Traditional African dances are done for a wide variety of reasons and on a vast number of occasions. From weddings to births to harvest to funerals. Just like our music, dances in Africa are as varied as the cultures that make up this beautiful continent. Employing a variety of movements and instruments, clothing and character, beats and rhythms, they are a feast for almost all the senses.
It sounds kind of ominous but for the most part, the majority of African dances and dancing done across the continent is quite joyous and done on happy occasions. African dance traditional, for weddings, depending once again on the country in question varies too – there are bridal dances, dances done by the groom, and dances the parents do as well. When it comes to weddings, on both sides they aren’t “giving their child away” per se, they are gaining an additional one… And that’s definitely a good reason to dance!
Traditional Dances From Across Africa
Dancing at a wedding is pretty straightforward, but what other types of dancing goes on in Africa?
From the sanza, to the talking drum, from the balafon to the djembe and doumbek drums; the nanga to the kalinga to the matepe… The most important part of African dancing is the music that accompanies the dancing. These are just some of the instruments that are used to create that traditional African music sound. Some are melodic while others produce a steady bass beat…
Then there’s the singing, it’s hard to do too much dancing when the music is playing without breaking out into song. Whether trained or untrained, singers use complicated arrangements harmonizing with one another to set the rhythm and pace for the dances.
When it comes to dancing, words can only do so much. It is by far better to see these African traditional dances in action.
Videos Of African Dances
Tshwane, from the province of Gauteng in South Africa. People in this area speak both Tswana and Ndebele. Don’t be fooled though, this province is fast becoming a major tourist hotspot because of its rich historical roots.
Yoruba Bata Dancers
The Yoruba people are mainly from West Africa, in particular, Nigeria. The following video is of a traditional Yoruba dance known as Bata. The are subtitles so you can follow along with the words that are being sung.
Here is some footage of a traditional Tunisian dance. It is being performed at a wedding and though there is no specific name for it, the movements are hallmark dance step of Tunisian dances done by women.
In the past, although the Adzohu dance a.k.a. Adzogbo, Alkoli dance, was done in preparation for war, nowadays you will primarily only see it done ceremonially for entertainment purposes. Wearig colorful hats, raffia around thier knees and ankles, and vibrant bells, this dance is purported to strengthen cultural identity and build self-respect.
Also from Ghana, the Lobi people of Cape Coast perform the Bawa dance. It is primarily a prayer, thanksgiving, and general celebratory dance. The following video has a nice intro to the dance.
Imagine warriors of days gone by dressed in their fighting attire. Unlike military uniforms worn nowadays that tend to be one solid color and very serious, these Swazi warrior dancers have bright colourful outfits that seem to almost energize them for the task ahead.
Here is another war dance and this one is from Botswana. I do believe that Ma Ramotswe of “The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency” would be very proud…
Though this one is more like a music video, you get to see some Ethiopian dance moves.
Occasions For Traditional African Dance
Certain special occasions are cause for specific types of African dance traditional style. There are ceremonial marriage and wedding dances, coming of age dances, war dances, and dances to welcome people home. Almost any occasion really can be a reason to dance quite frankly. Among Africans, body movements are one of the best and most effective ways of communicating with one another. For this reason a lot of traditional dance rituals tend to employ symbolic mimes and gestures. In addition, depending on the particular dance, masks, props, and body painting may also be an integral part.