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Ameyaw Says

Beyonce’s ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ … the biggest global spotlight on African music yet!

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Beyonce’s ‘The Lion King: The Gift’

When I first heard about the making of ‘The Lion King: The Gift’, I was just excited without even knowing which artists from Africa would be on the album.

 

The album is a curated soundtrack produced by Beyoncé in addition to the original soundtrack for the just released 2019 Walt Disney Pictures film, ‘The Lion King’. It features new songs performed by multiple artists including African stars Tekno, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi, Shatta Wale, Burna Boy, Salatiel, Tiwa Savage, Busiswa, and Moonchild Sanelly.

 

Whereas this is not the first time that a major American star has collaborated with African musicians, this is perhaps the biggest single effort; and from no less a person than Beyoncé the ‘Queen Bey’!

Guiltybeatz produces 3 songs on Beyonce’s curated album, ‘The Lion King: The Gift’

Afrobeats music, largely fronted by Nigerian artists, has been rising fast in the last decade. The phenomenon took off first in the United Kingdom, where the African community is more together and in touch with its cultural heritage than in the United States. Perhaps because of existing opportunities in the UK to seamlessly link the African diaspora to what goes on in the continent of Africa. We have seen this even in Hollywood; where often the actors with African roots in America get there via their connections with Britain.

 

When BET Awards started to recognize international acts from the UK/Europe and Africa, many of us campaigned for more. We argued for this category to be a part of the main award ceremony so that American audiences would watch and recognize our artists. Thankfully in the last two years, we have seen that happen.

 

However, we cannot attribute such successes purely to our advocacies; a lot of our African artists have been working hard to justify our inclusion.  Many have gone out of their way to collaborate with American stars on their personal projects.  I remember when Dbanj, through some association to Kanye West’s Good Music, released his smash hit ‘Oliver Twist’ it peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart! That was sign that we could make it, with the right mindset and connections!

Listen UP: Beyonce finally releases ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ with Mr Eazi, Shatta Wale, Wizkid and more

Things started to look even better for African music, when global stars started to feature us on their singles, perhaps as a result of big American global music corporations like Sony Music and Universal Music signing some of our African acts.

 

We saw Drake feature Wizkid on Billboard topping and award-winning song, ‘One Dance’ which opened a new window of opportunities for African music to shine.  Wizkid has since had major collaborations with the likes of Chris Brown, Drake, Ty Dolla Sign, Major Lazer, Trey Songz and many others.

 

Davido’s ‘hit song, Fall’ also caught fire around the world, setting some records on global charts. The single has been reported as the most ‘Shamazed’ Non-American song in the US (basically this means that a lot of people heard it playing somewhere and they used ‘Shazam’ to check the details because the were ‘Amazed’ by it). In 2019, ‘Fall’ made it on the Billboard Top 100 R&B/Hip-Hop charts as well as the US Top 40 Urban Radio songs.

 

In 2017, Ed Sheeran took a bold step to collaborate with Fuse ODG and Ghanaian producer, Killbeat on a number of songs including ‘Bibia Be Ye Ye’ off his Grammy-winning album, ‘Divide’.  In fact, Ed Sheeran even sang in Twi.

 

Perhaps, all of these helped to create the needed global awareness for African music, which led to Beyoncé’s ‘The Lion King: The Gift’.  I remember watching Beyoncé performing in South Africa last December and asking my colleagues at the Global Citizen Festival, “what if Beyoncé did songs with the African stars on the bill”, which included Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Cassper Nyovest, D’banj, Femi Kuti, and Sho Madjozi.

 

Well, Queen Bey must have heard my wishful thinking and decided to do ‘The Lion King: The Gift’.  Talking about the album and the reason for the African inclusion Beyoncé has explained:

 

“This is a new experience of storytelling. I wanted to do more than find a collection of songs that were inspired by the film. It is a mixture of genres and collaboration that isn’t one sound. It is influenced by everything from R&B, pop, hip-hop and Afro Beat.”

 

Watch: Beyoncé calls The Lion King: The Gift album a “Love Letter to Africa”

“I wanted to put everyone on their own journey to link the storyline. Each song was written to reflect the film’s storytelling that gives the listeners a chance to imagine their own imagery, while listening to a new contemporary interpretation. It was important that the music was not only performed by the most interesting and talented artists but also produced by the best African producers. Authenticity and heart were important to me.”

