Not everyone can say they have influence like the Incredible Zigi.
The Ghanaian dancer and choreographer (born Michael Amofa) started his journey as a kid dancing for money in the streets of Accra, Ghana. After losing his mom at an early age, dancing was his main way of making a living, along with getting the support of his older brother.
Fast forward to today and Zigi has created not one, but two dance challenges that have gone viral worldwide. His dance steps, the “Pilolo” and the “Kupe,” can be witnessed everywhere from the streets of Ghana to the afrobeat parties of New York City. Even Janet Jackson felt the moves when she performed both the Pilolo and the Kupe towards the end of her performance of “Made for Now” on Jimmy Fallon.
This is just the tip of Zigi’s influence, however. Check out our quick chat below to learn how the 25-year-old goes from shooting videos with African music stars like Patoranking, to teaching his steps in places like Moscow, Russia!
So first thing’s first, how was it like watching Janet Jackson do your moves on Jimmy Fallon?
I was on Instagram scrolling through posts and I got mentioned in one. Bruhhh, I read the caption which read “yooooo @incrediblezigi @janetjackson did your kupe and pilolo dance.” My heart started beating faster. I teared up after watching it because it really hasn’t been easy building this brand. I started from the streets and now we’re here. I hope she recognizes the creator of those steps.
How did you come up with the Pilolo and Kupe dance?
“Pilolo” is the name of a popular outdoor game here in Ghana, more of like a hide-and-seek game played amongst Ghanaian children. I came up with the steps one evening while rehearsing to shoot a dance video. I rushed to my brother, showed him the steps and he asked me to add more energy to it. I did more research, watched more dance videos, so I wouldn’t come up with an already existing dance, then went ahead to shoot the dance video, ending it with my new step without naming it.
I had over 20,000 views on that video and I decided to trim my new dance step and repost it with a name. I came up with the name “Pilolo” with the help of my friends when one of them randomly passed a joke with that word in one of our gatherings.
“Kupe” is a popular saying on the streets of Ghana to “warn” or threaten someone. So I came up with the Kupe dance step by clapping — to alert or get someone’s attention — and, then show the peace sign — to promote peace in society.
Currently we’re seeing a lot of African musical influences inspiring people in the U.S. — from the #BlackPantherChallenge, to Ciara’s new #FreakMeChallenge. Has any of this impacted your exposure and opportunities?
Afrobeats (and Azonto music from Ghana) has been in existence for the past years, but I agree with the fact that the Black Panther movie really helped get the world interested in Africa. It also helped in my exposure. I was happy to know the U.S. realized how beautiful Africa is.
You collaborate with a lot of other dancers in your videos? Has this been important in building your audience?
Oh yes, it has really helped because there’s a popular saying “we rise by lifting others.” I always reach out to people who have the love and passion for their craft, and help them with any exposure I have out here.
Are there any U.S. music artists you’d like to work with in the future and why? OMG I would love to work with Usher. He inspires me a lot and I would love to teach him my Pilolo and Kupe dances. He’s a living legend!