Agbekor: An African Dance Form

Posted on August 24, 2012 in Culture-Vulture

By Indrani Chanda:

Africa, often described as a dark continent, is three times larger in size than the United States. It is also described as culturally and ritually a diverse land on this earth. Dance, one of the main concerns of African culture is generally referred to the dance of Sub-Saharan Africa. These dances must be viewed in close connection with Sub-Saharan African music traditions and Bantu cultivation of rhythm. Dances are generally performed to teach values to the community, to praise people, to tell historical events and proverbs and also to praise gods.

There are many dance forms regarding various occasions and celebrations such as Warrior Dances, Dances of Love, Rites of Passage and Coming of Age Dances, Dances of Welcome, Dances of Possession and Summoning etc.

Agbekor is one of the popular Warrior Dance forms that is originated with the Ewa and Foh people who live on the Atlantic coast of Western Africa. Once known as “Atamga”, it is an ancient and traditional dance form often performed in many functions, and also in funerals. ‘Ga’ means great, and ‘Atam’ means oath. The legend is that the ancient Africans took an oath before going into battlefield and it also tends to describe the warriors’ state of mind after or before the conflict.

The upper body is the main concerned subject of this dance movement. The dance can be performed individually or in a group to reannact the past history of the warriors. Dancers normally rounded their back and pushed their chest and stomach outwards while thrusting their arms upwards and downwards. Some of the movements are added to this dance style after World War II such as military drills.

Music is closely linked with this dance movement while drumming is an oral tradition by which knowledge is passed from generation to generation without any written music. Drumming is an inseparable part of this dance style. It is as important as the performers. The drummer will often play rhythms and the dancers will follow and perform their pre-rehearsed sequences. Lyrics is also important as the music in this dance. It has been often used to tell the stories of great heroic battles, kinship, and other ancestral events.

Although Agbekor is not so popular outside Africa, but it has attained cultural and traditional esteem inside the country. Now-a-days this dance form is commonly used in social gatherings such as weddings and funerals or as entertainment for tourists.