What is Afro Swing?

Afro Swing

Afro Swing is the research of the African roots of Swing dances and the honoring of this connection. Since the concept of Afro Swing was initiated by Hodi Maputo Afro Swing in 2012, the research and development of what it is has been ongoing. We believe that is what research is about; to not accept something as true but always be open to new ideas and insight. For us Afro Swing is the beginning of a movement connecting Swing and Lindy Hop with its African roots and this is how far we have come in our research:

Already in the 1950’s inspiration from Louis Armstrong and other Jazz musicians came to the Township Sophiatown in Johannesburg which was even called “Harlem of South Africa”. This was, just like Harlem, the first place where people of all colors came together and danced a South African predecessor of Afro Swing called ¨Township Jive¨ to the music of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masakela and Jazz inspired music style Kwela. Unfortunately there is a lack of original films but here are some children giving you a demonstration of what it may have looked like:

Moving back to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean Lindy Hop is an African American partner dance born out of communal expression in Harlem developed along side the Jazz music. It has it’s roots in the Charleston and early Jazz dancing which is full of rhythm variations, improvisation, expressive body movements and an energy not all people can naturally find. Many of these elements have travelled across from Africa through the slave trade and survived through working songs, spirituals, blues and into the swing. However along the way, the African Roots have been influenced by the daily life of the African Americans and other influences such as European ballroom dances.

Africa is a continent with 54 countries and thousands of different ethnic groups with different cultures and traditions. However, there are still similarities and common ground across African traditional dances, across West and Southern Africa, related to rhythm, expression, connection to the ground and the quality of movement; similar roots that can be found in Authentic Jazz and Lindy Hop.

The Afro Swing initiative mainly has a perspective related to Mozambican traditional dances but also from other African dances. We see the importance of this historical lineage and want to connect Lindy Hop to its African roots. We want to bring dancers from different parts of Africa into the modern Lindy Hop world to help the scene stay true to its roots; it’s joy, expression and human connection.

This is the video clip of the birth of Afro Swing in Mozambique filmed after Lisa Josefsson first class with Hodi Maputo Afro Swing in January 2012. Five years later, the Mozambique Afro Swing Exchange is happening for the third time.

Today we divide Afro Swing into three main pilars:

Recognition of the African Roots in Authentic Jazz and Lindy hop (from our Mozambican perspective);
  • Percussion, rhythms, poly rhythms;
  • Posture, connection to the earth, qualities of movements, strength;
  • Improvisation, call and response, emotional expression, spiritual connection;
  • Storytelling, imitation of characters, movements from daily life or animals;
  • Community, human connection, jam circle, competition.
Exploration of the connection Afro Swing;
  • Play with similar steps and rhythms;
  • Dancing Lindy Hop/Jazz/Tapp/Blues to African drums;
  • Dancing African Moves to Swing music;
  • Mixing African movements with swing and Lindy Hop socially and in chorographies;
  • Invite an “African” expression in Lindy hop and Jazz.
The movement Afro Swing
  • Spread Lindy Hop in Africa;
  • Bring in Africans into the lindy hop world as teachers and social dancers;
  • Create awareness of the African Roots of Lindy Hop and it’s challenges;
  • Create opportunities for professional African dancers to share their rich culture and expertise.
  • Bring Lindy Hop to African young people and children that can enjoy these dances with high energy

See Hodi Afro Swing Kids bringing in their powerful energy into the classic choreography Mama’s Stew by Mama Lu Parks:

Carlos Machava and Vasco Wate “Mitó” dancing the Tranky Doo with and Mozambican influence at Herrang Dance Camp 2017: