Showing posts with label Yoruba Percussion Styles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yoruba Percussion Styles. Show all posts

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Alasa of Ibadanland




To an outsider, Lanrewaju Adepoju's Èwì would seem to be just another one of the many Yoruba percussion styles that are so popular in the southwestern corner of Nigeria: Fújì, Wákà, Àpàlà and the like. I've come to find out that èwì, properly understood, is not "music" at all but a chanted form of epic poetry, and that Adepoju is considered one of its greatest practitioners.

This by way of a fascinating essay, "Lanrewaju Adepoju and the Making of Modern Yoruba Poetry," by Oyeniyi Okunoye, which you can read in its entirety here. Okunoye marks the development of modern  èwì  around the time of Independence in 1960 and the broadcast of poetry in Western Nigeria. In 1964 Adepoju, who is proud of his status as a "self-made man" despite his lack of a formal education, began reading his poetry on Tiwa n Tiwa, a program on the Western Nigeria Broadcast Service in Ibadan, and went on to produce such programs as Kaaaro o o Jiire? ("Good Morning"), Barika ("Blessing/Greetings") and Ijinji Akewi ("The Poet at Dawn").

Born into a Muslim family, Adepoju dabbled for a time in mystical doctrines, associating with a group called the Servers of Cosmic Light for some years, returning to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1985. Okunoye writes:

Although Adepoju has emphasized the impact of his return to a conservative form of Islam on his poetic imagination, it is projected only superficially within the broader theistic vision that emerges in his work as a whole. With the obvious exception of poems in which he sets out to propagate particular Islamic doctrines, the vision that pervades his work constantly shifts between the Islamic and the ecumenical, blending Christian, Islamic and traditional Yoruba outlooks. This suggests either a split consciousness underlying Adepoju's work or a deliberate strategy aimed at popularity and relevance in a multi-religious society. His "Oriki Olodumare," a work that conceptually integrates Islamic, Christian and traditional Yoruba theistic visions, testifies to this.
The 1993 cassette Ìrònúpìwàdà ("Repentance," Lanrad LALPS 150), which I present here, is apparently one of Adepoju's works in a more "orthodox" Islamic vein. If anyone out there would care to provide a translation of the lyrics, I'm sure we'd all be interested:


Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju - Àsà Burúkú  

Download Ìrònúpìwàdà as a zipped file here.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yoruba Muslim Women's Music




We were shopping on Nnamdi Azikiwe St. in central Lagos when we came across a fascinating sight: hundreds of men were prostrate and barefoot in the street, while overhead a speaker blared:


Allahu Akbar
A
sh-had anna lah ilaha illallah
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadar rasulullah

Hayya 'ala-salatt

Hayya 'ala 'l-falah

Allāhu akbar

La ilaha illallah
"The Muslim people are praying," my brother-in-law told me. "Look at them with their faces in the dirt. And these are the people who rule over us." Such was my introduction to Friday prayers at the Central Mosque in Lagos (right), and to the complex subject of ethnic and religious power relations in Nigeria.

Across from the mosque a stall was selling pirated pornographic videotapes with covers that left nothing to the imagination, while shoppers went about their business. The loudspeakers amplified every bit of static in the recorded call to prayer, which echoed among the surrounding buildings. The atmosphere was strange and other-worldly, to my eyes and ears at least. I've believed in no deity since I was twelve, but the spectacle stirred in me trembling feelings of awe and wonderment. For just a minute I was tempted to remove my shoes and join the believers in their devotions.

Needless to say, I don't share the casual bigotry reflected in my brother-in-law's remarks, but they speak to the fact that Nigeria is a nation increasingly divided along ethnic, political and religious lines. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim while the southeast of the country is almost exclusively Christian. Other areas, such as the Yoruba region around Lagos, are more complicated in their religious allegiances. About half of the Yoruba are thought to follow Islam while the remainder adhere to various Christian denominations and traditional religion.

Since Independence Nigerian rulers have tended to be Northerners, hence the resentment of "Northern Muslim domination," and at times this friction has given way to violence, notably during the Biafran War of 1967-70 and recent conflicts over the introduction of sharia law in some northern states. Islam came to Yorubaland by conversion rather than through war, and relations among the various religious groups there have been mostly peaceful.

Among Yoruba Muslims in the 19th Century were a group of repatriated slaves from Brazil who have played an important role in the economy and politics of Lagos. Among the distinctive buildings they erected in the city, all of them now in disrepair, is the Shitta Mosque on Martins St. I took this picture of it during my 1994 visit:



Among various styles of Yoruba music which have their roots in the Muslim community are waka, performed by female singers, and apala and fuji, performed by men. While these styles derive from music performed during Muslim holidays such as Ramadan, they have tended to become secularized over time.

I picked up the LP Asalamu Alaekumu (Leader Records 82, 1992) by Sister Riskat Lawal and the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group during my 1995 visit to Nigeria, and I'm not sure where to situate it within the spectrum of Yoruba Islamic percussion styles. This is clearly a religious recording and not the usual exercise in praise-singing (rather, it praises God rather than rich and powerful individuals), nor is it unique. I take it there are hundreds of recordings in this genre, but I'm not aware that they have a specific label.

No matter what you call it, I'm sure you will find
Asalamu Alaekumu a first-rate example of Yoruba percussion music.

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - Asalamu Alaekumu

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - Allahu Allahu / Eyin Anobi / Ayonfe Oluwa

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - E Gboro Oluwa / Omo Iya Ni Wa / Oro Shekh Adam-Oba To Ni Ike Lodo / Islam Esin Ola

Download Asalamu Alaekumu as a zipped file here.