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

Elmina Slave Castle

The Elmina slave was first built by the Portuguese (1482), but was taken over by the Dutch(1637), and then the British (1814). The Portuguese were known to have treated their slaves worse than the Dutch or the English. The castle was built about a few miles down the coast of Cape Coast Slave Castle, and there’s a watchtower right up the hill.

When we went to the Cape Coast Slave Castle (Barrack Obama went there on his visit to Ghana) a few months before, we toured it with our entire group. It was very emotional. We had a combination of whites, Africans, and African Americans on our tour. I feel like since everyone knew each other, people felt more comfortable to get emotional.

The Elmina slave castle was known to be more intense tour; it was one of the most popular castles used for slave trade. At its peak, around 30,000 thousand slaves strutted out of the infamous “door of no return” per year.  Even if the castle averaged 10,000 slaves a year, you’re still looking at over 4 million slaves over 400 year stretch. AND THAT’S JUST ONE CASTLE!

Women were asked to lift this 25 kg cannon ball…if they did not succeed they were whipped 40 times.

As we walked the castle, we were brought into large cellblocks that held hundreds of slaves at a time. You could still smell it! The smell of death: a built up of body odor, urine, feces, and lost hope. People talk about slavery occurring so long ago, almost as it’s just a story to learn from. But, being at this castle made it clear how REAL and recent it is.

We were on a group with some other foreigners, and a group of adults that were joking around throughout the tour. That kind of lightened the mood, which was less depressing, but it also hindered our experience. We were told about the female slaves that would be allowed to shower and get clean only so the masters could rape them. We saw the doors that allowed the guards to secretly rape the slaves AGAIN after they had been raped by the head of the castle. So sickening. So gruesome. So sad.

What’s crazy to me is that outside of the slave castle, normal life goes on as if there is no depressing historic sight near by. The town is not built on tourism from these castles at all. At first I didn’t like it. Hundreds of years of suffering, millions of lives lost, generations of enslavement, and unless you stepped foot inside the castle, you would have no idea how disheartening Cape Coast’s history is. Yet, the sight of kids playing , people hanging out by the water, and sailors setting off for a nights work represented freedom. These sights are constant reminders that the past in the past. As important as it is to remember what has happened and to also learn from it, it is also important to move on in life in order to live a life filled with freedom. The workers outside of the Elmina slave castle may not live a luxurious life, but they’re finally free. Free from European rule. More importantly, they are free from enslavement.

Cape Coast is filled with churches and other buildings built by the Dutch, Portuguese, or the English. Those tall buildings serve as a reminder to all of the people of Ghana how far they’ve come.

All love.

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

The ADVENTURE, continued….

(continued)…

When we got to our hotel, it started to POUR! We waited for it to settle down, but it didn’t. So, we headed to the Cape Coast Restaurant to get wet and to meet Tom’s friend. When we got there, we learned the drum rehearsal was cancelled due to the rain. Then, to our surprise, Tom found out the guy he was going to meet there was already in the states!

Tom had persuaded us to come with him to Cape Coast for the sole purpose of meeting this guy, and he wasn’t even there! We felt angry, stupid, and sad. We decided to go back to the hotel, grab our things and head back to Accra before it got too late. We had traveled ALL THIS WAY, 5 or so hours, to see someone who was in the United States. What a waste!

FOOLED YA! That’s what might have happened if we were close-minded turd heads who can’t deal with a little inconvenience. I didn’t go to Ghana to do activity A by myself and then go home. I came to Ghana to try to do activity A, and along the way do activity B, C person D, buy item E, get in a fight with person F (and be like what the F?!) , and eat dinner with person G’s grandma.

I recently got into a verbal argument with my friend who told me that an Apple was the best fruit because “A is for Apple”. I agree that Apple is the best fruit (it does keep the doctor away), but I told him that A is really for Adventure.

Feeling adventurous, we walked along the . We wanted to swim, but it was still raining a little and getting dark.

At the restaurant, we met an old man who has clearly been taking drugs for well over 25 years. He told us he wanted to have a chat with us, and began lecturing us on a world history lesson that seemed to make little sense. He said he likes Cape Coast because they have a great library. (DO THEY?!) He also said Jimmy Hendrix use to go to Morocco because they have the best Heroine there. It was hard to follow ANYTHING he was saying, but his Australian accent made it kinda funny to listen to.

We made a   at the restaurant. Some Rastas named Wonder Boy and Ben! We were warned to be careful of Rastas because they: ‘lie, steal, and smoke weed.’ These guys seemed to be nice guys though. One claimed to be the best dancer in all of Cape Coast. Another was deaf. Luckily, our renaissance-man friend Tom SPEAKS sign language and was signing with.

