Yes, I am out here in Nairobi to Bellydance but whilst here I have been seriously indulging in another love of mine: Dancing to AFROBEATS! Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that even before coming to Kenya, I was a regular party animal in quite a few of London’s hottest African Night clubs.
My interest in this dance style and music started about a year and half ago when I made some amazing Ugandan friends and was lucky enough to be invited to a few East African parties in London. I instantly fell in love with the music. This wasn’t surprising as I was already a fan of the fashionable main stream Afrobeats which have been hitting the western charts for the last few years – tunes like “Fuse ODG – Azonto” (Azonto is a modern street style of dance from Ghana) and more recently artist such as Canadian Justin Beiber have jumped on the wave with songs like “Sorry”; a song which even here in Kenya is regularly played on the DJ decks. Are you a Beliber lol !?!?
When I first visited the clubs I would just pull on my knowledge of North African dance (bellydance being of course the main one) and years of experience in clubbing to R&B and hip-hop to somehow just go with the flow and bop along to the amazing African tunes, in the least stupid way possible. But, as I found myself attending more and more of these parties I just wanted to dance more and more like these amazing, sexy powerful African women. My friends dance skills’ are more than impressive. It is something they just take for granted and have been doing since they could walk. Their control and isolation of their hips is something that even I, as a bellydancer, admired. They have amazing skills of being able to shake, twerk and wind their hips in nearly every position possible, and powerfully. They can go down to the ground and back up effortlessly and bend over in two without losing any definition or energy in the moves of the hips and bum. It isn’t just the hip work of African dance that I love. The footwork too, the way the beats are stepped out with style and swag, this all with knee control and perfectly timed kicks. And let me stress it isn’t just the women – the guys too!!
So, with the help of my friends and also by attending few Afrobeat classes (which were so hard for me to find at a time which suited my timetable and budget) I started to pick up more and more of the moves. And now in Kenya it is something that I am indulging in every night that I am not working.
The clubs out here in Nairobi are so much fun. The people so welcoming, the music so happening, live and full of talent. There is a buzz of life to the music and dance, and I swear you can tell just from the dance floor that Africa is the place to be. This is where it is happening; this is where the future is. I can’t express how much I enjoy the music and dancing along with everyone. Some of the clubs (especially those in town) have an atmosphere and feeling that everyone in there is just one big family. I can’t explain how; it’s just so relaxed. And I am just loving how my dance is improving! Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from good, and in no way can compete (nor would want to) with these natural African dance queens you see everywhere – but I like to think I can dance to a “social” level and hey I always bring in a few Egyptian bellydance moves - a personal north African twist! I also don’t claim to know much – I mean Africa is a large fruitful continent of different dances coming from different regions and countries etc.…
And this brings me to the main point of this blog (a long time coming I know): it wasn’t just my African dance that improved when I started going to these parties….. My bellydance improved too – and I would say by a considerable amount! In the past I had a lot of trouble with balance in my dance. I lacked confidence in going low to the ground with my moves, and also centring and grounding myself during fast travelling moves. At the time I turned to ballet classes as I had been advised they would be a great way to improve my balance. After three terms of ballet classes, I can’t deny, I was feeling slightly more balanced but not to the extent I wanted. I was seeing more of an improvement in my oriental style as my arm movements and posture got better – unsurprisingly as oriental style has a lot of western balletic influences. However ….. After only what felt like a few weeks of trying to learn modern African dance I saw a massive difference in my balance. My thigh strength and core muscles particularly improved and developed a lot quicker than with the barre exercises in ballet. Moves I previously found wobbly suddenly came with ease!
It got me thinking why? Why was this style of dancing to Afrobeats, so particularly good at grounding me, rooting me, balancing me? My theory (and it’s only my theory) it makes sense! Though modern, this style of dance is founded in traditional African dance so what better way is there to root you in dance than from one which probably has its origins in the very first styles which were ever danced by us humans? After all, modern humans started in Africa and, since there are people who believe that humans have danced even since before sapiens was a species, dance ….. all dance no matter the style is just a (far) derivative of this. So, I genuinely believe there can be no better way to root yourself in your dance other than the root of dance itself and for that you turn to Africa.
I have included videos of some fantastic African dances and music from Uganda and Kenya. I can’t emphasize enough, WACH THEM, look at the amazing control, movement and skill. Also, ENJOY the music which to me it is so uplifting!! I hope you think so too - ENJOY!
A song that is very hot in Kenya right now and playing in all the clubs - was lucky to meet the main singer in a club here isn Nairobi LOL !!! :