Africa is home to many rich and varied music and dance traditions. Artists around the world continue to innovate and expand upon these traditional styles. Modern-day dances in Africa have inspired the creativity of millions around the world. Check out some of the most influential dance styles inspiring creativity and joy.
Jerusalema (South Africa and Angola Dance)
Popularized with a dance challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jersalema inspired millions. It started as a South African song, combined with dance steps from Angola, and reached everyone from politicians to priests.
After the Jerusalem topped South African charts in December, it wasn’t until February 2020 that the dance wave started. A group of friends in Angola created a video of themselves performing a line dance to the music. They called it the “Jerusalema Dance Challenge,” and it quickly went viral. The choreography has been performed by groups as varied as Portuguese healthcare workers, Dominican nuns, and Ghanaian army personnel. The dance challenge was also endorsed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as a way to uplift people in his country during the pandemic.
Odi Dance (Kenya)
Odi became widely known when the artists Timeless Noel, Hype Ochi and Jabiddi performed it in this video. The name “Odi” is slang for ordinary. According to Timeless Noel, the choreography was inspired by his desire to create simple moves that even ordinary people could dance to. While Odi originally first went viral in 2018, it recently had a second wave of popularity thanks to a video of Kenyans dancing in hospital gowns and hazmat suits at a COVID19 quarantine facility. It is now one of the most popular dances in Africa.
Pilolo Dance (Ghana)
Ghanaian dancer and choreographer Amofa Michael — popularly known as Zigi — created the pilolo dance steps. The name “pilolo” was inspired by a game similar to hide and seek that is popular among Ghanaian kids. Pilolo made its mainstage debut in the United States in 2018 when Janet Jackson executed the moves at the end of her performance of “Made for Now” on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. In an interview shortly after, Zigi said that watching the American pop star do his moves brought him to tears.
Shaku Shaku (Nigeria)
Shaku Shaku is a contemporary Nigerian street dance. Many credit the Nigerian rap superstar Olamide for turning it into an international sensation. In 2017, Olamide featured Shaku Shaku dancers in the music video for his hit song “Wo”and his annual Olamide Live in Concert (OLIC 4) event. The internet now has many tutorials about the dance. You can find other music videos by artists such as Afro B and Wizkid that feature Shaku Shaku.
Kizomba, which means “party” in the language of Kimbundu, is a type of Angolan music and partner dance that dates back to the 1980s. Today the dance is not just popular in Angola, but also across the globe. Kizomba is now featured at many latin dance festivals and events worldwide. There is such an interest in Kizomba, that some believe it could benefit Angola’s economy via tourism. This is similar to how tango encourages tourism in Argentina. Watch a quick video about kizomba in Angola here or a video of international instructors Lucien and Isabelle here.
Learn more about dances in Africa at the links below: