Get down

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The Old Plantation, watercolor by an unknown artist

Get down is a stance, posture or movement in many traditional African cultures and throughout the African diaspora. It involves bending at the waist and knees, bringing the body low to the ground in moments of ecstasy or intensity.[1] Bending at the knees and waist is an expression of profound spirituality[citation needed] and connectedness to the earth[citation needed]. It also indicates suppleness and conveys qualities and values of vitality, youthfulness and energy.[2][3]

In Gahu choreography, often dancers move counterclockwise in a circle of alternating men and women; their performance includes "long passages of a lightly bouncy basic 'step' leavened with brief 'get down' sections in which the dancers lower their center of weight and move with intensified strength and quickness."[4]

The term "get down" in popular music and slang is directly related to this particular element of the African aesthetic, filtered through the African-American experience. Use of the term by white Americans since the middle-20th century, though, is credited to the influence of a white disc jockey, Bill "Hoss" Allen, who used it on his nightly soul music shows on Nashville, Tennessee station WLAC.[5]


  1. ^ Hemmings, Georgia. "Discovering Africa in Jamaica". Jamaica Gleaner, Sunday, February 3, 2003. Retrieved 02-02-2007.
  2. ^ "Gimme de Knee Bone Bent: African Body Language and the Evolution of American Dance Forms." PBS, Great Performances. Accessed 01-01-2007.
  3. ^ Quote from Soulstepping: African American Step Shows by Elizabeth Fine ISBN 0-252-02475-3

    Such a routine has its origins in northern Zaire, Sudan, Zambia and Mozambique while the familiar "get down" position commonly observed when steppers often begin and end a step by bending deeply from the waist can be traced to many Central and West African cultures. (See:

  4. ^ Locke, David, Drum Gahu, Crown Point, IN: White Cliffs Media, Co., 1987.
  5. ^ According to Wes Smith in his The Pied Pipers of Rock 'n' Roll: Radio Deejays of the 50s and 60s (Longstreet Press, 1989).