In Youtube Masterclass we track down the dancers and choreographers behind our favorite dance videos from around the world.
Azonto is both a dance and a music genre. While it's totally acceptable to enjoy the upbeat, Ghanaian house-like rhythms on their own, it's always more fun to be a participant than a spectator. The dance is part-miming, part-seduction, and encourages competitiveness in a way that it is reminiscent of voguing or the short-lived LA-based dance craze known as jerking.
The form integrates older drumming and dance moves from Ghana with cues from contemporary house and hip-hop. It became a viral phenomenon in Ghana, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom beginning in 2011 through music videos posted to YouTube by E.L., Wizkid, Sarkodie, Itz Tiffany, Fuse ODG, and others. This year, it's even spawned a new offshoot, Alkayida, a derivation of "Al Qaeda."
For azonto's basics, take a look at this instructional video entitled "Azonto-Versity," in which young people (including a contender for Most Adorable Girl in The World) break down the basics of the movement into its key elements: knee swivels, laid-back full-body rocking, sassy hand gesticulations, and serving more face than a Maybelline factory.
Azonto has been attracting fans within the African diaspora and beyond, launching its stars to unprecedented fame and creating surprising trickle-down benefits for their back-up dancers. Two of the most successful azonto dancers are Homebros, a duo from East London who first attracted notice when they participated in a contest to appear in UK rapper Fuse ODG's official video for his song "Antenna," which rose to #5 on the UK singles chart earlier this year.
Their homemade video, filmed in London's Underground and in front of an apartment block, currently has more than two million YouTube views, giving them minor celebrity status at home. They nabbed a spot in the song's official video and recently starred in Nigerian singer Temi Dollface's seriously swoon-worthy video for her single "Pata Pata."
I got in touch with the Homebros in order to ask them a few questions about azonto dancing:
When did you start dancing as a duo? Was it for the "Antenna" contest?
We've always danced together as a part of a UK hip-hop dance company called BoyBlue Entertainment. We've been there for nearly nine years. In terms of the "Antenna" competition, Fuse ODG came to us with the vision for the song and asked us to help, then we made the first original video on the train. After the video went viral, the competition basically started.
How has life changed for you since the "Antenna" and "Pata Pata" videos?
Our lives have changed quite a lot since being involved in "Antenna" and "Pata Pata." We have become in-demand Afrobeats dancers in UK and have had a lot of bookings, inquiries and emails asking about teaching others. Our fan base just keeps growing. This has led us to signing autographs at shows, being stopped everywhere we go for pictures, TV interviews and being put on websites and blogs.
Why do you think azonto has spread so widely?
Azonto dance has made the African community come together. The dance and the music have also spread across the world to places that don't know much about Africa, and allowed people to get involved and get a feel of Africa.
What advice would you have for someone at home trying to learn the dance from watching videos over the internet?
For people trying to learn the dance from videos, we say keep watching, keep practising and stay up to date with the music.