It was a bright Sunday morning when I got a video on Whatsapp from my partner, mind fully engulfed in the Chelsea Vs Liverpool premier league game on TV, I clicked open . I immediately caught the satire from the chorus ’This is America’, but didn’t fully process the visuals. My partner text back to see what I felt and my non-committal response elicited this retort “I expect you to see the deepness of this video being in the music industry”. As a matter of fact she was convinced I didn’t watch it. In a matter of a couple of hours the internet was engulfed with this video ‘This is America’,a satiric depiction of the American society. The symbolism became the talk of the town , while others hailed it as a master piece, others condemned it for depicting violence.
American artist Donald Glover who goes by the alter ego ‘Childish Gambino’ practically took the internet by storm after releasing two videos ‘Saturday’ and ‘This is America’ on Saturday 5th, May 2018. It was the latter video however that got the world talking after performing it on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and releasing the visuals after. The video shot by Hiro Murai is laced with symbolism and surreal imagery and has been hailed as genius work; racking up over 25 Million Youtube views in 48 hours. Filmed in a warehouse that allows numerous actions to take place at once in the movie frame, the first striking image is a shirtless Childish Gambino. As an African music exponent , the image of Childish Gambino topless in the 70s themed pants was classic Fela, the Afro beats legend.
Feel Anikulapo -Kuti is a legend of the African music genre and even many years after his death , his influence can be seen in many modern day African music. The iconoclastic nature of Fela’s effect has filtered onto the international music scene just as African music continues to cross boundaries. Beyonce’s widely acclaimed Coachella 2018 performance featured a pulsating rendition of the Fela classic ‘Zombie’. At the 2018 Grammy Awards , Rihanna displayed the South African dance craze created by Dj Bongz ‘Gwara Gwara’ as the world continues to lap onto the growing power of African music. These and many more events are proving the stalwarts of African music propagation right. African music and its elements have the world’s attention now and it can only get better from here .
African music is definitely crossing boundaries and in Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America ‘ music clip , the beauty came to play. This can only further put the African music brand higher on the international map. The Fela re-incarnation was so apt and striking , there was no way I would have missed that . ‘Gwara Gwara’ is probably the most popular African dance at the moment and the image of one Africa’s foremost dance sensations Sherrie Silver propping up behind Childish Gambino is unmissable. Sherrie Silver and three other dance cohorts follow Childish Gambino and exhibit different dance choreographies one of which is the viral dance ‘Gwara Gwara’. A South African dance trend that features full body dip, moving one leg and rotating the arm like you are mixing up a cereal. Then moments after you see the ‘Shoki’ move ,a dance craze made popular by Olamide and his YBNL protege Lil Kesh. The swing of the arm with the hands cupped and bending low is the ‘Shoki’ move and mastery of it can get a you a free beer in Lagos, Nigeria on a Friday Night.
African music has come a long way and it has been a long and hard battle to crossing boundaries with African music . However seeing the elements of African music permeate International music shows that the battle is being won. Fela, Shoki , Gwara Gwara are symbols of African music and all three were at creative play in the visuals put out by Donald Glover. Although most of the discourse might be focused on the various issues in the American society raised by the gripping visuals, the beauty of African music and dance is in full glare in currently the most talked about music video in the world. “The curious beauty of African music is that it uplifts even as it tells a sad tale. You may be poor, you may have only a ramshackle house, you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope” – Nelson Mandela. African music continues to march onto the horizon and this can only be better for African artists and their craft in the quest to crossing boundaries with music.