How music videos are using African art

Music videos can be both exciting and controversial. The musicians who create the videos often draw inspiration from other industries, such as African art, film, fashion and even retail. We are seeing more recently that African art and Afrofuturism are being used in music videos, thanks to the wild success of the film ‘Black Panther’.

Recently, Beyonce has made use of traditional Yoruba body art by commissioning Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo to paint her and her dancers in the sacred body art of his culture. Using African art in an international music video helps to break the stereotypes of what people think of African art. Below are just some of the ways in which music videos are using African art in unique and exciting ways.

Sho Madjozi’s colourful ‘Dumi Hi Phone’

South African hip-hop sensation Sho Madjozi (real name Maya Wegerif) has released a colourful and visually stunning debut music video for her popular track “Dumi Hi Phone”. In it, she shows a fantastically vibrant and unapologetically feminine take on South Africa’s physical landscape.

In her video, we see representations of both traditional and modern South African culture, with the traditional being seen in the dancing and clothing of the women following Madjozi around the landscape. The artist herself has said that she draws her visual inspiration from xiTsonga fashion of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, combining it with a modern sound. In this, we can see that traditional African art and textiles can be transformed from outdated items into fashion-forward and exciting outfits and props.

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Kwesta’s township tale “Spirit”

Kwesta is one of the most popular hip-hop artists in South Africa, and has a song by the name of “Spirit” that has grabbed the rapt attention of his fans across the country. His recent music video for the song has just been released and has had the same success as the single, as well as putting across a strong message.

In the video, you will find scenes of township life, as well as interpretations of spirituality. There is imagery of people in church regalia, receiving the Holy Communion alongside spinning gusheshes (the iconic E30 BMW 325iS), a chicken being slaughtered and a sangoma. The video shows the duality of the African culture, that of combining Western influences with their traditions, as can be seen in numerous African art pieces both locally and internationally.

Erykah Badu’s Afrofuturistic “Didn’t Cha Know”

Erykah Badu is a musician that seemingly transcends time and space, and this can especially be seen in her music video for her wildly popular song, “Didn’t Cha Know”. Badu is an African-American singer/songwriter who has used Afrofuturism in her music videos before it exploded onto the art and music scene this year.

The video for “Didn’t Cha Know” follows Badu on a physical and figurative journey of discovery across a barren landscape. In it, she wears African art-inspired futuristic garb, much like what we see in “Black Panther” and is trying to save the world from destruction. The video is Afrofuturistic because it places an African person in a landscape of the future, which subverts how Western art, music and film sees and places African people.

Haezer’s mystical “Minted”

Haezer is one of the top-rated bass-heavy electronic dance music artists in South Africa. His song “Minted” has a mystical, eerie music video featuring an Afro-punk character named Hero and a voodoo sorcerer named The Rat Catcher.

These two characters fight together using their powers to abolish the oppression, marginalisation and xenophobia that is so rife in some areas of South Africa. It is shot in the hijacked and abandoned buildings in the Johannesburg CBD, and has a magical-realism slant that gives it an air of fantasy.

We see The Rat Catcher and Hero in action in these buildings, with images of men and women dressed in traditional African garb. Here, Haezer is showing that identity politics are still a major issue in South Africa, as is addressed in many African artworks.

The Dig’s unique “You and I and You”

The Dig is a Brooklyn-based indie act whose song “You and I and You” was brought to life in a music video by unique film director Terence Nance. Nance’s vision can be described as a Wangechi Mutu portrait brought to life, as we see depictions of characters dressed in what appears to be traditional African garb that has been given a futuristic twist.

In the video, we see an African-American couple walking with their children, while being both followed and confronted by people dressed in traditional African-inspired clothing. It is a mystical and fantastical video and, while it is an American band and director, the fact that African art and culture inspired the visuals makes it unique in the indie industry.Music and art: a match made in heaven

Music videos are visual representations of songs, and often the musicians and directors will draw inspiration from the art world. This can be seen in Beyonce’s music video “Sorry”, in many videos by the ethereal Erykah Badu, in the South African stylings of Sho Madjozi and Kwesta, and the fantastical imagery of Terence Nance’s short films.

African art and music have a long and colourful history, and now with the advent of music videos and new technology, this art can be translated into film for the world to see and enjoy.

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