We got a few beers to lighten the mood, and asked our friends where we could go and get some good food. On the way there, they took us to their friend’s shop, where they tried to get us to buy his things. My friend Ryan and I are negotiating with a 60+ year old Rasta man for these hats, and next thing you know he breaks out into singing a Reggae hook, Tom starts beat boxing, and I start free styling. At one point I was rapping to the old man about the hats that we wanted to buy:

“please you must reduce the price, these hats are cool but they’re not very nice, don’t try to rip us off just because we are white”. I don’t remember many of the lines but he responded with….“Brudda please give me money to support da yout (youth), cos I need to make some money to support da yout”. It was hilarious. We settled on a price and bought the two hats. Then, he supported his youth!

On the way to dinner, Tereza called me and asked where we were.

“Mennim, y3b3 didi, I don’t know, we are going to eat”.

“Where are you going to eat?”

“Um….mennim. Wop3 se wob3ba? I don’t know. Do you want to come?”

“Yes. Where are you?”

“I don’t know.”

On the way to dinner, we continued our musical performance as we walked down the street with my friend Tom beat boxing, I was rapping, and then our friend Wonder Boy whipped out a flute from his backpack and was jamming. Everyone we walked past stared at us like we were the walking circus.

With the help of Wonder Boy and Ken, we got some banku and Tilapia for dinner at a street grill right neat Wonder Boy’s house. We ate in Wonder Boy’s kitchen, which was a pitch-black room probably 4 wide and 4 feet long with just a sliver of light coming in from outside streetlights. Wonder Boy ordered enough food for all 5 of us, even though the three obrunis were the ones who paid. I’ve never eaten in the dark like that….and with my hands! It was a challenge to pick through the tilapia with our hands and try ti pluck out the meat in the dark. Wonder Boy introduced us to his little brother and told us that if we gave him money he would go out and buy us what ever we wanted. He did just that. He was like their little delivery boy. It was pretty funny. He got us water whenever we asked. He didn’t seem to mind at all. He actually acted as if he was glad to be out delivery boy.

Tereza, my gf of the day, met up with us during dinner, though she refused to eat and didn’t really talk much either. She probably thought we were all crazy. Why wouldn’t she? We appeared to be in Cape Coast for no reason with no plan, we were dancing in the middle of the street, , rapping, talking to random strangers in Twi, and had been following around two random strangers we had just met a few hours ago. And, I had met her the day before on the back of a bus and asked to hold her hand because I was scared of a movie! I guess we are crazy. Yet, somehow, in Ghana, as a foreigner…all of those things seemed pretty normal to us.

We walked to a local bar and danced our pants off. Yet, Tereza was practically silent the whole time and wouldn’t even dance with us. Wonder Boy showcased his talents (he did say he was the best dancer in all of Cape Coast), and taught us a few moves. Tereza had a friend , and she happened to be Wonder Boy’s ex-girlfriend (funny coincidence).

When we were sitting at our table, Tereza scolded me, “You haven’t offered to buy my friend a drink yet! You are being rude!” I was pretty thrown off. She was speaking her mind at least. I didn’t realize it was my responsibility to buy her friend a drink (who I didn’t even invite), but I did anyway (I’m a pushover). Her friend didn’t really talk to us or dance either. After trying to get Tereza to dance like 10 times, she said she had to go give her mom something but that she would come right back. She demanded that I would give her money for her cab. This could have been because she is poor and has no money. It could have been because she sees that I am white and assumed I am rich. Or, it could be because I was  her boyfriend so she thought it was my job to pay for everything. Or, it could be a combination of those. Or, I could be completely wrong!

Anyway, I did pay for her cab, since she’d be meeting up with us later that night. I offered to go along with her so she didn’t have to take the cab by herself. I said, “I should come with you? It is not safe for you to go alone”. Her response caught me off guard. “If you come it will not be safe for you. My father is home!”

That being said, she left and even promised me she would be back with us shortly. We walked to the next bar, which was on the beach. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was closed. We learned that the bar closes when it rains. We chilled on the beach for a little, and then headed back to our hotel. I called Tereza over 10 times, and I couldn’t get through to her. Not all real life love stories have happy endings…. :-(

The three of us slept side by side in a king side bed, content with our days’ journey. We were all surprised Tereza would just ditch me like that. I wasn’t, though. We made plans to meet up with Wonder Boy and Ben the following day, though we had NO IDEA what we were going to get into…

<<<The adventure continues….Don’t leave your computer screens!>>>

ONE LOVE!!

