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A Decade Of Afro-Pop Dance In Nigeria

By Ayobami Okerinde
21 May 2023   |   4:30 pm
The trend in Afro-Pop dance can be attributed to the success or perhaps the acceptability of 'Makossa' in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The frequency of the release of dance steps shouldn't be something surprising for a nation of about 200 million people, coupled with a seemingly wide access to the Internet and the…

The trend in Afro-Pop dance can be attributed to the success or perhaps the acceptability of ‘Makossa’ in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The frequency of the release of dance steps shouldn’t be something surprising for a nation of about 200 million people, coupled with a seemingly wide access to the Internet and the recent worldwide acceptance of Nigerian artists.

One point that should not be forgotten is that the Guiness World Record for longest dance party, which Nigeria Dance Queen Kaffy broke in 2006, and the investment of multinational corporations to create shows shows such as, Maltina Dancehall and Malta Guiness Street Dance, amongst others, have reignited the dance culture in Nigeria.

Dance is an integral part of African and, most importantly, Nigerian cultures. Just like name-giving and festivals, amongst others, it is quite difficult to separate dance from Nigerian culture or society. Dance can be said to be a series of steps or movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music. The evolution of dance in Nigerian culture is one that can not be forgotten.

Dance has, over the years, evolved and metamorphosed into “every music thing’. For instance, dance is known to be a step that is owned by a particular group, tribe, or culture. It is ‘rigid’ (it is not easily changed or modified); it is at least a phenomenon that goes along with every piece of music. For instance, Etighi dance is a type of dance known to have been founded by the Akwa Ibom people. The dance requires movement of the legs and waist. It is popular amongst the Ibibio and the Efik people, where it is believed that the origin began.

In times past, dance had a much deeper meaning than what is available today. This can be linked to the coming of the colonial masters and the introduction of breakdance into Nigerian society in the 1980s.
Tunji Oyelana, a Nigerian musical legend, made a comparison between foreign dance and Nigerian dance in his song “Gudu Morning” by saying “ijo oyinbo kii se ti baba mi, oyinbo jo Tango, Baba mi re Bata, se bi ese ni gbogbo wa fi tule, which translates to the white man’s dance is not my forefathers’ own; the white man dances Tango, while my father dances Bata; we are all using our legs to dance.”

Dance is prevalent and well represented in the three major ethnic groups and almost in all tof them or cultures across Nigerian society. Dance reflects every aspect of life, including daily interactions amongst people; it is also used as a means of entertainment; and it also serves as a correlation when it comes to music and the praising or worshipping of gods and iconic individuals (this is common in the Yoruba culture), amongst others, which is not limited to war and marriage.
The 2000s marked a great evolution in Nigeria’s dance history and culture. This was when Nigerian society evolved with different dance styles, which would later serve as the basis for the introduction of new dance styles that are acceptable today in Nigerian society.

This era was when Nigerian society and the music space had much contact with the media, and that began a new chapter in the history of dance in Nigeria. ‘Makossa’ by Awilo Logomba, ‘Galala’ by Daddy Showkey and ‘Suo’ by Danfo drivers can be said to be the progenitors of the recent viral dance in Nigeria.
Over the years, numerous dance steps have been introduced by various artists into the Nigerian music space, but very few have actually gone viral and rocked the dance floors, including some that have been controversial.
Let’s profile the last decade and the dance steps that have rocked the dance floors in Nigeria.

2009 -2010
These years didn’t bring much in terms of new dance steps. Perhaps, it might be predicted that artists used these years to prepare and practise the dance steps for the decade. Aside from the spread of dance steps like ‘Alanta’, which somehow found its way to trend at the start of the decade, nothing really happened quite as much with the introduction of new dance steps.

2011 seemed to be the year that began the introduction of new dance steps for the decade, with the introduction of ‘Azonto’. Azonto Dance rocked the dance floor in 2011. The dance, which originated from Ghana, became an instant hit all over the world. The dance was further popularised by former Ghanaian striker, Asamoah Gyan, who made the dance his trademark, whenever he found the back of the net, mostly during the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.

It is widely believed that ‘Azonto’ is an extension of a 1960s-era dance called ‘Kpanlogo’. ‘Azonto’ can be described as a freestyle dance that contains pushy movements, but also combines elements of a neo-traditional dance created by the Ga communities in Ghana called Apaa that sees domestic chores like washing, fishing, and driving mimicked to comedic effect. The dance became an instant hit when Ghanian acts, Fuse ODG, featured Tiffany on the song titled, ‘Azonto’.

