TRENDSETTER

Kenyan acts weren't ready for 'Lion King' project

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Black Panther’ soundtrack album was yet another project that had the artiste only work with South African acts

In Summary

• The harsh reality is we are not yet there, as far a global recognition is concerned

Beyonce's "Spirit" cover artwork
Beyonce's "Spirit" cover artwork
Image: Courtesy

At this point, nothing would please an artiste more than appearing on the same project with Beyoncé. She’s been in the game for decades and we’ve all watched her grow into this icon for her great contribution to the music scene. She’s mastered the craft, owned it and turned it into a fortune which has built her massive following commonly referred to as the Beyhive. 

Her latest offering on the remake of Disney’s traditionally animated film, ‘The Lion King’, would see her voice and also showcase her vocal talent on the soundtrack album ‘The Lion King: The Gift.’ It was a project that would see Beyoncé work with nine African acts, excluding Kenyan artistes. Factoring out artistes from the nation where the film draws its inspiration from was certainly going to bring about great resentment from the Kenyan acts and fans.

But was this action justified? Well, for a film expected to cater for all African people and celebrate their culture, the album was not entirely that, as its collaborations were skewed towards a number of popular West African names. Kenyan artistes Victoria Kimani and Them Mushroom’s John Katana, who helped popularise the “Hakuna Matata” phrase, were among the many who criticised Beyoncé’s exclusion. 

 
 
 

It's true, the album doesn’t quite fully depict the African diaspora, but from an artiste and repertoire perspective, the purpose of the film and the soundtrack was to make money, and only the best would be invited to be part of the entire production. While it might feel absolutely wrong for Kenyans to have been left out of the production, the truth is the West Africans have sold their identity and sound globally and they would make obvious choices for any project.

It can be argued that Kenya has been long ignored when it comes to the selection of its artistes to feature on major productions that revolve around achieving borderless African identity. Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Black Panther’ soundtrack album was yet another project that had the artiste only work with South African acts among the wide inclusion of black artistes. The fact is, the number of African acts working with internationally recognised artistes has grown tremendously.

Hardly is Kenyan music coming back to life. Well, we have our own who are doing tremendous things globally, including Blinky Bill, who recently produced on GoldLink’s latest album, “Diaspora”, and Sauti Sol, who have obviously solidified their place in the African scene. However, the harsh reality is we are not yet there, as far a global recognition is concerned.

While those in the international levels are playing in the major league, most of our artistes are chasing waves to earn short-lived hits. There's obviously a commercial aspect involved when it comes featuring certain acts on these global projects. The production budgets are big and, therefore, there’s a need to make a lot of money in return. And one thing’s for sure, most Kenyan artistes still have a long way to go before they can bring such an impact.

So perhaps Beyoncé and her team were not wrong to leave out Kenyan acts. Her obligation was to deliver an impactful project and certainly, she achieved it. She champions the African narrative and allows the African acts featured on the album to shine in her glory. Truly, who wouldn't want to be part of an album that's already ranked well in the top charts?