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Breakdancing Did this element of hip-hop originate in Southern Kaduna?

A video posted on Twitter appears to show residents break-dancing in Southern Kaduna in 1959.

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play Break dancers show off their move in an empty lot. Los Angeles. 1984. (Arts Meme)
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A video posted on social networking site, Twitter, suggests that break-dancing, one of the main elements of hip-hop, may have started in Kaduna in 1959.

In the video, posted by Twitter user @tyrone345345, a group of dancers are seen performing basic versions of some of the most common break-dance moves.

Most of the moves that are first seen, like somersaults, appear perfunctory. However, in the second half of the video, dancers pull off moves eerily similar to the cartwheel and other complicated break-dance steps.

ALSO READ: Is it possible to trace the origin of tattoos to Africa?

The dancers, drummers and spectators are gathered in a circle on sandy ground. The tweet suggests that the footage, unearthed from the Huntley Film archives, was shot in southern Kaduna in 1959.

 

The story is that that hip-hop originated in the inner city communities in American cities like New York and Los Angeles in the 1970s. From these early days of the culture, four elements stood distinct.

They were MCing (or rapping), Graffiti, DJing and break-dance.

The video which has been retweeted over 2000 times at the time of writing this challenges this.

It implies that men in Kaduna had been pulling off moves two decades before Grandmaster Flash appeared in the 1983 hip hop movie, “Wild Style”.

The origins of Hip-Hop

It re-opens a conversation about the influence of African culture on the evolution of hip-hop and exactly how much made of Africa made it across the Pacific.

According to the culture’s historians, hip-hop emerged from the dire straits of the abandoned black and Latino communities in the Bronx, a suburb of New York City.

Apart from the obvious influence of the neo-liberal and black power movements on the lyrical aspects of the genre and the people who made up the culture, the style was a throwback to West African griot culture.

play African influences were obvious in the lifestyle of early rappers. (DJMAG)

A griot is more familiar to us as a storyteller, singer, musician and oral historian.

Early rappers bore a connection to this tradition as a sort of American griot, for their knowledge of the local situation, storytelling ability and the use of a distinct flow and different forms of delivery.

Depending on how you interpret it, rapping basically means to converse. Rapping as an art form may well have been influenced by the practice of chanting in a rhythmic fashion found among many African tribes.

The influence of the motherland could be found in the fashion and lifestyle of the early custodians of the culture.

Afrika Bambaataa, the DJ who is referred to as the "Godfather" for his contribution to the birth of hip-hop, named himself as a reference to the Zulu chief Bhambatha, who led an armed rebellion against unfair economic practices in early 20th century South Africa.

It’s easy to see how Africa became such an important influence on hip-hop.

Africa is the source

The emergence of Afrocentric movements in black America coincided with the birth of hip-hop and much of those teachings filtered into the genre’s origins.

play Afrika Bambaataa founded the Zulu Nation as a group of young black people in the 1970s. (VICE)

As such, the genre drew much from its source, the culture of African-Americans who seemed neglected far away from a home they could not lay claim to.

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This culture was built around diasporan traditions that had stood the test of time over centuries.

With time, many of these traditions were adjusted to fit the new environments in which the people lived.

A few of these influences are still there to see in the culture of black people outside of the continent of their origin.

African-Americans are finding their spirituality in traditional African practices. 21 Savage, one of Atlanta's most infamous rappers, practices Ifa, a religion and system of divination with roots among the Yoruba people of Nigeria's South-West.

Tattoos are now seen as a definitive part of the rapper's lifestyle and a part of hip-hop, to a degre. The first evidence of tattoos leads back to the mummies in Egypt.

play Santeria combines Ifa and traditional West African religions with Catholic practices (Wikipedia)

 

The oldest tattoo was found on the mummy of Amunet, a priestess of the Goddess Hathor, during 2160-1994 BC.

Santeria, an Afro-American religion that was developed among West African descendants in the Spanish Empire, is now practised by millions across Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico and the United States.

Throwaways of African culture have been subsumed into the mainstream popular culture.

Nowadays, the absence of documentation around the migration of African slaves and their culture makes it nearly impossible to chart the course of their evolution, which is why this video is all the more interesting.

It wouldn’t be absurd if like everything else, hip-hop was really born in Africa.

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