 

“The soundtrack is a love letter to Africa and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, not just use some of the sounds and did my own interpretation of it. I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.”

 

Well Beyoncé, you did just that and lovers of African music are happy you did.  My personal favourite so far is ‘Brown Skin Girl’.  Some criticshave already rated the song, which features New York-based Guyanese rapper SAINt JHN, and Wizkid as the standout track. It is a joyous celebration of melanin, braids and ‘pretty dark skin’ with references to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland. It also features Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy, adorably singing along to its message of pure black girl magic.

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No show from Sista Afia and more catfights, as cast of ‘GH Queens’ gather for ‘Reunion show’

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Just as it was reported during the premiere event for ‘GH Queens’ sometime in April, some stars from the pseudo-reality TV show were again missing from the Reunion show, which started airing on Friday. Yes, the fiesty Sista Afia and Fantana will not be making an appearance on the three-part special reunion show on Akwaaba Magic (DStv channel 150). (more…)

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Ameyaw Says

Coachella through the eyes of an African

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Ameyaw Debrah at Coachella 2022

My second showing at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival confirmed to me the sheer diversity of talent and music that gets showcased each year. But Coachella is more than music and arts, it is a celebration of cultures, the spirit of people, fashion, and more. If you’re a conservative African,  then expect some cultural shocks as the festival doesn’t hold back in celebrating life and accepting it in all of its forms.

The festival embraces queer and intersecting groups, so seeing raunchy and over-the-top costumes from festival-goers is to be expected. Some of the washrooms on the festival grounds are even gender-neutral, so expect to see both women and men queuing up to use the same washroom.  Marijuana has been legal in California for many years, so you should also expect people to smoke at free range; without much care for those who don’t.  If you’re able to look beyond all these as “an African”, then you too can have a swell time at Coachella!

 

After seeing Burna Boy and Mr Eazi perform in 2019, when I had my first experience of Coachella,  I felt proud as an African.  I also noticed how the African festival-goers (from mainly across the United States and the United Kingdom) watched with some pride the performances from Mr Eazi and Burna Boy on the Coachella stage. So when the lineup was announced for 2000 to include Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Aya Nakamura, I was happy that Africans were becoming a regular on the festival’s lineup.  Sadly, Covid-19 didn’t let that happen in 2020 and 2021. In fact, I almost entered a $2,000 bet with my colleague blogger, David Mawuli that when the festival returned, there would be a Ghanaian artist on the lineup. Thank goodness I rather spent that money on a bonus hunt online casino. Well, at least I won $120 back!

 

When the lineup was announced for 2022, the only African on the main stages was Black Coffee, while fellow South Africans,  Major League DJZ scheduled for The DoLab tent. So when I attended weekend two of the festival, I made sure to watch Black Coffee’s set. He played on Day 1. Unlike the Burna Boy and Mr Eazi sets, that I witnessed in 2019, the audience at Black Coffee’s set was not predominantly Africans. It was a global audience. The crowd was as thick as it was energetic.  It was also exciting to hear the 2022 Grammy Award Best Dance/ Electronic Album-winner, incorporate remixes of some authentic African rhythms in his set.

 

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Arooj Aftab Coachella 2022 Friday 04 22 Gobi Performances Weekend 2

Arooj Aftab, Coachella 2022, Friday 04-22, Gobi, Performances, Weekend 2 Credit/Provider
Beth Saravo

On Day 1, I also showed some interest in Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab, who won the Grammy this year for Best Global Performance.  A lot of Africans had tipped ‘Essence’ by Wizkid and Tems for that award. So, I had to find out for myself what makes Arooj Aftab tick.

 

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With these two performances of interest out of the way, I stuck to my plan of focusing on big acts that I haven’t seen performing before because, with the grand nature of the festival and the sheer size of the venue, it is simply impossible to experience everything!

 

The Empire Polo Club is a 78-acre polo club, which leases out its polo grounds for the festival. The venue is so huge that festivalgoers walk for several miles before getting into the main entrance to the festival grounds. When accounting for land used for parking and camping, the event covers a footprint of over 600 acres!

