The Queen has arrived. Last night, ABC premiered the hotly anticipated music video for Beyoncé’s “Spirit” single, off The Lion King soundtrack, and her companion album, The Gift. With “Spirit,” Beyoncé is painting a bigger picture that goes beyond box office mania, bringing in the diversity of the African diaspora to the timeless story.
“Spirit” begins with a Swahili chant, “Uishi kwa muda mrefu mfalme,” that washes over you and pulls you under its thrall. The phrase means “Long live the king,” according to Kenyan publication Samrack.com. As the first few chords kick in, you can feel that something immense is about to unfold. The message is clear: our Blackness is our greatness. Beyoncé has turned the role of Nala into a celebration of Black and African culture.
Spiritually evoking Yoruban goddess Yemoja, Beyoncé takes on the role of an all-knowing matriarch passing on the oral history of her people to the next generation, whose time has come to carry the mantle.
In one powerful scene, Blue Ivy strides through a vast desert to grab her mother's hand, which is interwoven with the iconic scene from the film where Simba steps in Mufasa’s paw print. It’s a clear reference that Beyoncé is telling a story of greatness to the next generation, embodied by her own firstborn.
Throughout the video, Beyoncé centers Black women and their role as caretakers and protectors who shepherd and raise up the next generation. Yemoja is the goddess of fertility and protects women, giving life and governing everything from conception to childbirth.
In one scene, Beyoncé stands before a white tree whose branches are interwoven with thread as dancers flank either side of her, symbolically referencing the Tree of Life that breathes vitality in every one of us.
As the backbone, our culture moves forward through and by Black women.
The video comes full circle with a final shot of Beyoncé, dressed in a deep blue bodysuit, in a savanna as the early light of a new dawn washes over her and her dancers. Not only does blue represent the water (Yemoja is a river deity), but it also represents wisdom, faith, truth and heaven.
In the final notes of the song, Beyoncé gently whispers, “and be one with the Great I Am,” as her dancers enclose around her and lock their limbs.
There are two points about this scene. The closing circle resembles the embrace of a mother and the womb that houses life before it can be born, and it references the “Great I Am” passage, which derives from the book of Exodus wherein Moses asks God to identify himself.
Beyoncé is uplifting and validating our Blackness by way of God, acknowledging that we have been gifted and blessed. It also upholds the resiliency of Black women, through whom life must flow for the culture to continue moving forward. It centers Black femininity and womanhood as the guiding presence seeing us through life. Men are included in a limited capacity, but their functionality is used to convey unity and coming together as a community to protect and uplift the backbone. All in all, the music video showcases the beauty of our Blackness and its diverse richness in all its glory.
Tracing back from the threads she sowed through her visual album, Lemonade, Beyoncé takes us home to our roots that connect us all. “Spirit” re-affirms that Blackness is indeed excellence. We are the originators even though others have long tried to replicate or steal our essence. Our Black magic is inimitable, and we will not be shaken. We are resilient and we will rise to our promised greatness.
Twitter is singing their praises to the high heavens over the powerful and uplifting video. See their reactions to “Spirit” below, and check out the new release for yourself below. The Gift will be out Friday, July 19, the same day The Lion King roars into theaters.
Screenshot via YouTube