Redefining Africa’s Dance Culture Through Revolutionary Afrobeats Genre

BY Edwin Lamptey October 7, 2023 10:10 AM EDT
Photo Source: Instagram/@dwpacademy, @ghettokids_tfug

Just as African music keeps unfolding, the rhythmic movements to these beautiful tunes keep evolving as well. Afro-dance continues to grow into a global sensation as it floods popular social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

With its incorporation of traditional African dance moves with modern influences, the growing fame of Afro-dance can be associated with its expression of joy, rhythm, and cultural identity. Dancers who find affinity with Afrobeats – a genre created to elicit rhythmic movement – harnessed their creativity and the power of the internet to produce unique dance routines that are shared with the global community.

Many Afrobeats artistes have enhanced this recipe by creating dance videos nearly anyone can attempt to do immediately after releasing a song. From a rich culture of self-expression in every aspect of its lifestyle, Afro-dance can be comedic, serious, and light with the interpretation of every move being owned by each dancer. Indeed, there are a million different ways for one to express himself in whatever way or movement that resonates with an Afrobeats song. Currently, there are many varieties of Afro-dance — Azonto, Alkayida, Kukere, Skelewu, Sekem, Shaku Shaku, Shoki, and the newest addition to the group, Amapiano.

Pilolo, a recently produced Afrobeats tune by Ghanaian DJ and record producer, Guiltybeats which featured the Baby I’m Jealous singer, Mr Eazi and Ghana’s rising Afrobeats star, Kwesi Arthur portrays the story of how Afrobeats has spread globally. The video of the song featured many Afrobeats dancers both locally and internationally.

Before this recent dance wave, the Afrobeats space saw Fuse ODG and Sarkodie causing a dance fever with Azonto, Davido made waves with Skelewu and the Kukere movement being led by Your Waist singer, Iyanya.  Ghanaian Afrobeats dancer, Yoofi Greene who is currently based in China, believes that the popularity of the Afrobeats genre is highly linked with Afro-dance styles and this is helping push the tunes of Afrobeats globally.

A few months ago, well-recognized global dancer, Sara Trellez, caused a sugar rush on the internet with a dance interpretation of Lojay and Sarz’s, Monalisa. It was an epic execution of the song that helped increase the number of listeners of the Afrobeats track.

Dancers all over the world are embracing the Afro-dance fever – from children like Ugandan’s Ghetto Kids, Miyu Ananthamaya Pranoto from Indonesia as well as groups including Ghana’s DWP Academy. Dance schools of Afrobeats dance styles are emerging and taking over the dance world with individuals traveling from the diaspora to Ghana or Nigeria just to learn these dance routines.

Now taking a detailed look at each Afro-dance style, it is worth noting that these dance moves have their roots embedded in unique African cultural dances. One can appreciate the fact that the Afro-dance routines are evolving to fit the present times and to compete with global standards.

Ghana’s Azonto Afro-dance style, which began in Jamestown, Accra can be traced back to the traditional dance of the Ga people (of the same area) known as Kpanlogo. The Azonto dance employs a lot of hand gestures, attitudes, and actions portraying everyday life. With the movement of twisting one leg and planting the other, the dance infuses hand motions and expressions subjective to the dancer.

In Nigeria, a cultural dance of the people of Efik went viral by one of their very own stars, Iyanya. Kukere, whose root dance is Etighi, involves leaning forward with knocked knees as one lifts each leg up and down to mimic the moves of an old man. It is no wonder Iyanya captured the music world with his dance-themed song, Kukere, which had the people of his tribe, Efik applauding him as the world danced along.

Recently, both music and dance lovers have caught the Amapiano fever emanating from South Africa. Amapiano, the Zulu word for ‘piano’ is an Afrobeats style combining elements of jazz and lounge music with high-pitched piano melodies. Its dance style is characterized by quick step moves with high energy levels that portray the strength captured in the Zulu war dance of the Zulu of South Africa. Amapiano has been acknowledged with the creation of trending dance moves like the Pouncing Cat, and Zekethe, as well as the popular Dakiwe Challenge.

Videos accompanying Afrobeats tunes cannot be imagined without one failing to recall its dance steps. From, Kiss Daniel’s Buga tune, Mavins’ Overloading, Afro B’s Shaku Shaku and trending Terminator song by Ghana’s King Promise all have signature dance routines. 

Teboho Diphehlo, a finalist in the Red Bull Dance Your Style Final in 2021 during an interview with spoke about how South Africa has a rich and diverse heritage in dance. This is an accurate testament of the diversity of the African culture whether the arts, music, or dance.

As Afrobeats continues to evolve, Afro-dance cannot be sidelined. The two will have to evolve in seamless synchronicity for true global domination.