After the wide acceptance of ‘Azonto’,, ‘Kukere’ came to play to show what the decade has in store for music and dance lovers. ‘Kukere’ hit the airwaves in 2012 after Nigerian singer and Project Fame winner, Iyanya, released the song, which was accompanied by a dance step. It is strongly believed to be an adaptation of the popular traditional dance, ‘Etighi’. The dance involves leaning forward with locked knees and lifting each leg up and down to initiate the age-old shaking of the backside. Also, in 2012 was ‘Alingo’ by P-Square, although it was met with wide criticism from music lovers who said it was similar to ‘Azonto’.

‘Skelewu’ first rocked the dancefloor after it was released by Davido. The dance involves putting one hand to the front, then the other to hold the waist, then moving left, right, front and back.

In 2014, the acceptability of new dance steps gained ground. This saw the introduction of two new dance steps that somehow complemented each other rather than competing with each other. First was ‘Shoki’, by then-YBNL act, Lil Kesh. ‘Shoki’, after its release, gained wide acceptance among the Nigerian youth as it became a street hit instantly. Shoki depends on how flexible you are. Shoki involves standing with one hand stretched out, then twisting your shoulder. While twisting, you jump a bit and move your hand to cover one of your eyes.

‘Shoki’ layers metamorphosed into different styles, such as ‘shoki-elejo’, among others. While the street was still in the mood for ‘shoki’, Mc Galaxy came with a hit dance that blew everyone off, and that was ‘Sekem’, ‘Sekem’ can be described as a simple dance that involves standing on one leg, putting a hand on your chest, also putting a hand on the waist, and then, with the one leg standing the whole body, dragging yourself to the left or right without letting the other leg touch the ground. The two dance steps were the highlight of the 2014 dances in Nigeria.

Who remembers Olamide, ‘Bobo’? Then you should remember ‘Shakiti Bobo. Shakiti Bobo was widely accepted in 2015’, although there were controversies over who originally owned the dance. ‘Shakiti Bobo’ involves raising your leg up until your knee points forward, then swinging your leg from side to side.
As you swing your leg front and back, make sure both hands do the same thing with your shoulders going up and down. You can switch legs depending on how flexible you are.

2016 didn’t give much in terms of dance steps; perhaps, the decade needed a break in the trend of dances. Olamide’s ‘Shakiti Bobo: was still the rave of the moment then.
‘Shaku Shaku’ came into the limelight and stole the show. ‘Shaku Shaku’ rocked the dancefloor in late 2017, and its spread can be attributed to the hit street anthem ‘Legbegbe’ by Mr. Real featuring Idowest, Obadice, and Kelvin Chucks. Also, songs released in 2017 followed the trend to further popularise the dance, including ‘Shepeteri’, ‘Oshozondi’ and ‘Shaku Shaku’, among others. It is a dance that’s performed by crossing your arms in front of each other at the wrist, widening your legs slightly, and launching into a graceful half-gallop. The rest of the movement involves mainly the dancer’s feet and is largely freestyle.

‘Zanku Legwork!!! As is common with dance steps, it is usually difficult to trace their true origins as they are usually inspired by dances of old or adaptations of trending moves. ‘Zanku’ juxtaposes leg movements with hand swings; the dance intensifies every time your feet touch the ground, creating a more energetic and riveting reaction. It is as high energy for the learners as it is lighthearted for the skilled.

The decade didn’t end without leaving music lovers and dance enthusiasts with something to savor for the coming years. The first dance trend was the poco dance, which was popularised by dancer, Poco Lee. The dance involves the often showoffs, with pacing leg works to an impressive flex of handkerchiefs. Hip-hop act Naira Marley (Lord of Lamba) gave Nigerians something to remember as he closed the show for dance with two hit dance steps. First was ‘Soapy’; the dance generated lots of controversy and received wide criticism from individuals, most notably Dance Queen Kaffy, who tagged the song ‘immoral and disgusting’ in an Instagram post.

The dance was controversial because its steps are synonymous with masturbation, and that didn’t go well with fans who argued that it encourages the act and might corrupt young children. After his controversial dance, Naira Marley closed the decade with an assignment. He introduced another dance step, ‘Tesumole’, which didn’t generate criticism, but was seen as much more difficult to learn. ‘Tesumole’ involves complicated moves such as closing both legs and moving right and left before opening the legs and jumping. It can be translated as ‘step on the devil.’

The Nigerian music industry is fast growing into a dance-theme industry, where a new song is accompanied by a dance step. The decade also saw the rise of dancers such as Iweh Pascal, popularly known as Poco Lee. The Lagos State University graduate became a sensation after his dance, ‘Poco Dance’, went viral. Nigerian dance steps also went global. Also, dance is becoming an acceptable profession in the country. One thing synonymous with the decade is that, most dance trends were difficult to trace, their origins were unknown but could be attributed to the street, most notably Agege, a popular area in Lagos State. The decade definitely gave Nigerians and music lovers around the world a good time, and it shouldn’t be surprising if the next decade has much to give in terms of new dance steps.