AZONTO: From Ghana, to West Africa, to the rest of the World

AZONTO….?

It’s a bird!? It’s a name!? No…. It’s a SUPER-MANIC dance that is taking over dance floors in clubs and parties world wide!

If you haven’t heard of it yet, I’m sure your Africans friends have. Pronounced, “ah, zone, toe”, kind of rhyming with “I don’t know” (Well…keep reading and you will!), Azonto is on its way to becoming one of the most popular dances world wide. Originated in Ghana, Azonto is an expressive dance, where you can basically do what ever you want while moving to the rhythm. Some popular moves include mimicking the following activities: washing your clothes by hand, calling out a girl you find attractive, making a phone call, and boxing. Sounds humorous, but so does “the moon walk”, and that seemed to impress people.

Azonto has blown up on youtube. From tutorials, to skits, to music videos, to battles, to Azontoing in public across the globe, Azonto is penetrating the international dance market rapidly.

Here’s a recently article on .

This is the video I shot dancing Azonto around Ghana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XBWG-UVzJg

But, if you really want to learn, I’d suggest watching one of the hundreds of tutorials on youtube.

Oh, and by the way, it’s like the most fun dance you could ever think of. It always puts you in a good mood (but makes you wish you were in Ghana where it’s acceptable to Azonto in any given circumstance), and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. You could be brushing your teeth, picking your nose, playing basketball, as long as you do it to the beat and make it look stylish. Not many dances easily migrate through language barriers, but Azonto, being as expressive and versatile as it is, has become a universal dance across the world.

Most of my friends know about it, mostly because anywhere we go that has music playing, I end up dancing by myself, even though other people look at me and think I am wasted and dancing like a fruit cake. I lived in Ghana for over four months, and it took be about 3 months to feel comfortable doing it, and another month on top of that to feel like I was actually doing it properly.

Azonto competitions have taken place in the London, Toronto, NYC, and Chicago. It’s coming soon to Madison. My housemates and I threw a party last weekend, and our friend DJed. During the party he played a short clip of an Azonto track, and people danced! They were already dancing before he put on the song, but hey, they DIDN’T STOP dancing!

I’ve been to Ghana, where kids learn how to Dance Azonto, mimicking the activities in the form of dance, before they learn how to do the activities themselves. I traveled around Ghana, and whenever I stumbled upon someone who didn’t understand English, they understood Azonto. Maybe I couldn’t ask what time the bus was coming and where it was going in the form of dance, but it always generated a smile!

Youtube: “Azonto” yourself, and see how many videos come up. It’s only getting bigger and bigger, and the later you jump on the bandwagon, the more you’re gonna think, “MAN! Jeremy was raving about that Azonto dance so long ago….I could have been the first one to whip it out in my friend group!” That goes for you, too, Grandma!

All love.

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

aka

AzontObruni

Last weekend I traveled to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. D.C. has a decent Ghanaian population, WAY MORE than in Madison, Wisconsin. While I was there, I made 3 Ghanaian friends who recognized my Ghanaian shirt. One stopped me on the street and asked if he could take a picture of my friend and I so he could show his friends.

I decided to dance some Azonto around the tourist attractions and see how local strangers reacted.

Enjoy!

XoXo,

Jeremy Kwabena

(continued)

So, I woke up feeling refreshed, (despite the fact I just shared a bed with two guys), and we decided it may be nice to get a nice, sit down breakfast at our hotel. The prices were a little pricey (about $2-$3 USD each), but we decided it may be worth it. We sat and waited by ourselves for about eight minutes at the restaurant, and then BAM! What do you know? They actually did have a server working! He gave us our options and we ordered promptly. How long does it take to fry eggs and toast bread? Apparently, over 50 minutes. I bet I could fry bread and toast eggs in 50 minutes, and still have time to update my Twitter, Facebook, 4square, and Instagram! (I’m getting paid for those product placements). We sat and waited and then finally ate our mediocre breakfast.

Next, we called our friends, WonderBoy and Ben, who we had met the night before. Ben was a mute, yet he still kept calling my friend, Tom, even though he couldn’t even talk. We weren’t sure what he was saying, or, if he was even saying anything, so we starting walking in their direction to meet them. On the way, we passed by a few foods that looked new to us. After buying them and eating them, we realized we had eaten it before (better quality, too). Eventually, we met up with them in town and they guided us a “parade” they had told us about the night before. We crammed into a tiny cab and got dropped off at some random, outdoor, neighborhood/village/ceremonial spot.

We got there and had NO IDEA what to expect. We followed our guides, and they walked us through to the “parade”. This was nothing like a parade. Everyone was dressed in traditional, African wear. It turned out to be some tribal ceremony that honored the Voodoo master of the village. Everyone stared at us (we didn’t look like we belonged to their tribe), but we still felt pretty welcomed. Little kids ran up to me and practiced their English, “Obruni! How are you?!” We caught a glimpse of the ceremony. Apparently, for an instant, these two people lost complete control of themselves and were possessed by some spirit. Then, people dumped water on them and grabbed them to bring them back. CRAZY STUFF.

Words can’t really describe this ceremony; here’s a video:

After that was over, we were actually introduced to the Voodoo man of their village. I had to pay 1 GH cedi to meet him, but it was worth it. He even let me take a “” with him. They also had a pot of liquid that was being prepared for the pouring of .

Then, we went to a little bar spot and waited for the rest of the “parade”. Wonderboy told us that more people were coming. He was right. About an hour later, we headed back to find quite the festival. It felt like the true cultural experience I had wished for. Drumming! !

It was like a break dancing circle, anyone could go in whenever they wanted. Except instead of a small circle, there was a huge crowd and banging drums surrounding you.

Our friend Wonderboy did his thing:

People kept going in the middle, each dance was unique, creative, and AWESOME. I encouraged my friends, “C’mon…we GOTTA GO in there.” But, it was a bit intimidating. Actually, VERY INTIMITADING. Everyone knew there were white people there. But, everyone that went into the center was GOOD! Ryan broke the ice, and STOLE THE SHOW:

After watching him get jiggy with an old African lady, I figured I had nothing to lose. I danced in the middle for about 45 seconds. I included some African moves (with a little awkward uncoordinated twist to em), I added in, and tried to keep with the drums. Unfortunately (or fortunately…depending on how embarrassing I looked), it wasn’t captured on video. .

Ryan got back in there and did a (check out his form!)

This might have been my favorite experience in my entire stay of Ghana, and possibly the coolest cultural experience I’ve ever had. Some people went in the middle and just did crazy acrobatic stunts! A guy just went in to the center and did like 5 back handsprings in a row! Then these guys showed off their talents:

After the “parade” was over, our rasta friends asked us if we wanted to “ease our mind” in memory of the ancestors. They lead us to a cemetery, but we didn’t want to “ease our mind”. We left, as some rastas stayed behind and partook in their cannabis traditions while sitting on . Interesting tradition for honoring their ancestors.

From there, we headed back to the Cape Coast Slave Castle restaurant so we could meet the drummers that we missed the day before. However, when we got there, unfortunately, we came across a new road bump…

. . . . .!!!