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Azonto dance craze: from Tema to iTunes

MOVEMENT: London-based artist Fuse ODG has released a single entitled Azonto in tribute to the newest dance craze out of Ghana

DANCEFLOORS HAVE witnessed finger-snapping and the step, the Electric Slide and the Bogle.

We have logged on, dutty-whined, experienced Saturday Night Fever and held our heads to the migraine skank.

It was only a matter of time before the unstoppable force that is Afrobeats spawned its very own dance craze: Azonto.

The freestyle dance first made waves at nightclubs and drinking spots in Ghana's cities but has bounced onto the world stage inspiring hundreds of people to upload their Azonto interpretation to YouTube.

One such video, a clip of a young white man performing the dance in Oxford Circus, has generated half a million hits – and masses of respect – since being posted online.

Another of its most well-known ambassadors is Ghanaian footballer and part-time rapper, Asamoah Gyan, who has adopted Azonto as part of his goal scoring celebrations.

UK rappers like Chipmunk and Wretch 32 have also been beneficiaries of a first-hand tutorial from Hiplife artist Sarkodie – who played a big role in raising the dance’s profile from the streets to the mainstream.

But it is London-based artist and producer Fuse ODG who claims the credit for bringing the dance to British shores.

The rapper released a track dedicated to the dance on iTunes last November, and his YouTube video teaching people how to do the new dance has attracted more than one million hits.

Fuse ODG first saw the dance in Tema – the heart of Ghana’s music scene – while recording with top producer Killbeatz, and yearned to bring its feel good factor to a wider audience.

Basic Azonto moves involves a coordinated shuffling the feet, shaking the hips, stretching the hands and pointing the fingers in time to the music.

But a key part of the dance’s attraction is that it can be customised to translate banal tasks like answering your mobile phone, washing the dishes or pounding fufu into a slick dance move.

“There is no one way to dance Azonto”, says Arnold Sarfo-Kantanka, co-founder of Me Firi Ghana (which translates to ‘I’m from Ghana’) – a youth-based movement highlighting Ghanaian culture in the diaspora.

“There are a few basic moves but Azonto really allows you to express yourself so anybody can do it and make it their own. In Ghana at Christmas, you couldn’t walk ten metres without seeing someone doing the dance. It’s a way of life there now. To see the dance’s success makes me proud because it really is a celebration of Ghana.”

The dance has been compared to the Cameroon Makossa, but is believed to have evolved from the Ghanaian Kpanlogo dance mixed with a combination of local dance moves that originated in Ghana’s cities over the past decade.

Choice FM presenter and comedian Eddie Kadi, who will appear in Fuse ODG's official Azonto video alongside Party Hard hitmaker Donaeo, said: “I love to dance so the moment I saw the Azonto I had to learn it. I was watching back to back videos on YouTube and couldn’t believe how far it has gone.

“We’ve had the Willie Bounce now it’s time for something else. On the day of the video shoot, there was a guy doing it so well I thought he must be Ghanaian, but it turns out he was Jamaican. So, it’s official, everyone is doing Azonto. You can quote me on that.”

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