When an African Dances


By Gertrude Nyenyeshi

From the plains of Timbuktu to the waters of Limpopo. From the city of Ougadougou to the King Mswati III celebrations down South. From the Juju man village in Nigeria to the boys chasing chicken in Kakamega, when an African dances, a true genuine African, everything else must come to a halt. Whether you were pounding fufu or slaughtering a goat or in the middle of a juju ceremony, an African dance will have you stop whatever…and join in.

Any African event will never miss a true African dancer. By African event, I do not mean a formal event where you have to be dressed to impress and behave as if you bought shares from a company named Stay Classy. I also do not mean an event influenced by the West where the music and the dance symbolize nothing of African origin. Neither do I mean an event where there is no music, definitely not that. So how do you recognize an African event?  Allow me, friends, to take my sweet time and narrate that to you.

First of all, it is easy to turn just about any event to an African one. Yes, all it needs is just a change of music and the presence of an African(s). It does not matter what his attire is, he will always find a way to adjust and move, jump, kick…whatever he has to do.

A true African Event will have the following characteristics:

  1. African Music.

This is the compulsory part. There is no way an African will kill it dancing to a foreign song. The music has to speak to him, connect with him and beckon him to stop in his tracks and dance to Limpopo and back.

  1. African Food.

Well, our enormous appetites are world-renowned; you do not really think we will be drinking tea in a 2ml teacup in an event that we have organized? Impress your date with that one. Jugs make more sense here. There will almost always be a barbecue and in most cases they do not even call it barbecue, you’ll hear terms like ‘Nyama isaambe’ or ‘Rin’go mobul’ or ‘Suya’.

  1. Dress code.

Even though it is easy to adjust regardless of what you have on, leave the short dresses and high heels back where you came from. The main purpose of attending these events is to eat and dance, your little dress will have problems with your stomach as it tries to accommodate the food and the music will have you considering throwing your shoes away.

  1. There’s no designated dance floor.

Forget the formal events where there is a particular area for you to dance. In an African event anywhere is a dance floor, when the music gets too good nobody has time to look for the dance floor, you kill it wherever you are. Yes, we do not have time to search.

When all these have been met we come to the dancer himself. Here is how you will recognize this true African dancer.

  1. From the moment he walks in, there is a part of his body that is already moving. Either his head or feet or waist. He cannot start dancing immediately he arrives because, get this, he first has to scan and identify potential competition in the crowd and then align dance moves in his head. These moves are the ones that he will use it to dance better than his competitors.
  1. Facial expression. If you know Clifford Owusu, you will understand what I am talking about. Take time to observe their faces while they dance. A large array of facial expressions grace these events.
  1. Dance moves range from kicking up in the air to rolling on the floor. Basically it gets to a point where there is a thin line between dancing and madness. Fist punching, kicking, jumping, Shoulder shaking. This dancer is also very flexible, any area of his body can be moved. There aren’t any robotic or mechanical movements.
  1. He does not stop easily. To stop him you’ll first have to approach him from a distance because there is no telling what new move he will pull and thus what will land on you. When you finally get his attention, he will walk away still dancing even after the music has stopped.

That, friends, is how you’ll know you are in a true African event. You can now embark on a mission to attend them and either prove me wrong or right. Whichever way, there is no denying that African events hit the mark.


Semi-geek, semi-normal, Gerty writes very beautifully about varied topics and I relate every single time. She can write about anything. And she totally thinks these things through. I see so much of me in her every time I read her pieces on her blogs. Read more of her awesomeness on Damsel’s dock.

Get your dancing shoes on, even if in secret, like me. ;)

4 thoughts on “When an African Dances

  1. “Juju man in Nigeria” got me laughing. C’mon they are not that bad. Besides they’ve rebranded as “Medicine Man” also “Spiritual Healer.”

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