The local dance of the little known Gaa people of Ghana has in a very short time taken over West Africa and become a dancing sensation internationally, especially in Britain, buoyed by the popular “Afrobeats” scene which has brought West African dance-hall and hip-pop to the attention of music aficionados in the Queen’s country. Azonto is a freestyle music, where the dancer makes simple shuffling movements with his feet while using his hands to simulate actions like praying, driving, cleaning, boxing, washing etc. In Nigeria, which regularly sees a constant stream of dancing styles rise and wane (read yahoozee etc), the Azonto is infused with a certain swagger and ‘walk,’ which is the trademark of citizens of the most populated black nation of the world, and which has fuelled its popularity and acceptance.
‘Historians’ point to the celebration of a goal with impromptu Azonto steps by Ghanaian footballer, Asamoah Gyan, during the 2010 World cup, as the turning point in the prominence of the dance. But the social media, especially YouTube, has helped stoke the wildfire spread of the dance. YouTube has changed the face of the music video industry, providing a platform for the streaming of videos ‘on demand.’ Videos from established acts and wannabee musicians have equal opportunity of going viral. And so the YouTube video of a white boy doing Azonto on the streets of London earned him a cameo appearance in the official music video of D’banj’s Oliver Twist.
Today, the Azonto has reached saturation point, becoming the dance step of note in clubs, weddings, and parties….and in the church. The cheekily termed “chrizanto” is danced during church services with some pastors being enthusiastic exponents. As the Azonto enjoys its time in the sun, the dancing spirit of the Nigerian is still working overtime and somewhere in the horizon is a Niger-Delta dance step threatening to explode: Over to you, Etighi.