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Kenyan Artists Offended after Beyoncé Left Them out of 'Lion King' Album

Aby Rivas
Jul 26, 2019
05:00 P.M.
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Beyoncé has reportedly offended several Kenyan artists for not including them in her executively produced album “Lion King: The Gift,” which she dubbed as a “love letter to Africa.”

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According to John Katana—the vocalist and frontman of the Chakacha Kenyan band Them Mushrooms—several Kenyan musicians feel snubbed after realizing Beyoncé and Disney didn’t include any local artist in the soundtrack of their new version of “The Lion King.”

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A HURTFUL EXCLUSION

The album features over 20 artists from the United States, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Cameroon, but there’s a noticeable lack of musicians from East Africa, the region where “The Lion King” is set.

On top of that, the famous phrase “Hakuna Matata,” often related to the characters Timon and Pumba, was initially coined by Them Mushrooms in their ‘80s hit song “Jambo Bwana.”

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“No one called us,” Katana told TMZ through a video call. “We just read about it in the media just like everyone else. There’s been a big debate on social media about that; Kenya missing out on the Lion King.”

And continued:

“The creatives in the country are complaining that Kenyan acts, if not Them Mushrooms, should have been on Beyoncé’s recording because the phrase was made popular from Kenya. So, everybody feels that Kenya should have had a piece of the pie. But, that’s not the case. So yes, we should have been on the album.”

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BEYONCÉ’S GIFT

Talking about “The Gift” in a rare interview with ABC, Beyoncé said she wanted to make sure to create an album to honor Africa with the help of the best African talent.

“This soundtrack is a love letter to Africa, and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it,” she said. “We've kind of created our own genre, and I feel like the soundtrack is the first soundtrack where it becomes visual in your mind.”

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The soundtrack is a mix of songs and interludes from the movie with the voice of Beyoncé as Nala, Donald Glover as Simba, Earl Jones as Mufasa and more. The song “Spirit,” which was the only new song to be included in the live version of the film, has been lauded as an incredible ode to blackness.

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LOCAL CRITICISM

However, as Katana mentioned, not only are Kenyans upset about the blatant omission of East African representation but also local critics noticed the snub.

Danny Schwartz says on his album review for Rolling Stone that the exclusion of Kenyan artist in the album “it’s an incisive criticism that reveals the ways in which ‘The Gift’ is beholden to a western, capitalist gaze, and thus falls short of its promise as Beyoncé’s “love letter to Africa.’”

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And added:

“If anything, ‘The Gift’ is a love letter to blackness. Blackness, more than African-ness, is the current that runs through the album, as Beyoncé and her cohort champion their skin color as the source of their worth and power.”

In general, there have been mixed reviews of the “Lion King: The Gift,” but everyone seems to agree on the fact that Beyoncé’s powerful vocals and approach to re-imagine the music for the movie, took the film to a whole new level of epicness.

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