A Journey Through Rhythms and Moves In Zanzibar (With Afrobeats Music And Dance)

Music and dance has always been a powerful medium for cultural expression and a source of unity among people worldwide. Different regions of the world have their music and dance forms that have become a worldwide phenomenon. For example countries like Argentina with Tango, Spain with flamenco, Columbia with Salsa, and Angola with Kizomba. In recent years though, Afrobeats, a genre characterized by its fusion of traditional African sounds and modern beats has been rapidly gaining recognition not just on the whole African continent but worldwide too.

While I had already been exposed to Afrobeats music for a long time now, my first real-life exposure to its dance form came on the island of Zanzibar. During my time in Stone Town, helping at Uzima Space, a yoga and dance studio in Stone Town, I was lucky to come across quite a few Afrobeats dancers and dance teachers practicing their craft. 

Hearing the infectious rhythms and catchy songs (that I had to shazam), and seeing their vibrant Afrobeats dance moves made me realize how much Afrobeats music and dance have conquered Zanzibar, and why Afrobeats dance classes are now all the rage on the island.

The Origins of Afrobeats Music.

Let’s start with a brief history so as not to offend the purists and oxymorons of African music. According to them, Afrobeats is not to be confused with Afrobeat, a genre pioneered by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti. While Afrobeat is a predecessor that shares some common elements, Afrobeats is a contemporary genre characterized by its fusion of diverse musical styles. Afrobeats emerged in West Africa during the early 2000s, with Nigerian musicians and producers playing a significant role in its development.

Artists like D’banj with his single “Oliver Twist” (that featured a cameo of Kanye West) and P-Square from Nigeria began to blend these traditional rhythms with more modern elements, leading to the birth of Afrobeats. Alongside them, artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy (even though he prefers to call his musical style African fusion), and Tiwa Savage have played instrumental roles in bringing Afrobeats to the forefront of the global music scene.

The key to Afrobeats’ success is its ability to blend traditional African rhythms with elements of hip-hop, and other global music trends, which in itself is not that different from what Fela Kuti did when he combined West African music with American Junk and Jazz. The way I see it, if Afrobeat revolutionized African music, using it as a tool to speak out against oppression and social injustice, Afrobeats captures the essence of a rapidly changing African society and reflects the hopes, struggles, and dreams of its youth.

The Afrobeats Dance Revolution.

Traditional African dances have always played an integral role in the culture, and Afrobeats has built upon this heritage, often inspiring new dance trends. Afrobeat, in contrast, was more focused on its political messages and extended instrumental passages.

It’s the dance element of Afrobeats that has made it a global phenomenon. African dances like Azonto, Alkayida, Shoki, and Gwara Gwara have become iconic in their own right, thanks to their appearances in music videos and dance challenges. 

These energetic, rhythmic dances have not only become a staple at African parties but have also gained popularity worldwide through the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

Short dance videos set to Afrobeats tracks often go viral, sparking dance challenges that are attempted by people from all corners of the world. This exposure has helped both the music and dance elements of Afrobeats gain international recognition, and showcase some of the amazing Afrobeats dance talents of Zanzibar.

Zanzibar's Love Affair with Afrobeats.

Zanzibar, often celebrated for its pristine beaches, rich history, and diverse culture, is no stranger to the global music scene. In recent years, the island has witnessed a cultural shift, as Afrobeats has found a special place in the hearts of both locals and tourists. The energetic tunes and pulsating rhythms of Afrobeats have breathed new life into a vibrant music and dance scene that had risked turning Zanzibar into a Koh Phangan copycat with its full moon parties and electronic DJs.

As someone who loves music and dancing, living in Stone Town has been an adventure in rhythm and movement. The dance community here is a treasure trove of talent and passion. But one name that often stands out is Wizy, a young and talented Afrobeats dance teacher who has been instrumental in spreading the love for this genre across the island of Zanzibar.

Meet Wizy: The Afrobeats Dynamo.

Wizy, a young passionate, and talented dancer, is a true force of nature when it comes to teaching Afrobeats dance in Zanzibar. His passion for the genre is infectious, and his teaching style is inclusive and welcoming. While he travels, dances, and teaches around the whole island of Zanzibar, you can often find him teaching Afrobeats dance classes at Uzima Space Yoga and dance studio, situated in the heart of Stone Town which is where I first encountered him.

Wizy’s Afrobeats dance classes are a blend of traditional African dance moves, modern choreography, and a strong emphasis on the joyful spirit of Afrobeats. Whether you’re a seasoned dancer or a complete novice, everyone is welcome with open arms. It’s not just dancing; it’s an invitation to become part of a passionate and welcoming community that celebrates the joy of life through music and movement.

A more authentic souvenir of Zanzibar.

Living in Stone Town in Zanzibar, and witnessing a part of the Afrobeats dance community has been an extraordinary experience. If you’re planning a visit to Zanzibar or are already on the island, do yourself a favor, skip some of the generic tourist attraction traps, and make sure to include an Afrobeats dance class in your itinerary. You won’t regret it.

It’s an exciting way to immerse yourself in the rhythm, culture, and community of Zanzibar. Mastering the captivating dance moves of Afrobeats is not just an excellent workout but you are probably going to feel a greater sense of accomplishment and joy from attending an Afrobeats dance class in Zanzibar.

Besides you’ll also get to bring back home a more authentic souvenir of Zanzibar and Africa in the form of an Afrobeats dance choreography, than what you would get from paying to see a mere sandbank at low tide or to visit a museum full of photos and information (that you can already find online) of some dead music legend.

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