Breaking down what could become the year's new dance craze.
With last week's release of the video for "Zanku (Leg Work)," Zlatan Ibile has consecrated himself as the originator of the newest dance craze in afropop.
The specific origin of the name 'zanku' is uncertain but the dance itself, says Ibile in this interview from December, is one he noticed from his visits to The Shrine in Lagos and refashioned into a trend.
The best zanku, so far, works best in beats combining repeated foot tapping or pounding, with hands held aloft, and finished with a flourish—a stylised thrusting of one foot as if to knock down a door. Variations include a faster footwork, mimicry of slicing and screwing hand motions and the brandshing of a white kerchief, all of which is done with vigour and attitude.
ZLATAN - ZANKU (LEG WORK) OFFICIAL VIDEO www.youtube.com
Zanku is not new.
It was in Zlatan's video for "Jogor," which was released in back in August of 2018. That music video featured Lil Kesh—who started the shoki dance craze—and Naira Marley whose song "Issa Goal" was a big street and football anthem during the World Cup. But, with a World Cup afoot and the shaku dance at its most popular, the zanku had a slower intake into Nigerian pop consciousness.
The Zanku dance found ample berth in Chinko Ekun's "Able God," released in October of 2018, which features Zlatan and Lil Kesh as well. The video for "Able God" sees all three artists giving individual variations of the dance which, combined with the song's triumphalist theme of "no more insufficient funds," made it an endearing smash hit.
CHINKO EKUN - ABLE GOD ft LIL KESH X ZLATAN IBILE [OFFICIAL VIDEO] www.youtube.com
Zlatan has sensibly capitalised on his invention by making his new single explicitly about the zanku dance and titled after it, in a way that will crystallize the wave as his. That zanku wave is likely to dominate many dance floors, memes and Instagram posts of 2019.
That is not to say that shaku is dead. The footwork and hand gestures of shaku fit snugly with that of zanku. Even with the excitement of a new fun trend and cheap internet access, it could take weeks and probably months for zanku to fully dominate and finally eclipse shaku, as has happened to shakiti bobo and shoki before it.