When Ghana scored a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in January 2010, securing the West African nation passage through to Africa Cup of Nations final, it wasn’t just a victory for Ghanaian soccer.
As the camera panned to celebrating striker Asamoah Gyan, the world caught a glimpse of another Ghanaian phenomenon—Azonto.
A form of freestyle dance, Azonto has become a mainstay of the Ghanaian pop scene over the last ten years, danced by everyone from celebrating footballers, to toddlers, to stars like Sarkodie and Fuse ODG feat. Tiffany. Go to Ghana, and you will see people performing the dance in clubs, in bars, and on the streets.
While Azonto’s origins are muddled, there appears to be consensus that the dance is an extension of a 1960s-era dance called Kpanlogo.
Like Kpanlogo, Azanto contains thrusting movements, but also combines elements of Apaa, a neo-traditional dance created by the Ga communities of the Greater Accra region that sees domestic chores like washing, fishing and driving mimicked to comedic effect.
A YouTube video labeled “White Boy Azonto” (below) features a lanky Brit by the name of David Vujanic performing the dance in central London. The video has so far accumulated 700,000 views, and Vujanic has since been featured in a music video by British rapper D’Banj for his song “Oliver Twist,” which also features cameos from stars like Kanye West and Big Sean.
“The Azonto dance is flamboyant and innovative and different people reinvent it suit their style and energy. It’s not too similar to anything I’ve seen before,” says Sesan Ogunro, the director of the “Oliver Twist” video.
The filmmaker, of Nigerian-British descent, first heard of the dance through his friends in Nigeria and Ghana. “Azonto is very popular outside of Ghana. It has become a dance craze and has become very popular in the UK and parts of the US,” he says. “I felt it was time to bring it from the clubs and showcase it to a mainstream TV audience.”
How to Dance the Azonto
Learning the Azonto is fairly easy. An expressive freestyle dance, it has no set instructions. There are, however, some basic moves any beginner will need to get started:
Tempo: Azonto can accompany any beat, but most would agree that it looks best when danced up-tempo. Beginners should start with the 2-step and move upwards from there.
Feet: Place your right leg slightly in front of your left, and twist on the whole leg on the ball of the right foot.
Hands: Point your index fingers and cross your right wrist over the left in front of you. With each twist of the leg, move the right arm forwards and backwards.
Cracking: A key component of Azonto is ‘cracking’ (also known as ‘popping’), which usually involves a break from the 2-step. At a twist of the leg, raise your right arm up with fist clenched and pop your hip.
Other Freestyle Moves: If you’re feeling confident, mix it up with some freestyle. Start with 2-step boxing moves, lean your body to the left, or imitate chores like driving.
For more ideas, check out this instructional music video by Gasmilla, or this animated tutorial.