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Calm Down: Nigerian singer inspired a powerful protest in Iran

21/03/2023

Calm Down: Nigerian singer inspired a powerful protest in IranAs Calm Down began topping European charts, Lo c's kinetic response began attracting social media users worldwide.

by The Conversation

21-03-2023 11:23

in Entertainment

Rema performing in the US. His hit Calm Down has gone viral in part thanks to a choreographer named Lo c Reyel. image: The Conversation.

On 8 March 2023, five teenage girls uploaded on social media a video of themselves performing the Calm Down Dance Challenge. This is the choreography for the first verse of the Afrobeats hit Calm Down by Nigerian singer Rema (Divine Ikubor).

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The girls were following people across the world who've made this dance challenge go viral for over a year by uploading videos of themselves dancing to it. With one difference, though: they were dancing in Iran, where it is forbidden to dance in public, especially without the mandatory headscarves for women.

By 10 March, the 40-second video had gained enough notoriety for the dancers to be rounded up by authorities and made to apologise publicly. But the genie was out of the bottle. Their video is still circulating across social media.

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They're the latest in an escalating series of challenges to the Islamic Republic of Iran, rippling outwards from the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. The Iranian woman was arrested for refusing to wear the headscarf in the prescribed manner.

Iranian girls dance to Calm Down. Iranian girls Six months later, Iranian girls are still protesting - but now through a song by an African singer and a dance routine by an African dancer.

A winning combination of music, movement and technology can make dance routines go viral. This was seen, for example, during the COVID pandemic with the South African music and Angolan choreography to the hit song Jerusalema by Master KG.

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In popular culture singers are known by name, but dancers largely remain unacknowledged. So who first dreamt up the Calm Down dance that has catapulted from microblogging fame to joyous defiance of a notoriously repressive regime?

The choreography On 7 March 2022 the now-famous choreography for Calm Down first appeared on the TikTok handle Lo c Reyeltv. The poster was Cameroon-born, Montreal-based Lo c Ngumele Sipeyou, known professionally as Lo c Reyel. He's the founding director of Afro Vybz dance school and in the video he's dancing with five students.

Their short routine coordinates expressive hand gestures with footwork drawn from African street dance styles that globally circulate through teachers such as Lo c. Think Ivorian coup -decal , Nigerian shoki, Ghanaian azonto, Angolan kuduro These local responses to pan-African electronic music constantly combine with Caribbean and African American dance styles to remember and resist the traumas of enslavement, colonialism and policing of the Black body.

Lo c Reyel (right) meets up with Rema, whose song he created an online dance challenge to. Courtesy Lo c Reyel Lo c used these rich resources to interpret a song that had been released less than a month earlier on Rema's debut studio album Rave and Roses.

In a phone conversation with me, as part of my ongoing research into West African dance forms, Lo c described it as a very easy song he felt immediately connected with and could really move to .

Calm down topping charts As Calm Down began topping European charts, Lo c's kinetic response began attracting social media users worldwide. His dance challenge video has, to date, 215,000 likes and 10,500 shares.

Lo c's video is not just shared; countless people of all ages and nationalities learn his steps, record their performances and upload them on social media. From Pakistan to Kenya and now Iran, in solo, couple and group formats, in salwars and sweatpants, hoodies and baseball caps, by hijab-wearers and hijab-rejectors, the videos keep coming - as this TikTok compilation shows. A remixed duet version between Rema and US singer Selena Gomez gave the song a second peak in September 2022. Meanwhile, Lo c's dance challenge continues to captivate globally.

The song Calm down This magic arises from Rema's vocal delivery. His melodic genius transforms the popular B major key with a complex progression of chords. The lyrics twist together the recognisable and near-indecipherable. In the song words and phrases like vibes , calm down and lockdown meet the syntax and vocabulary of Nigerian pidgin ( no dey do yanga and Jamaican dancehall ( shawty ). The fizzy drink Fanta is crafted into an evocative image of desirability ( girl you sweet like Fanta-ooh ). The song pours out like chilled Fanta bubbling up with the unforgettable lo-lo-lo-lo-ve-ve-ve-ve-ve . Its laid back approach decolonises the English language, releasing it for the world to use.

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Rema's official video increased the song's appeal by visualising its storyline. His pursuit of a hot yet humble girl in her yellow dress draws viewers into urban Africa's interiors and streetscapes. Its plotline is universal: a couple struggling to emerge from a group. Lo c's choreography enhances this story. Its hand gestures bring out the meanings swirling around the words. At the same time, legs, waist and pelvis spell out another story: the transformation of African kinetic (movement) codes into street dance styles that became the weaponry of dispossessed youth around the Afro-Atlantic rim.

Dance of joy Calm down challenge Says Lo c:

No matter what our people went through in the past, we are always able to dance with joy.

The body's alegropolitics - its capacity to activ
LINK: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/culture/entertainment/calm-down-nigeri...
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