It is very easy for people to argue about who gets to make or adapt African arts while equally using a made-outside-Africa smart device. This recently happened after Wizkid featured Justin Bieber in a remix of Essence, a track off his Made in Lagos album that originally featured Tems. The remix was received by many as a welcome development to Afrobeats and a win for Wizkid, Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Many others have gone rogue and have now become political with the song, calling Justin Bieber a ‘culture vulture’ while intentionally forgetting that he was featured in the song. Gatekeeping is the term most have called people with such opinions about Western performance of African songs, it should not be so. Art is like the air we breathe, with the increasing interconnectedness of the world, the boundaries on art are much more serious than who or where should participate in the creation of art.
We all see movies and go to cinemas, but we all know where filmmaking started from, now let’s imagine if there had been gatekeepers in the art of filmmaking or even technologies, what would be the fate of the world. Fundamentalist ideas such as ‘gatekeeping’ are anti-progressive and should not be welcomed. A lot of collaborations are still going to be seen between Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world. The sad reality is that most of these people in their politics and anti-western ideologies have become consumers of western arts, even unbothered when Africans perform these art forms.
All that being said, we value African arts, and there have been many times Nigerian songs have been valued by non-Nigerians and used in their movies. We have compiled a list of some of the times Nigerian songs were used in non-Nigerian films. And yes! We are proud of Nigeria for that. We are sure Nigerian songs are the life of the party wherever they are being played, and they helped these filmmakers tell their stories in that manner.
Phat Girlz (2006)
This romantic comedy was the first time this phenomenon happened. Only two Nigerian songs were used and they were the first Nigerian songs to be used in foreign media. The songs are:
- African Queen – 2Face Idibia
- Danfo Driver– Mad Melon and Mountain Black
The movie, starring (Jazmin) Mo’ Nique and (Tunde) Jimmy Jean Lou as the main characters, follows them on their way to finding love, a journey which is harder than they both thought. It features scenes in Nigeria and as such warranted Nigerian songs. The two tracks are two classics most Nigerian millennials should know.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
This Disney biopic about a highly-rated Ugandan chess player was a buzz when it was released because of the spotlight it shone on the main character being depicted, Phiona. Though an African story, Disney nevertheless used Nigerian songs in the movie.
- Shekini – Psquare
- Skelewu – Davido
Another Disney title is Black Panther which did not feature any Nigerian singer but it featured a variety of African artistes, Baba Maal is a hard to miss voice.
Coming 2 America (2021)
The sequel to the 1988 comedy classic, released by Amazon Studios early 2021, sees Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his close pal Simi (Arsenio Hall) return to America for an unexpected revelation. Though Zamunda is depicted as a fictional African country, the stereotypes are not anywhere close to real life, but the laughs keep the movie going. Featuring a number of cameos and guest appearances, it also features a number of Nigerian songs and even a performance.
- Coming 2 America– John Legend and Burna Boy ft. Nile
- Waka Waka – Tekno
- Assurance (live performance) – Davido
Queen Sono (2020)
The second Queen on this list is Queen Sono. South Africa’s first action collaboration with Netflix, Queen Sono, features Simi’s Joromi in its first season. The song was played in a club scene.
Queen Sono has Queen (Pearl Thusi), a secret agent, traveling to different African countries for missions, and a very short trip to Lagos is also included. The interconnectedness of the series is one of the feats that should be lauded. The series also touches different themes still at play in Africa such as Neocolonialism, terrorism and many others. Queen Sono season won’t be returning for a second season.
Queen and Slim (2019)
Queen & Slim is about an African American couple on the run after a routine traffic stop gone wrong. Burna Boy’s My Money, My Baby features in one of the scenes.
Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)
The hit sequel to the 2013 Sci-Fi Kaiju vs. Jaegers movie, where all the nations of the world come together to fight monsters, features Wizkid’s Daddy Yo. Yes, we know it is the end of the world but Nigerians do know how to turn things up even in dark scenarios. And John Boyega is seen vibing to it at a party.
Bob Hearts Abishola
Bob, a businessman, falls in love with a nurse, Abishola, and the series is about Bob’s journey to getting Abisola to love him. Currently in its third season, the comedy series has made use of a lot of Nigerian songs as Abishola, the female lead plays a Nigerian.
The Netflix comedy-drama series about teenage Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) who set up a sex therapy clinic at their school to provide sex education for their schoolmates saw high viewership success with its first two seasons. The third season with an episode centered on Eric’s trip to Nigeria, released in September 2021, featured a number of Nigerian songs.
- Joro – Wizkid
- Star Signs – Odunsi × Runtown
- Fall – Davido
- Sweet Mother – Nico Mbarga
- Shake Body – Skales
- Anybody – Burna Boy
- Attention – Tiwa Savage
- Oyejo – Fela
- Fantastic Man – William Onyeabor
Sex Education will be returning for a fourth season.
Music legend Fela Anikulapo has been revered by the world, though now late, he continues to inspire a whole generation of artistes and filmmakers. Some filmmakers have his songs in their films such as Street Dance 2, and Narcos: Mexico. His track can also be heard in the trailer for the upcoming 2021 western, The Harder They Fall.
The Live action Lion King movie had Beyonce playing Nala and also making the music used in the movie. For the Lion King Album, she worked with a crop of African artistes, especially top Nigerian singers like Yemi Alade, Wizkid, Tekno and Mr Eazi.
Naira Marley, Zlatan and Burna boy recently signed deals that would allow their songs to be used in Rockstar’s upcoming Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game. When the game is here alongside other movies featuring our music, we will be here to celebrate our wins again.
At this point in time where differences drive the world apart, we should be grateful there are platforms that bring us together. Arts and culture should not be ‘gatekept’, it will always find expression in many places and hands, the same way cinema has been used by Africans to tell African stories. We should not stand in its way when boundaries are moved a notch higher, and one might just conclude that the gatekeeping Nigerians might be doing so because of how good Justin Bieber did it.
Which ones did we miss or forget? You can share your thoughts in the comments section or on our social media accounts.
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