Monday, July 9, 2012

Shared Aesthetics: West African Dozo Hunters & Chicago Footwork

Edited by Azizi Powell

Earlier this year I published this post on the similarities between certain Ivory Coast, West Africa mask dances and an African American hiphop dance called "Chicago footwork": "Shared Aesthetics: Ivory Coast Mask Dances & Chicago Footwork".

I wrote in that post that "... the similarities between how the Djoanigbe & Zaouli masking tradition dances and the African American "Chicago footwork" dance are performed- including the fast footwork and one individual at a time dancing within a circle made up of onlookers & dancers- causes me to wonder if a valid case could be made that African Americans' aesthetic preference for certain forms of dance are genetically influenced by our unconscious remembrances of similar traditional African dances.

Yesterday, I happened upon another video of West African dancers performing fast footwork done by members of the Dozo (Donso) hunters group of Mali, West Africa. According to "The Dozo (also Donzo, Bambara for hunter, pl. donzow) are traditional hunters in northern Ivory Coast, southeast Mali, and Burkina Faso, and members of a co-fraternity containing initiated hunters and sons of Dozo, called a Donzo Ton. Not an ethnic group, the Dozo are drawn mostly from Mandé-speaking groups, but are also found among Dyula-speaking communities and most other ethnic groups in Ivory Coast. Dozo societies increased in the last decades of the twentieth century, and Dozo groups came into political prominence during the Ivorian Civil War."


Click for more information on the West African Dozo hunters.

The same statements that I made about the Ivory Coast masked dances & Chicago footwork (and other African American fast footwork dances including "the mash potato", breakdancing, krumping, and more) could be made about the Dozo hunters dance.

Generalities about African American dances being influenced by "traditional African dances" bug me. Africa is a HUGE continent. If a particular African American dance might be influenced by a traditional African dance, it would be helpful if that traditional dance would be identified by its ethnic group, nation, and more.

As I indicated in the previous "Shared Aesthetic" post, by presenting examples of the African dance and the African American dance, I'm not saying that their meanings and purposes are the same. What I am saying is that they share performance styles and aesthetics.

My thanks to those featured in the videos, to those who uploaded these videos. All copyrights remain with their owners.

Sekouba Traore

Uploaded by kaarta223 on Dec 11, 2011

Times for scenes of fast footwork in the video:
6:42 -9:27; 28:15; and 41:04-48:54


Creation & Havoc vs Terra Squad Leaders (Wala Cam)

Uploaded by WALACAM on Jul 1, 2010


Here's some information about Chicago footwork from

"Since the mid-'90s, a style of dance and a genre of music that share the name footwork have been livening up parties and late-night public access TV in Chicago. Now footwork is reaching beyond its hometown over YouTube and through local and European music promoters."


Click for more information about Chicago footwork. That Wikipedia article indicates that "Footwork is a style of related music and street dance that originated in Chicago.[1] The dance involves fast movement of the feet with accompanying twists and turns, and usually takes place as part of a "battle".[2] The music style has evolved from an earlier musical style, juke, a change pioneered by R.P. Boo.[2] The style was popularised outside Chicago by inclusion in the music video for Dude 'n Nem's 2007 single "Watch My Feet".[3]"

With regard to the Dozo hunters, I'm struck by the similarity between the ceremonial fly wisk that many of the hunters in the procession shown in the featured video carry in one hand, and the large feathered fan or some other ornament that is carried by members of the New Orleans Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs (SAPCS). Click for videos of those New Orlean Social Aid & Pleasure Club parades. Here's one video that is featured on that compilation post from my Jambalayah website:

Keeping It Real 2010 Second line Parade rolling on St. Bernard with The Hot 8 Brass Band

uploaded by BigRedCotton on Apr 22, 2010

Also, I'd love to identify the type of processional dancing/strutting done by the Dozo Hunters. I'm tempted to compare that movement with New Orleans Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs (SAPCS), and second liners who join in those parades, but I'm not sure if the same type of dance/strutting steps are done during those two processional/parades.

And it occurs to me that the hats with the raffia hanging down that are worn by some of the Dozo hunters in that featured video remind me of Rastafarian dreadlocks. I just want to note that for the record.

In addition, I wonder if the scene in which the Dozo dancer twirls his gun while dancing [at 43:47-44:00] is a traditional movement. If so, I wonder if this is a precursor of baton twirling by American (and other nations') drum majors and majorettes.

Here's a link to a pancocojams post on the roots of the African roots of baton twirling:

Here are two additional videos of Dozo hunters: Seydou Traoré, Donso du Wassolon

Sibiri Samake - Music of the Hunters of Sebenikoro, Mali

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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