The Thing About

The thing about focuses on different topics and issues from an African perspective

Being A Rhythmless African

There’s nothing like going to a party with black people to make you feel as though you cannot dance. Whether they are from Africa, the Caribbean or are African-American, there is a certain execution to ordinary dance moves that makes you feel inadequate.

There is a general perception that all black people can dance. Heck, I used to believe that black people had more rhythm than other groups of people. When it comes to the latest dance crazes and all that Whip Nae Nae ish, it is expected that African-Americans should be able to do the dance since it did originate from them. Even when it comes to Africans, there is always the movie that depicts the African natives as happy, musical, dancing creatures. Africans themselves will be quick to say that they just can’t help it, dancing is in their bones. 

The sad truth is that it is not. Not all Africans can dance and not all black people can keep the beat. We all cannot excel in this category. 

I am one of the rhythmless Africans. 

Now don’t get me wrong I know how to keep the beat, my side to side shuffle goes with any song. I simply cannot execute the dance moves one would expect me to. 

In Africa, most of the popular dance moves originate from West Africa, to be specific because Africa is after all a continent, Nigeria and Ghana. That’s where you will find your Shoki, Azonto, Alkayida, Skelewus and all that good stuff. To watch people from West Africa dance is to watch a performance. They have that stank face. They know how to move their arms and legs in opposite directions at the same time, and to the beat of the song.

"What sort of witchcraft is that?"

When you want to find the people who were born to dance you head over to the South. I personally think that southern Africans are the best dancers on the continent. Their footwork is just out of this world. 

Like where are you gonna find this kind of stuff? Where else?   

Plus, there is an uncontrollable joy that is in their dancing. For me, their dancing seems as though it comes from deep within, like the rhythm is just within them. 

It must be interesting to be a rhythmless African in a place like that.

When you come over to East and Central Africa, our dancing is somewhat lackluster. It’s not as flashy or intense as that of West Africans, neither is it like the happiness that is in Southern African dancing. But if you want to learn how to roll and whine your waist, pop and shake your butt, we got you! Lingala in the DRC, Chakacha in Tanzania and the Coast of Kenya, it’s really a talent for people to be able to move their waists like that. 

Then there’s me. 

I may have misled you into thinking I can’t dance. I can dance… at least I like to believe that I can dance. I just look stupid doing some dances. Dabbing, the Whip, the Dougie, Cat Daddy and all other sorts of dances are just not my forte. It’s either I look stupid or I simply cannot figure out how my body parts are meant to move at the same time. For instance, with the Dougie, I have the side to side body movement that goes with the beat… I just can’t figure out how my arms are meant to move to the beat as well. 

The modern African dances are even worse. My shoki looks like I’m digging. My azonto is nonexistent because I can’t move both my arms and legs at the same time. You have to pick one. My alkayida lacks the flavour that is needed to make the other people on the dance floor stop and look at you. Which is probably the worst crime you can commit as an African, if you’re dancing and no one stops to admire or hype you, are you even dancing?

To make matters worse, I watch all those YouTube dance videos and tutorials and get really hyped but cannot execute the moves. It’s like torturing myself because I know I will never be able to dance like that!

Why do I tell you all this? 

So we can commiserate together if you cannot dance. To let you know that you are not alone and if you need a friend to stand at the back of the party with, so people don’t laugh at you. I got you!

I realize that this barely touches on the varieties of dance and regions in Africa but I’ll explain some of that in my next blog post. 

In the meantime, which region of the continent do you think has the best dancers?