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Music, Dance, and Song

As for many other African countries, Benin’s traditional music, dance, and song are quite diverse, bearing the character of the different cultures that have marked the country’s history.

This musical and rhythmic diversity developed under the different reigns of Dahomey royalty. It is largely inspired by Voodoo spiritual dances and the troubles that plagued the era. The traditional rhythms still present are zinli, akinta, akohoun, tchinkoume, toba, agbotchébou and kpanouhoun.

Unlike in other African countries, Beninese music and songs are not performed exclusively on special days; they are an integral part of the daily life of the people. In Benin, most dances are characterized by repetitive arm and shoulder movements, the upper body being thrown forward while the knees are bent.


Zinli, a musical rhythm from the country of King Béhanzin, is played on the large drum that gave its name to the rhythm. The zinli drum is accompanied by the sounds of gongs, rattles, and hand-clapping, along with songs and a traditional Beninese dance, also called “zinli.” Yedénou Adjahoui is renowned as the greatest pioneer of zinli. Early on, he developed an unparalleled narrative style conveyed with a voice that is captivating in its intonation.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator border_width=”4″][vc_column_text]

Benin is certainly an untapped wealth of traditional music. Although its artists do not have access to forums for expressing themselves or marketplaces that would help bring their works to international attention, they accomplish astonishing feats through the help of patrons who have made Benin a unique platform in the world music category.

Many researchers and scientists are working to save these heritage dances and songs, now threatened with extinction. The mission of the Conservatoire de danses cérémonielles et royales d’Abomey (CDCRA, which is the Aborney Ceremonial and Royal Dance Conservatory), created in 1996 by a group of Beninese intellectuals, is to protect and revitalize this precious heritage. The centre has benefited from the support of international institutions such as UNESCO and the program Société civile et culture (PSCC – Civil Society and Culture).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row]