Nigeria is a country rich with over 190 million people and over 300 tribes. Each of these tribes has a unique culture and tradition passed down from parents to their children and vice versa. Due to migration, various elements of culture travel far and wide and are picked up by people who have no relation but are very interested in it.
Beyoncé who is one of the most influential musicians in the world has been fascinated with Nigerian culture for a while now and occasionally references it in various forms of her life through her medium. Here are some of the times Beyonce has been influenced by Nigerian art.
In 2014, Beyoncé released Flawless off her self-titled fifth studio album, Beyoncé. The song was divided into two parts – ‘Bow Down’ and ‘Flawless’ and in between these parts, was a speech ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ delivered by the Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDx Euston conference. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie praised the song, stating that she “likes the idea that Beyoncé’s song might make girls feel that they can ask to try to do these things.”
Lemonade is Beyoncé’s sixth studio album and was filled with Nigerian references from start to finish. It starts off with Hold Up which is the second track off the album. In Hold Up, Beyoncé wears an autumn yellow dress and channels Osun wearing the colour yellow and the raw anger that Osun bears as she damages property with the baseball bat.
It doesn’t end there. Sorry’, which is the fourth track on the album. The music video has Beyoncé’s background dancers wearing intricate white body paint while dancing to the song. Later on, Beyoncé herself has a small amount of body art with white dots placed above her eyebrows. All of this is the work of Nigerian artist, Laolu Senbanjo who describes his body painting as ‘the Sacred Art of the Ori’. Her ‘Love Drought’ song of this album also references the Igbo Landing, where 75 Nigerians revolted against slavery and chose to drown in Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.
Grammys 2017 Performance
For her Grammy performance in 2017, Beyoncé channelled Osun again as she took the audience on a spiritual journey of fertility and motherhood. For most of the performance, Beyoncé was in a gold ensemble that can be linked to Osun. Likewise, Osun is a fertility goddess that brings music and dance together.
In 2018, Beyoncé headlined Coachella, performing for about two hours in what one would describe as one of the best sets ever. Beychella had various Nigerians on the project including Diddi Emah, the baton soloist who gave a great performance to Beyoncé’s Party. Apart from that, the marching band played a glorious rendition of ‘Zombie’ by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. This really is not the first time Beyoncé has been influenced by Fela. In some of the videos that hit the internet during her African-themed push party, you can hear Fela in the background. Also, she did a cover shoot in 2011 for French Magazine, L’Officiel, intended at paying homage.
The Lion King Album
In 2019, it was announced that Beyoncé was going to be cast as ‘Nala’ in the remake of the 1994 Disney classic The Lion King. Beyoncé curated and produced a soundtrack album which features new songs inspired by the film, as well as Spirit from the soundtrack.
According to Beyoncé, this was ‘sonic cinema’ and the film is a new experience of storytelling. She went on to say that she wanted to put everyone on their own journey to link the storyline” and that the songs were inspired by the remake’s storyline, which “gives the listener a chance to imagine their own imagery while listening to a new contemporary interpretation”.
The album featured Nigerian artists like Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Tekno, Mr Eazi. In Mood 4 Eva, Beyoncé reminds us that all the Osun references in the past were very intentional.
I am Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter
I am the Nala, sister of Naruba
Oshun, Queen Sheba, I am the mother
Ankh on my gold chain, ice on my whole chain
I be like soul food, I am a whole mood
Asides these mentions, Beyoncé has been influenced by other art forms such as henna, which she wore during her pregnancy shoot. She has also gone ahead to wear various Nigerian designers like EnaGancio and Frock It, Rock It.