Dance and music are fraternal twins. The goal of many musicians is to be identified with a dance, thereby guaranteeing the longevity of their music. Songs are many, but dances are few, so what better way to write your name into history than creating a move that will put your song in people’s bodies around the world, strutting their stuff in obeisance to your magic.
I often heard my parents talk about the goodness of synchro system, which reigned in the eighties. Growing up in the nineties, Galala as the reigning dance on the streets of Nigeria, after replacing Makossa. Inspired by a group of “ghetto” artistes spear-headed by Daddy Showkey, it went on to become a sight in every social gathering, and a dance for all seasons.
Shortly afterwards came another street dance called Suo, made popular by singer Marvelous Benji. Songs like ‘Danfo Driver’ by Mad Melon and Mountain Black were perfect for this dance, but you could still grove to more western songs with this dance.
Yahooze by Olu Maintain, a sort of victory dance for making money, took its place in the mid to late 2000s. Kelly Hansome also carried it as his dance move for his song ‘Maga Don Pay’, a song similar in meaning to Yahooze: jubilation over internet fraud.
The transitioning from Yahooze to Alanta was so subtle we hardly saw it coming. It occurred between many attempts at new dances that fizzled out just as quickly as they came, from Naeto C’s ‘Ten-over-Ten’ to P-Square’s ‘Do Me’. Alanta didn’t last so long either, and was quickly displaced by Azonto and Etighi, dances that originated from Ghana and Akwa Ibom respectively. Though Azonto wasn’t originally Nigerian, Nigerian artistes made music about it, introducing it to the rest of the world. Afropop singer, Wizkid, was said to have taken the dance all the way to the United States, where he taught his singer friend Chris Brown. Trust Naija to never carry last.
Skelewu was an attempt by Davido to create his own unique dance, an attempt that worked, albeit short-lived, because MC Galaxy decided to create an offshoot of the dance that required people to move to the side while still doing the Skelewu. This was tagged Sekem, but the lines between the two are still blurry to this day.
In 2014, amidst another P-Square attempt to create a spin-off of Azonto with Alingo, new artiste and sensation Lil Kesh introduced the ‘Shoki’ dance. It spread like a rash, so much so that Missy Elliot and Ciara danced it. With it came controversy, as two other artistes laid claim to its creation. Both the old and young knew to bend to a side and raise a hand up to an eye when a song came on. Those who didn’t learned; everyone had to be schooled.
The thing about dance styles in Nigeria is that as soon as a new one is introduced, it feels like the only dance style that existed from the foundations of the world. It would be danced in every club, every church and every owambe, becoming the ultimate indicator that one is soji—also known as woke.
I remember how a friend nearly paid for tutorials on how to dance ‘Azonto’ in 2013. He watched videos, did a lot of practice and often felt bad when his moves in the mirror did not look like the ones in his Azonto tutorial videos. By the time he perfected his moves, Nigeria was moving on to ‘Skelewu’.
Nigerian dance styles originate mostly from music videos, but some have basically just shown up on their own. One of these is the ‘Wehdone Sah’ dance, introduced by Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz the Bahd Guy in his Instagram skits. The move has inspired his song and music video with the same title, but the dance hasn’t attained the longevity of its older and more popular counterparts.
Shoki has been one of the longest reigning dances and has been met by Olamide’s ‘Shakiti Bobo’ and the Dab of foreign origin. The competition is now on for that dance that would run the longest course and get people over the Shoki-Shakiti-Dab era.
A few weeks ago, Charles Okocha, popular known by many as Igwe Tupac, did a video to haters with an accompanying dance. It seems to have gained momentum among dance creators and lovers. We do not know what will happen to it yet, but we stretch our limbs and limber up our bodies, ready to dance if it catches on.