I mean…I’m not even sure what to say. I don’t know if any of you have had the pleasure of watching Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift yet, but if you haven’t, I implore you to do so. This is a 40-minute documentary, which showcased some interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Beyoncé recording her Lion King-inspired album The Gift, along with some of the most vital, talented artists in Africa, as well as a selection of popular American artists. Beyoncé gives a brief breakdown of each song on the album, and reveals the inspiration for each song and the work that went into putting it together. From what I could tell, she travelled through Egypt, South Africa and I’m sure she touched Naija as well!
I don’t think I will ever see something put together by Beyoncé and not be in awe of it. It just seems like an impossible feat at this stage. However it wasn’t just her talent that floored me, although of course, as always…she SLAYS. Not only do I have a new level of respect for Queen Bey, which I really didn’t think was possible. I believe I may have gained a tiny bit of insight into why she is the superstar she is. We already knew that Beyoncé made her trip to Africa with the intent of writing an ode to the amazing continent, the end result being The Gift. However I was so moved by the fact that she came with the intent to communicate with African producers, artists and choreographers in order to ensure that every song on the album was organic and rooted in our culture. She made it very clear how important it was to her that every influence which was implemented was pure, and that it wasn’t just her spin on African music.
I know this sounds like something insignificant that should be so obvious to anyone with a mission of creating such an album. However, you would be surprised at the arrogance of some artists, especially musical geniuses who have reached the heights which neighbour Beyoncé’s. At times it isn’t a malicious act, however there are several artists who want to infuse the beauty of African music with their own. But by the time you hear the finished result, their own genre almost completely overpowers the song. But not Queen Bey. From day one, she called on the creators she was with to teach her the sounds, the rhythms and the tradition that lies in our music and performance. From this, they worked together to create a genre of their own, which celebrated all the different influences beautifully. One part of the documentary that particularly stood out for me was when Jahanna Blunt joined the team once it came time to learn the choreography for the Spirit music video, Beyoncé’s single which was added to The Lion King soundtrack. Jahanna is a choreographer who grew up in L.A. and co-creator of a West African drum and dance company. In an interview, she recollects how astounded she was when Beyoncé’s choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, asked her to show him and the team a couple of moves on the first day of rehearsals. She explained that her astonishment was because, in her experience of doing industry work, she is usually asked to water down the material and make it “more palatable for a global audience”. Sounds familiar, and not unlike what seems to be the case when it comes to what I described above. The trait Beyoncé possesses which allows her to continue to learn from other people, even in her current reign, is one that I’m sure is a massive part of why she is the force that is Queen Bey.
Another thing which Beyoncé mentioned was important to her was to make this project something that children could get excited about listening to, as well as adults. This is what led her to show us how she included Blue Ivy in some of the vocals for the 2019 anthem for us melanin-enriched queens, Brown Skin Girl, also featuring Wizkid and SAINt JHN. Being able to watch this was empowering enough. But then this was shortly followed by the creation of another one of my favourite tunes on the album: My Power, featuring Tierra Whack, Moonchild Sanelly and Nija. Queen Bey explains that this song is “a celebration of power, and not allowing anyone to get in your psyche and to make you feel like you are anything less than a king.” Note that she said “king”, not queen. Seeing Beyoncé rap/recite her portion of the song…although she wasn’t singing a note, I swear to God that shit was so powerful that I almost shed a tear. That small 5-10 second moment was a perfect demonstration of why we love Beyoncé and what she gives us when she features on any song. She just…makes you feel. This sounds like a lame why of describing it, but if you love Beyoncé as much as I do, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. And this is the same woman who’s incredible Homecoming documentary/performance lost out to FUCKING CARPOOL KARAOKE! *deep breath* But that is a frustrating story for another day.
So, Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift. Beyoncé-stans and members of The Beyhive, watch it if you haven’t already done so. Well, I’m sure The Beyhive are already all over it and have been tweeting about it since Monday. But for those of you who haven’t seen it, it was aired on ABC. I’m sure they will repeat it at some point in the week, however if you are impatient like me, you can find good quality versions on YouTube. I know I am personally making a note to watch it whenever I am in need of empowerment and motivation. Because right now, I am a whole moooood.