Azonto is a dance and music genre from Ghana. The dance is known to have originated from a traditional dance called Kpanlogo associated with the coastal towns in the country such as Chorkor, James Town, La, Teshie, Nungua and Tema, in the Greater Accra Region.
As a music genre songs identified as those with Azonto beats are usually ones dedicated to the dance. However one can dance Azonto with other music genres.
The dance involves a set of hand movements that either mimic everyday activities or are meant to amuse an audience. It begun with one or two step movements but has been advanced to more complex and almost acrobatic movements. Just like most African dances, Azonto involves knee bending and hip movements. The dance has effectively evolved from a few basic moves to miming actions such as ironing of clothes, washing, driving, boxing, praying, swimming, and others.
The term “Azonto” was originally a rude reference to wayward girls, it stems from the word ‘Abontoa” which means an ugly girl, but it since lost its sting. The dance “azonto” is a communicative dance believed to originate from “Apam” which literally means to work. Apam was used to show the profession of an individual. The azonto dance has since grown further to relay coded messages. The dance later got into the minds of most Ghanaians. In the same year (2013), most Ghanaian music videos were full of Azonto dance and later spread to most African countries and other parts of the world.
Pop music researcher Jesse Weaver Shipley claims that like hiplife, the popularity of Azonto is a direct result of its interactions in diaspora. “Azonto, in content and form, is the embodiment of circulation, though the meanings attributed to its mobility vary [clarification needed]. Azonto is identified with Ghanaian indigeneity by those abroad and with cosmopolitanism by those at home.
Azonto was popularized on social media by the music videos that portrayed the dance form with fast-pace tempos, home-made dance instructional videos uploaded on YouTube with no commercial intent, and group choreographers done by mostly Ghanaians and other African nationals living in the UK.
Ghanaian footballer Asamoah Gyan and Togolese football star Emmanuel Adebayor have performed the dance as part of their goal celebrations, and John Carew uploaded a video of himself and his son dancing to Fuse ODG’s “Antenna”.
Following the worldwide interest in the Ghana’s Azonto dance, and the name of Azonto itself being used for a varieties of entertaining activities, such as Azonto Petroleum, the Azonto Ghana Commission was created organise the Ghana’s most populous arts and entertainment (Azonto) and also use the Commission as a department to support groups or individuals using the Azonto dance and other form to promote Ghana, peace and unity among people from all walks of life.