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Ghana's Azonto craze infects dance floors worldwide

posted 9 Jul 2012, 08:43 by Mpelembe   [ updated 9 Jul 2012, 08:44 ]

A Ghanaian dance style known as Azonto looks easier to do than it actually is and has gripped world interest, with everyone from little children to international hip hop stars getting down with the catchy moves.

Experts say its all in the legs, and at first glance it looks easy enough. But the Azonto dance -- a fluid move from Ghana that infects the entire body is not for the rhythmically challenged.
In schools, on the street and in clubs, Azonto has taken over Ghana and is sweeping across dance floors around the world, two years after it was first choreographed in parts of James Town in the greater Accra region and the port city of Tema.

The moves are said to have borrowed from 'Kpanlogo' a traditional dance in Ghana that uses hand gestures and leg and hip movements that mimic activities like swimming, washing, boxing and ironing to communicate.

Gasmilla, a Ghanaian hiplife artist is one of the people behind Azonto.

"Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you see us, the youth of the Ga community area doing it. Ok, but it wasn't that big till my video came out, so after my video everybody wanted to do Azonto. Do you understand? So I wouldn't say I am the originator, I brought a style out," he said.

A sure way to grab a following in Ghana these days is to have an Azonto themed video. Dozens of Azonto lessons and tutorials can be found online.

Some tourism officials are even using it as a marketing tool to attract visitors to Ghana.

Ghanaian Football star Asamoah Gyan always broke into Azonto to celebrate goals during the 2010 world cup when the country made it to the quarter finals for the first time.

Terry Bright Ofosu an assistant lecturer of dance studies at the University of Ghana says the country's entertainment industry should brand Azonto and sell it as Ghanaian.

"We need to develop in a way that we can hold this thing (Azonto), because it is a popular dance, anybody at all can stand up and dance it, but when we institutionalize it and make it known to the world that it is part and parcel of our popular dance structures, just like we have, just like we have the traditional dance," he said.

It started out as a street dance but Azonto has quickly grown into a cultural phenomenon that many in the country want to identify with.

"This is the real neighbourhood where the Azonto dance takes place, even if you don't know how to dance the Azonto dance and want to learn how to do it, try and get to Bukom, it is possible," said Aiana Okai.

The dance fever is also spreading over the UK and the US with some international artists travelling to the home of Azonto to learn from the experts -- and in Ghana they are in plenty, from street sellers to ordinary pedestrians, more than willing to show off their skills.