The art form of dance holds a very significant space within a country’s culture. Through dance you can learn about cultural beliefs, traditions, its people, and the society in general. Traditional dances in Ghana are very unique and vary from one ethnic group to another, so in an effort to understand the country’s culture we bring you the essence of the most traditional dances in Ghana.
Ghana’s ethnic groups
Ethnic groups in Ghana are vast and rich. Each of them has its own unique, traditional dance, many of which tend to be performed at important events such as weddings. Funerals in Ghana are also very rich in dance, not to mention the most important festivals and traditional ghanaian ceremonies.
You will get to learn a little more about the ethnic group and the history behind the dance.
Traditional dances in Ghana
- Agbadza Dance – Ewe
- The Adowa Dance – Akans
- Bamaya Dance – Dagbamba
- The Kple Dance – Ga-Dangme
- Apatampa Dance – Fanti
- Kpanlogo Dance – Ga
- Kpanaliumni – Gonja
- Kete Dance – Asante
- Kundum Dance – Nzema
- Borbor Dance – Volta region
- The Pogne Dance – Fra Fra
The Agbadza dance is performed by the Ewe tribe of the Volta Region in Ghana. One slow movement and another fast movement predominate in this traditional dance. In the slow movement, the arms move back and forth while extended downwards. In the faster move, the arms flap at the side with elbows extended.
The moves, which are done both by men and women, are accompanied by drums, rattles and gong-gong (a percussion instrument formed from a circular metal disc).
Nowadays the Agbadza dance is a recreational dance performed specifically during the Hogbestsotso festival (as explained on Visit Ghana website, it’s a day that unfolds Ewe history and brings to play the memories of legendary exodus and heroic acts of men of boldness and their mystical powers that liberated the Ewe-Dogbo people from the rule of tyrant King of Kings Torgbui Agorkorli of Nortsie in Togo).
However, it originated during the war era, particularly a historical war known as the Atrikpui. During that period, Atrikpui was only danced when a battle came to its end, as a way to receive and celebrate the soldiers coming back home.
Despite it being a dance that is danced both by men and women nowadays, back then it was exclusively danced by men. The only way women were allowed to dance was if there was a woman on the throne or a woman was the successor of a throne.
The Adowa Dance
The Adowa Dance is performed by the Akan people, one of the biggest ethnic groups in West Africa and the largest group in Ghana, accounting for about 49% of the country’s population.
This is one of the most popular dances in Ghana that you will probably witness at some point in a funeral, engagement ceremony or festival. It is performed as a way to express emotions and feelings using their feet and hands. The hand movements vary, based on whether the emotions are positive or negative.
Adowa in the Akan language means antelope. The dance attempts to imitate the movement of the animal, hence why it was called like that. You may wonder, so why an antelope right?
There is a legend behind this dance, which says that there was once an Ashanti queen mother named Aberewa Tutuwa. She fell ill and during her illness she consulted an oracle for her healing. The oracle said that an antelope was needed, something which the Asafo (warrior) provided.
To their amazement, when the antelope was brought home, it started jumping and making other movements. When the queen recovered, the people started imitating this dance and so the Adowa dance was born.
The Bamaya Dance is performed by the Dagbamba people in the Northern region of Ghana. They are known for their sophisticated oral tradition, especially their drums and other musical instruments.
This dance is also known as the “rain dance”. This is because the dance was born from a drought that hit most parts of the Dagbon states in the early 19th century. It was also practised to express social organisation and perpetuate the values that promote group solidarity.
Originally the Bayama dance was only performed by women but nowadays it is also performed by men. The interesting thing about men performing it is that they dress in women’s attire.
The Kple Dance
The Kple dance is associated with the Ga people, primarily found in the Greater Accra Region. This dance reminds us of the fact that the Ga Dangme society was governed by a theocracy (a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god). Reason why those people who dance are priestesses who communicate to gods on behalf of the tribe.
Nowadays you can see this dance performed at the Homowo festival in Accra, one of the most traditional festivals in Ghana, which takes place during the month of August.
Apatampa Dance is danced by the Fanti people of Ghana. The Dance begins with the individual slapping both thighs twice with both hands and clapping the hands on the third beat. The fourth and fifth beats are then made by beating the chest twice. This is accompanied by the beat of some instruments and of course many smiles!
This dance also has a legend attached to it, which is from where the name “apatampa” is said to have originated. People say a long time ago a giant attacked and killed the Fante men late at night. When the giant fought the last man, a woman entered and danced skillfully to draw everyone’s attention away from the struggle. She received acclaim for breaking up the fight (apata ampa in Fante).
Kpanlogo is another dance performed by the Ga people in Ghana. It is performed with bent knees, and a bent back and accompanied by sexually suggestive motions (reason why it is also known for being “sexually suggestive”).
This is one of the most modern dances in comparison to the others as it was invented in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. During this time western rock and roll music started to become popular and this was a huge inspiration for the dance. It was specially performed by the youth as a way to distinguish youth from the elders.
This dance is performed by the Gonja people (interesting fact, their actual name was Ngbanye which means “brave men”). And did you know that There are more than 285,000 Gonjas in Ghana?
This dance is also one associated with hunting. It is a hunter dance performed to celebrate when a hunter kills big animals such as a buffalo, lion, leopard or roan. It is also performed during funerals as the Kuntunkure drums their tailamans while wearing the traditional talisman cap.
Kete Dance is associated with the Akans. It originated from the Kete-Krachi tribe and was danced by the hunters of this tribe. When the Asantes conquered them during the war, they took over the dance.
This dance is usually danced in the royal courts of chiefs, performed for chiefs who sit in palanquins.
The Kundum dance is a ritualized dance common among the Nzema and Ahanta people. This dance is usually performed during the Kundum festival which is celebrated to thank God for the abundance of food during the harvest period of the area. People usually dance in a circle, and it is sometimes done to expel the devil and evil spirits from the village.
Borbor dance is performed by the people from the Central and Northern parts of the Volta Region. Originally it was known as Akpese dance, created by the people in Kpando. Nowadays you will see it performed specially during the festival of the chiefs and communities as a way to entertain guests.
This dance is also common in the popular Ghanaian music genre known as Highlife. It is considered as a social dance that allows for individual expression.
The Pogne Dance
The Pogne Dance is a popular dance by the Frafra people of the Upper East Region. It is an energetic dance usually performed by young people as a way of showing off their strength and power to attract suitors or their partners, it is also performed at traditional events to honor chiefs and royals.