 

Across the grounds, several stages continuously host live music. The main stages are the Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theatre, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, and Sahara Tent; in addition to the smaller Yuma stage and Sonora stage. Each stage was unique in appearance and suited for the lineup of artists on it. The big stages had elaborate settings to create various visual aesthetic attributes needed to project the individuality of the artists and make festival-goers enjoy their performances even better.

Ari Lennox Coachella 2022 Coachella Stage Friday 04 22 Performances Weekend 2

Ari Lennox, Coachella 2022, Coachella Stage, Friday 04-22, Performances, Weekend 2

 

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I missed Ari Lenox’s performance at Afrochella in Ghana this past December so, I had to experience her set especially after all the buzz she generated on social media with her visit to Ghana.  The sultry singer hit the stage, giving fans a look and performance to remember. The D.C. native hit the stage in a jaw-dropping gold ensemble to perform several ‘woke female’  themed songs for her fans.

Anitta proved why she is a sensation in the Latin world and beyond, with her high octane performances. The Brazilian singer changed into three different sexy outfits that accentuated her figure as she rocked them in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

 

Baby Keem, who recently won a Grammy for best rap performance, was one of the up-and-coming hip-hop performers at the festival. One of the highlights from his set was bringing on label boss, Kendrick Lamar, a little over 30 minutes into his set. The rappers, both in all-black ensembles, performed together for the final two songs including “family ties.”

 

I ended Day 1 with Harry Styles who literally brought disco to the desert! One of the biggest highlights from the set of the “As It Was” singer, was bringing Lizzo on stage to perform a song from the One Direction archives.  It was fun to see him perform with so much energy, and he was very interactive with the crowd too.

 

Day 2

Giveon Performances Saturday 04 23 Weekend 2

Giveon, Performances, Saturday 04-23, Weekend 2

 

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On Day 2 I kicked things off with a performance from R&B singer, Giveon. I was late in getting to the venue but was happy to at least see him perform his hit song ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’ before he left the stage. I then visited The Do Lab stage for some electrifying DJ mixes and performances.

 

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Grammy-winning rapper, Megan Thee Stallion showed all the hot girls and boys of Coachella how a superstar commands a stage during her hour-long set. She opened her show with “Megan’s Piano” wearing a black and silver spacey one-piece with futuristic glasses on. She and her backup dancers shook everything they had, and the crowd went wild as expected.

 

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Rapper, Isaiah Rashad opened his set with a powerful pre-recorded film acknowledging recent speculation about his sexuality. In a collage of media footage and audio, commentators react to a video of Rashad leaked this year,  showing the rapper being intimate with two men.  He gave fans back-to-back performances of his hit songs amidst cheers and a lot of support.

Billie Eilish Coachella Stage Saturday

Billie Eilish, Coachella Stage, Saturday

When I saw Billie Eelish on the Coachella lineup in 2019 I didn’t know her back then, so I didn’t attend her set, but days after I found out she was the new it-girl and she later went on to sweep the Grammy Awards the following year. So, this time I simply had to experience her, and I did! Her 90-minute set featured songs like “NDA,” “Therefore I Am,” “idontwannabeyouanymore” and “You Should See Me In A Crown.” She had a small accident when she fell onstage while singing “Getting Older.” Later on during her set, Eilish brought along her brother Finneas O’Connell for an acoustic cover of her single “Your Power.”

21 Savage Coachella 2022 Performances Sahara Saturday 04 23

21 Savage, Coachella 2022, Performances, Sahara, Saturday 04-23

I closed the night with a little bit of 21 Savage!

 

Day 3

 

On Day 3 I was physically worn out from all the standing and walking, so I didn’t want to do too much. I circled my day around a few acts.  I kicked off with Brixton rapper Dave, whose set was attended by a huge UK crowd that cheered him along throughout his performance!

 

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He recreated his “Alex From Glasto” viral moment from 2019 by picking a fan from the crowd to join him on stage to rap a verse from ‘Thiago Silva,’ his 2016 hit with AJ Tracey.  He also performed his hit song ‘Location’ which features Burna Boy. Dave’s set was one of my favorites!

 

Since I had seen Doja Cat recently at Day N Vegas, I only saw the tail end of her set, as I wanted to go to the Coachella Stage on time to get closer to the headliners Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd. I wasn’t so sure when they were announced as the replacement of Kanye West but seeing them back-to-back made so much sense, and the energy was just what was needed to bring Coachella to an end!

