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Azonto is not just a dance; it’s a cultural movement

A few days after arriving in Accra we met the freshest, hippest Ghanaian to help guide us along this emotional ride. I wasn’t entirely sure how it happened. Bjorn and Rob were doing some spontaneous jig, and out of nowhere Sonny starts breaking it down, his hips grooving side to side as he rubs his foot into the ground. The dance reminded me of a 70s disco move as he punched his fist several times between his legs and lifting his arm into the air.

Sonny

We all kept noticing the dance move ever since then. It’s called “Azonto.” According to an article I read in Dust Magazine, it’s more than just a move; it’s about “the dance, the music & the mindset.” My co-worker TK said that typically a dance will be popular with one song and soon fade out within a few months, but now artists are writing music to go along to this dance style. It’s here to stay.

Sonny invited us to a birthday party that he was DJ-ing, and I was way too amused with his friends’ impressive dance skills. One guy would show me how to do Azonto, and then I would make up some move entirely irrelevant to popular American culture, but hey, we break danced. I have even seen children try to show us their skills whenever we are visiting a new region. Ghanaians know how to get down. Just like anywhere else in the world, there are movements that older generations just don’t understand. Azonto isn’t any different.

Edem
Edem, picture taken from ghstreets.com

Dust magazine writer KG wrote about how Ghanaians used to look to America for trending dance styles like the “Dougie,” which I still have not understood exactly what that even is. Now they are more excited about their own style of dance even when listening to American music, but Ghanaians commonly dance to high life music when practicing Azonto. The unique blend of reggae, jazz, and synthesizers create the perfect mood. But if they really want something pumpin’ then hiplife is the obvious option, mixing high life and hip-hop. Check out Edem’s “Over Again” or Sarkodie’s “Azonto Fiesta” to get a feel for what is hot right now.

KG also said that adults think “Azonto” means “uncultured,” but it has become anything but that, creating a sensation just within the last year.

“It represents a mindset in which Ghanaians specifically (and Africans in general) start taking pride in our own creativity and potential, something we all too often do not do, especially in culture where we too often relegate what is local to ‘primitive’ or ‘lower class.’” – KG, Dust Magazine

Apparently last month there was a segment on BBC that broadcasted the Azonto trend, saying people are even flying form the UK to learn what the dance is all about.

It looks like Sonny’s dance is bigger than I thought!