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Feature Article of Monday, 11 June 2012

Columnist: Buachi, Bernard

Azonto; A Ghanaian International Identity

Ghanaians are a people who cherish their cultural heritage and try to maintain it in the competition of globalization and amalgamation of cultures. The Ghanaian has a cultural identity but is characteristically flexible and open-minded when it comes to other cultures. This is particularly true for the youthful population which constitutes more than half the population.

The Ghanaian youth is open to foreign cultures which he receives through music, movies, magazines, the internet, exposed peers and novels.

The Ghanaian is not stiff-necked when it comes to appreciating cultures or even adding up bits they find “progressive” to theirs.

The Ghanaian youth will accept any music for instance as long as it pleases the ear and evokes the right emotions within him.

Ghanaian entertainment as a point in focus is evident of the cultural diversity endemic in Ghanaians. Many a time, the music we listen to and love are in languages we hardly understand.

It looks as if all the while, Ghanaians have been seeking a significant way, consciously or unconsciously to influence other cultures as well. It just happened and the origin of it is a raging debate. Ghana found Azonto less than two years ago and have not looked back since.

Every fun loving Ghanaian is dancing or trying to do Azonto.

The passion of Azonto is like a kind of vengeance; a serious rebellion from a certain kind of oppression. Azonto is now better described as musical self expression rather than as a genre of music or as a dance and indeed some Ghanaian musicians have had a difficulty categorizing this form of self expression. Guru, a musician in an interview with Kwame Poku (DJ Scientific) of Focus FM for instance had this difficulty when asked if Azonto should be a music genre or dance.

Azonto’s influence is phenomenal.

“Stay out of the clubs and parties if you don’t want to see Azonto!” is the unwritten warning in Ghanaian entertainment currently. Azonto is a major crowd puller of event organizers. It has become more than just a breadwinner but a wealth maker. People are launching careers as Azonto musicians, dancers, among others. The exciting thing is the influence of Azonto on the international scene. Renowned international acts performing Azonto is an exhilarating testimony of the reach of Azonto and the effectiveness of the Ghanaian tool in reaching out to influence the world outside. Keri Hilson, Cabo snoop among other international stars who visited Ghana have all tried the Azonto. Mildred (Eazzy) in the Big Brother House tried to make her Ghanaian presence felt through Azonto. Tim Westwood and several big shots in the entertainment world are crazy about Azonto. Fuse ODG’s manager, Andre Hackett also met UK Prime Minister, David Cameron in the name of Azonto. Word is that the Prime Minister even learnt how to do the Azonto.

It is interesting that Azonto has become a proof of being Ghanaian. It is a Ghanaian identity outside Ghana. Once you proclaim Ghana as your nationality outside Ghana, the next expectation is to do a little Azonto for your new found friends.

The dance has not remained stagnant since popping up some months ago but has evolved through Ghanaian footballer Asamoah Gyan’s rendition, Asorkpor, Azonto, Amanda and coupled with the nuances put in by various individual dancers, Ghanaians now have a growing phenomenon under the umbrella name; Azonto. But all is not rosy for the fad. It has come under heavy criticism by the older generation and religious pundits.

The dance which used to feature in Ghanaian churches (and affectionately nicknamed Christozonto or Godzonto) a few months ago, is now being outlawed in many churches and demonized.

Some parents are forbidding their kids from partaking in the dance and attributing it to many cankers in the moral fibre of our society.

Whether Azonto in itself is a blessing or evil, is a fierce discussion better left for later. But while we wait, could we say that Azonto has come to stay as a part of Ghanaian evolving culture or just a fad? Can Azonto and its appendages like Amanda be utilized as a cultural tool for greater good?

-Bernard Buachi 020 8 55 79 65 http://bernardbuachi.wordpress.com/

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