayed. This resembles
the music by one of South Africa’s and the continent’s most prominent pop
artists, Brenda Fassie (1964-2004).
her career, Fassie, one of the queens of African pop, made disco and pop music
that was influenced by her township roots. Her iconic music narrated the
stories of black South Africans during the country’s apartheid era.
considering how popular music acts as a locus for social change within popular
culture, it is evident that Beyoncé plays a key role in shaping parts of
popular societal thought.
her career, her music has challenged and renewed various narratives within the
popular music industry.
work serves as a platform for African artists on a global stage, using various
music genres as a method to counter people’s perceptions of black female
musicians. Her latest album continues to do this by introducing new listeners
to a revival of disco with a contemporary flair.
by: James Chikomborero Paradza, Doctor of Music
Candidate, University of Pretoria.]