Transnational circulation and digital fatigue in Ghana’s Azonto dance craze

by Jesse Weaver Shipley

Read Article

By Jesse Weaver ShipleyFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12027/abstract

Azonto is a Ghanaian urban dance craze whose popularity is built through its global circulation. I trace its production and flow across studios, radio stations, dance floors, and digital platforms in Accra and among Ghanaians in London and New York. I argue that, as a technologically mediated style, Azonto is the embodiment of being Ghanaian in a mobile, digital world. This dance reveals both the potentials and the hazards of digital repetition and copying for self-recognition. Ghanaian musicians and fans creatively use the repetitive aspects of digital technologies, making this dance a style of symbolic appropriation that links Ghanaian youth both in Accra and abroad into a dispersed community of musical participation that valorizes mobility itself. The dance’s sudden ubiquity, however, creates “digital fatigue,” an uncertainty among participants about belonging in an era of digital replication that threatens to unmoor signs of recognition from the cultural registers that empower them in the first place.

Contestants in the Miss Malaika Ghana 2012 televised beauty pageant dancing Azonto. Black Star Square, Accra, Ghana. Photo: Saskia Köbschall.
Contestants in the Miss Malaika Ghana 2012 televised beauty pageant dancing Azonto. Black Star Square, Accra, Ghana. Photo: Saskia Köbschall.

Contestants in the Miss Malaika Ghana 2012 televised beauty pageant dancing Azonto. Black Star Square, Accra, Ghana. Photo: Saskia Köbschall.