 

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Swedish House Mafia started things off, dropping hit electronic dance music tracks back-to-back, punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics.  Their set lasted about 55 minutes. When they played their most popular song, “Don’t You Worry Child,” they dropped the music entirely at the key moment to allow the crowd to sing the chorus in unison.

Swedish House Mafia x The Weeknd Coachella Stage Performances Sunday 04 24

Swedish House Mafia x The Weeknd, Coachella Stage, Performances, Sunday 04-24
Credit: Jacob Mulka

The Weeknd then rolled through with a crowd-pleasing list of hits, including “The Hills,” “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming.” He was amazing on the night although his set lacked a lot of the theatrics and stagecraft and special guests.  He closed his set with a slowed-down version of his mega-hit “Save Your Tears.” Then Swedish House Mafia rejoined him and they closed the set, and the 2022 Coachella experience, together with the song “Moth to a Flame.”

 

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Ameyaw Debrah wants to sue Kanye West for pulling out of Coachella, after he spent over $3000 planning his trip

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Ghanaian blogger, Ameyaw Debrah is looking to sue someone over Monday’s news that rapper, Kanye West had pulled out of the upcoming Coachella Music and Arts festival…and Kanye for now is the obvious choice!

According to the blogger, he has spent almost $4,000 in booking flights and a hotel for the two-weekend festival in Indio, California, which runs April 15-17 and April 22-24.  He pointed out the unusually high prices of accommodation in the area due to the festival.

In a video posted on Ameyaw TV, Debrah cited possible mental stress from spending so much money, and not getting what he paid for in the end.  He however hopes the Kanye’s replacement can make up for his troubles.

According to reports from Variety, reps for West and the festival did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to why the rapper pulled out of the festival.

The reason for his cancelation was not immediately clear, although a source tells Variety that he had not rehearsed or prepared for the appearance. While West played a full set, accompanied by Drake, at the Los Angeles Coliseum in December, Coachella is North America’s largest music festival and by necessity runs a very tight operation. West also pulled out of a planned headlining appearance at the 2020 festival — which ultimately was postponed until this year due to the pandemic — mere days before it was announced, sources confirmed to Variety at the time.

Yet there are many other reasons why news does not come as a shock, as West’s unpredictable and combative behavior in recent months put a question mark over his appearance even as it was announced in January; he had been barred from a planned appearance at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards due to what was described as his “concerning online behavior.” West canceled the closing dates of his 2016 “Saint Pablo” tour and was hospitalized for mental-health reasons shortly afterward, following incidents that were similar in ways to his behavior in recent months. West has said many times that he suffers from bipolar disorder.

Coachella’s first two nights will be headlined by Harry Styles and Billie Eilish. The festival essentially hedged its bets on West by billing EDM titans Swedish House Mafia in an unspecified spot on the lineup, listed at the bottom of the official announcement poster, leaving open the option of the group replacing him as Sunday’s headliner in the event he pulled out. With the festival just 11 days away, that seems a likely scenario.

Rumors had been circulating that Travis Scott would be joining West for the performance, but TMZ says that he will not be appearing either. Scott has been keeping a low profile since 10 people died in a rush toward the stage during his headlining performance at his Astroworld festival in Houston in October.

Such an appearance would be on-message for West, who in recent months has been publicly embracing such ostracized celebrities as Marilyn Manson, who is accused of sexual assault, and DaBaby, who has made unapologetically homophobic comments in recent months.

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‘I hail you’- Kelvynboy reacts as Sarkodie requests for his “Down flat” song to be played in a club in London

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Ghanaian rapper, Sarkodie is all about helping bring the young ones in the music industry up. (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

Africans don’t trust each other – my experience with an Ethiopian taxi driver in Las Vegas

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Ameyaw Debrah at palazzo gondola

My recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada came with many experiences, as I put myself out there to explore the city a lot more than I did in my previous two visits. My first time in Vegas was for one night only, to attend the Miss Universe finale in 2017.  My second time was for the Day N Vegas festival in 2019, which also brought me back for a third time this year.

