When Beyoncé thrilled and disappointed East Africans

Rwandan humour took to the social media last week tapping from a line in the US musician Beyoncé’s lyrics to the song “Mood 4 Eva”.

The line, “My baby father, bloodline Rwanda”, seems to suggest that her husband, the popular Black American rapper Jay Z, is descended from the country.

Someone tweeted, “Jay Z should also be given a Salax Award as they did to Stromae.” The award is the premier Rwandan music talent event. 

Another tweep declared, “The first billionaire rapper in the world is from Rwanda…Jay Z.”

The song is part of the sound track for the just released movie, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. It is likely Beyoncé sang her husband’s “bloodline” in the creative license of which to mention Rwanda is aptly representative of Africa.

Elsewhere in East Africa some were not as thrilled. Some East African musicians wondered why even one of them had not been included in her album, The Lion King: The Gift.

They included a member of the Kenyan band Them Mushrooms who, in their hit song Jambo Bwana, popularised the Swahili term hakuna matata (no problems) adopted in a sound track in the movie.

However, the most vocal of them widely quoted in international media, Victoria Kimani, had started the storm tweeting: “Our Queen forgot about US. WE were not represented in her love letter to us. It hurts. That’s all.”

Beyoncé had bequeathed the album as a love letter to Africa in which, as she had explained in an interview, she sought the best African talent that happened to include West and South African artistes. One of them, the popular Nigerian, WizKid, was the first African musician to feature on the prestigious American Billboard in 2016.

She probably should have included an East African artiste or two, but that they should so loudly complain of their being left out prompted a backlash from West Africans on twitter, particularly the Nigerians.

One of them quipped, rather uncharitably: “Y'all need to stop this false sense of entitlement when you know damn well that your music isn't good enough to represent the continent.”

That one must have stung, though the assessment be patently false. Yet, if it really was about representation, the region is amply represented with its wildlife and special geographical features reproduced in the movie, as well as the Kiswahili language and names of some of the major characters.

Speaking of which, the movies tells the story of the young lion Simba who is destined to succeed his father Mufasa to the throne. Simba’s evil uncle Scar has always wanted the throne and plots Mufasa’s death leading Simba to flee lest he too be killed. Simba returns as an adult to claim his throne from Scar and wins.

The captivating story is perfect, except the movie portrays some factual flaws. The movie suggests the top lion is the head of the family, even as it is the leader of all the animals in the jungle.

That is not true; it is a distortion to the family dynamics of a pride of lions. In nature, it is the alpha female in pride that leads the family that often includes aunties, older daughters, and cubs, including male cubs.

The alpha lioness does the important decision-making, and is in charge of the majority of hunting and cub-raising. The male protects the females and, according experts, may spend only a few years in the pride before they go and seek a new one or are dethroned by younger stronger rivals.

The experts note that such a young cub as Simba could have run away and survive. At that age they are still vulnerable and dependent on the mother and the pride for everything including protection.

The cubs are only able to leave the family – or, as is usually the case, expelled from the pride at about 2 years of age to seek their fortunes. Such a cub roams the savannah for two or three years until it joins a new pride around the age of 5.

Those, however, are details. And, allowing for the dramatic license, the general verdict of the viewers is that the movie is worth the billing. I would add that it is also adds another feather on the East African cap to attract tourism in the region.

The views expressed in this  article are of the author.

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