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

Things I wish I had the Balls to do in Ghana

Here in Ghana, I get a lot of stares because I am white. I also get a lot of stares because I do things that most Ghanaians do not. Because people often stare at me, sometimes it is difficult to do things out in public that might not be deemed as “normal”. Here’s a list of things I wish I had the courage/confidence to do here. (Some of them I have done…try to guess!)
  • Tie a baby to my back and walk around the market
  • convince my roommate I’m “a gay”
  • buy food and then invite the people in line behind me to my meal
  • stand up and start azontoing in the middle of my final exam
  • pay a taxi driver to let me drive….and then crash on purpose
  • pay someone at the market to carry my groceries and things on her head in a basket and then pretend that she is chasing after me and try to run away
  • sit down on the ground in the middle of a crowded area and eat a meal
  • invite people to my nearly finished sachet water
  • agree to marry someone and actually follow through with it
  • skip down the street while singing out loud “OBRUNI OBRUNI OBRUNI OBRUNI OBRUNI ORBUNI!”
  • chase after stray chickens, dogs, and goats with a machete
  • talk with a lisp and pretend to be a gay O”bruno”bruni
  • approach a random Ghanaian and pretend like he is a long lost friend that I haven’t seen in a long time and when he extends his hand for a handshake start azontoing
  • invite my taxi driver or trotro mate to my beer
  • smear chocolate on my hands and then run down the street trying to high five everyone with my left hand
  • wear two different shoes out and and about and try to convince people who tell me otherwise that they match
  • take a poop in public
  • go to a chop bar restaurant with out a shirt on
  • attempt to carry a bible on my head
  • wave down taxis just so they stop and then cross the street
  • buy sugar cane sticks and then fight in public and pretend they are light-sabers
  • pay a hawker to let me hawk her items for the day
  • buy 24 bags of plantain chips from a window in a trotro and then try to sell them to the other passengers inside
  • pretend to be blind and then start azontoing with my cane
  • blog about inappropriate topics knowing even my Grandma will read it

Love,

Jeremy “The One Who Goes To Africa” Kwabena Ginsburg

oh! ah! um.hmm, eiii! GHANA!

So I promised myself I’d do at least one blog post under the influence…so here it goes!

okay sorry I had to delete the rest cause it didn’t make much sense and most of it would be to hard to understand because I was trying to type in Pidgin and Twi.

Instead, here are some situations that have happened in the past week, day, month, or year, in……… Ghana:

So, I’m in the middle of writing my final exam, which is 3 HOURs long. I stop to take a break, stretch my eyes and look around the room. I look outside the opened door and notice two security guards wacking a mango tree with a large bamboo stick with their backs turned towards the security check point. mmmmmmmm Ghana!

As I was walking, I passed by a man waering a T shirt that read “I am nothing with out God”. He noticed me as I was reading his shirt and then he waved to me, smiled, and said “hello!”. hiiiiiii…. Ghana!

I’m in line at the store to buy a pastry and the cashier says, “please, give me two cedis”. There are like 3 people in front of me but she demands me to give her two cedis before it is even my turn to buy my food. I give her the two cedis so she can make change for the person in line before me. Then, when I get up, I buy my 50 pesua (cent) donut and ask for my change of 1.50. “I’m coming”, she says. But, she just goes on with her business and rings up the next patron in line. I ask again, “sista? mepaakyew mame (please give me) one five”. She gave me 50 pesuas and again she repeated herself, “I’m coming”. 5 minutes later she is still “coming”, so I decide to grab two bottles of water for the 1 cedi credit that I was owed. la la la la la la la…. Ghana!

The power was out and I was so hot that I couldn’t sleep (even though I was naked). I was sweating so bad. Itching nonstop. Reverting back to my first few nights sleeping in Ghana, I go to the bathroom to bath and cool off so I can fall asleep. Then, I get to the bathroom, undress myself, and notice that there’s no running water! Gotta go fetch some water from a bucket and take a bucket bath :-) Grrrrrrreat eiiiii Ghana!

The next morning, I get up to go defecate (it’s an efficient alarm clock) and I get to the bathroom with soap and toilet paper (always have to come prepared). After I finish my business I notice that the water is not running and the toilet won’t flush. eeeeeeeeeeeeeew  #ghana

I’m driving in a taxi and we come to a 4 way traffic light but the lights are off because the power is out. Instead there are 6-8 men with tree branches that have leaves on the end directing traffic and pointing at cars where to go. No whistles, no lights, no bright orange shirts. no problem! ooooo Ghana!

So I was buying fruit at the local market walking distance from my dorm. There are a few kids that work there that don’t go to school. I don’t want to go into detail about child labor in Africa, but…. yada yada yada……everytime I buy fruit from this little girl named Rita, I always remind her that she promised me she would go to school next year (she’s 11 I think). Rita is one of the most popular vendors at the night market, and she always yells for me and tells me to come talk to her and then buy her fruit. 99% I do just that. So, I was on a quest to buy some fresh fruit for under a dollar and I noticed there were more kids there than usual. I started to get angry that there were so many children there working when they should be in school!

So, I start some small talk in Twi with one of the other little girls. I ask how she’s doing, where’s shes from, how old she is, etc. Then, I ask her if she goes to school, and she says yes. Then, I try to formulate a  sentence in Twi to say, but you are here working, why aren’t you in school?! We go back and fourth with out understanding what the other is trying to say for a minute or so (this happens frequently), and then I finally switch to English. I barked in a serious tone, “why aren’t you in school! you should go to school!” she replied quietly, “because today is Saturday!” hahahahaha…..DOPE! Ghana…

www.

“Love,

Jeremy”

goestoafrica.com