On day-two of Day N Vegas, I had an experience that corroborated the belief of many Africans, that we do not trust one another.  Due to Day N Vegas, most of the area around the Las Vegas Festival Grounds was closed to taxis and rideshare apps such as Uber and Lift, which made it very stressful to get a car whenever I closed from the festival and headed to my hotel room. It meant that after walking and standing at the grounds for hours, we had to walk quite a distance to look for cars.

My experience was even made worse when the data on my AT&T phone number kept failing, meaning that after all the stress covering the concerts, I couldn’t use Uber to request for a ride.  On the night of day 2, I discovered that there was a pick-up point for taxis within the Circus Circus Hotel, Casino & Theme Park. Sadly the taxis were not coming in as rapidly as I would have wished for. I was the third in line, but it took over one hour of standing in the queue till I finally got a taxi.

When the taxi came, I got in but when the driver asked for the address I was going to, I couldn’t remember the location of my hotel. I mentioned the name of the hotel, but the driver wasn’t familiar with it and insisted that he couldn’t take me if I didn’t get the address for him. I wasn’t willing to waste the hours of standing and waiting to be turned down by any driver. My internet wasn’t working, and I tried to ask him to use his internet Ito locate the hotel, but he was indifferent. I told him “lets go to downtown and I will know where my hotel is,  because it’s not far from the Fremont Street”.

Finally, he agreed and moved on. Then he started a conversation with me, once he suspected I was from Africa. I told him I was from Ghana when he told me he was Ethiopian. He asked about my visit and thought I was a ‘new rich African’ when I told him I was in town for Day N Vegas.

When, I finally arrived at my hotel I tried to pay with a card. Since it was a metered cab, I could see my fare right in front of me, with a POS device for payment. But I noted it was slightly expensive paying with  a card compared to paying cash, so I told the driver that I would rather pay with cash, after all I am African!

Then surprisingly he asked me how much I would pay him, the meter said $18 so I said I will give him $20 but he screamed “no $25!” I then gave him a $100 note to which he retorted, “are you sure it’s not fake?”.  I said no, laughed it off and collected my change.

Watch my vlog on the experience below:

Interestingly, the following night, I had internet, so I ordered for an Uber ride after the Day N Vegas finale, and again the driver was Ethiopian. This time it was a younger driver and we had an interesting conversation about Africa and the civil war in Ethiopia.

I had noticed that there were a lot of Ethiopians in Vegas. Most of the African restaurants listed on Uber Eats are Ethiopian and most of the drivers were too. When I pointed it out in our conversation, he told me that Vegas has the next biggest concentration of Ethiopians in the USA after the DMV tristate.  I also found out that affluent Ethiopians like to buy Mississauga Real Estate styled homes in the USA.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 68,001 people reported Ethiopian ancestry in 2000. Between 2007 and 2011, there were approximately 151,515 Ethiopia-born residents in the United States. According to Aaron Matteo Terrazas, “if the descendants of Ethiopian-born migrants (the second generation and up) are included, the estimates range upwards of 460,000 in the United States.

Some Ethiopians living in the US enjoy using exquisitely designed Ten Point Crossbow in archery games. Football is the most popular sport in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian national football team called the “Walyia Antelopes” won the 1962 African Cup of nations and in 2013 Ethiopia qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 31 years.

Other sports played include basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Ethiopia has a tradition of medal-winning runners: Abebe Bikila, Belayneh Dinsamo, and Derartu Tulu. Haile Gebreselassie has set several world records.

Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in education, with primary school net enrolment tripling between 2000 and 2016 to the current 100 per cent.  Although most children enroll in school, many do not complete their education: 85 per cent make it past Grade 5 and 54 per cent past Grade 8. Progress has been enabled through a sustained government-led effort to reduce poverty and expand the public education system equitably. This has been backed by substantial increases in national education expenditure and aid to the sector, as well as improved planning and implementation capacity at all levels. According to Boardingschools.ca, there is a good number of Ethiopians having higher education in Canada.

Ethiopian national identity is grounded in the long history of Christianity and Islam in the region, and independence from foreign rule since antiquity.

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How to make money online as a blogger or content creator

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The world loves South African wines CapeWine2018 810x600 1

With over 15 years of covering entertainment in Ghana and beyond under my belt, I still cannot get over comments on social media that suggest that many Ghanaians don’t understand the concept of blogging. (more…)

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