Music and Social Dynamics in Nigeria

by Bode Omojola (Volume editor)
©2016 Monographs VIII, 226 Pages
Series: Religion and Society in Africa, Volume 3


Music and Social Dynamics in Nigeria explores the diverse ways in which music reflects, and is shaped by, historical and social dynamics of life in Nigeria. Contributors to this volume include some of the leading scholars of Nigerian music, such as Joshua Uzoigwe, Laz Ekwueme, Tunji Vidal, Richard C. Okafor, A. K. Achinivu, Ademola Adegbite, Femi Faseun, and Christian Onyeji. Focusing on ancient and new musical traditions, including modern African art music, and drawing on the methods of ethnography and music analysis, the various chapters of the book discuss the role of music in community life, enculturation and education, political institutions, historical processes, belief systems, and social hierarchies. Conceived primarily for students and scholars of African music, this book will also be of immense value to the general reader.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Perspectives on Music and Social Dynamics in Nigeria
  • Exploring Meaning and Signification in Music
  • Music and Social Dynamics in Nigeria
  • Themes and Perspectives
  • Notes
  • Part One: History and the Growth of New Music Practices
  • Chapter One: Music in Nigeria’s Social Development: A Step Forward
  • Introduction
  • Cultural Relevance
  • Africa’s Contribution to World Civilization
  • Importance of Cultural Relevance to Creativity
  • African Arts are Always Integrated
  • Concluding Remark: Let Your Light Shine
  • Notes
  • Chapter Two: The Emergence of Neo-Traditional Forms in Contemporary Church Music in Eastern Nigeria
  • Introduction: Prehistory
  • The Colonial Church
  • The Beginnings of Contemporary Genres
  • The Schools, Sunday Schools, Guilds
  • The Concert
  • The New Musical Elite: Of Men and Matters
  • Festival of the Arts
  • Organized Formations
  • The New Musical Personality
  • Coda
  • Notes
  • Chapter Three: From Traditional Antiquity to Contemporary Modernism: A Multilateral Development of Music in Nigeria
  • Introduction
  • Historical Background
  • Music of the Twentieth Century
  • The Search for Identity
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Four: Change and Continuity in Yoruba Socio-religious Music
  • Introduction
  • Socio-religious Activities and Music
  • Islam
  • Traditional Religion
  • Christianity
  • Musical Change in Christian Worship: Global Antecedents and Local Resonances
  • Continuity
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Part Two: Indigenous Forms
  • Chapter Five: Playing Technique and Contemporary Compositions for the Oja (Wooden Flute)
  • Introduction
  • Oja in Traditional Music Contex
  • Modern Playing Technique and Compositions for the Oja
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Six: Modernity and Ovwuvwe: A Sociocultural Process of the Abraka in Urhoboland
  • Introduction
  • Perspectives in Cultural Preservation
  • Ovwuvwe Music
  • Contemporary Trends
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Seven: Aesthetics in Yoruba Music: Case Study of the People of Igboho
  • Introduction
  • Defining Musical Aesthetics
  • Indigenous Terminologies
  • Summary and Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Eight: Toward a Human Interest in Ethnomusicology: The Practice and Transformation of the Uyi Edo
  • Introduction: Performers as Ethnomusicologists
  • Ethnomusicology in History
  • The Uyi-edo Theatre Group
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Nine: Igbo Social Music: Focus on a Nigerian Delta-Igbo Entertainment Dance Group
  • Introduction
  • Otu Ife Onye Wepu Anya Dance Group: Background
  • Organization
  • The Music
  • Summary and Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Ten: Resource Avenues for the Creative Performance of Dundun Music
  • Introduction
  • Oriki (Descriptive Poetry)
  • Òwe (Proverbs)
  • Orin Ibile (Traditional Songs)
  • Adunjo Ohun (Derivation From Imitation of Sound: Onomatopoeia)
  • Alujo (Rhythm for Dance Gesture)
  • Itan Ibile (Traditional History)
  • Isele Oju Ere (Contextual Occurrence)
  • Ohun Ton Lo (Current Affairs)
  • Afojuinuwo (Imagination: Seeing Things Through the Inner Eye)
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Eleven: Ègè of the Ègbá: Its Musical Essence
  • Introduction
  • Content
  • Sung Essence
  • Structure
  • Extra-musical Factors
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Part Three: Music Education and Research
  • Chapter Twelve: The Performer Is a Creative Artist and a Researcher: The Case of the Performer in Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria
  • Preamble—Attitude
  • The Creative Aspect of the Performer
  • The Research Aspect of the Performer
  • Publication of the Performer’s Creative and Research Findings
  • The Performer’s Handicaps
  • The Way Out by Universities and Suggestions
  • On the Assessment of the Quality of a Performance or Composition
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Notes
  • Chapter Thirteen: Music in the Secondary School Curriculum in Nigeria
  • Introduction
  • The Nature of the CCA Curriculum
  • Purpose of Cultural and Creative Arts Education in School
  • Reviewing the Creative Arts Curriculum in Secondary School
  • Creative Arts Program at the JSS Level: The 1991 Review
  • National Curriculum on Creative Arts for Senior Secondary School
  • Problems of Implementation
  • The West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) and the Senior Certificate Examination (SSCE) Music Syllabuses
  • Classroom Implementation of Creative Arts
  • General Hints on Teaching Music
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Fourteen: Professional Requirements of Secondary School Music Teachers for the Implementation of the Music Curriculum in Nigeria
  • Introduction
  • The Teacher of Music
  • Music Teaching Profession and Musicianship
  • Quantitative Survey of Training Needs
  • Personal Qualities of a Music Teacher
  • Musical Competencies
  • Professional Qualities
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Fifteen: The Nature of and Approaches in Research in Music Education
  • Introduction
  • Two Major Approaches in Music Education Research
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Part Four: Art Music of Modern Composers
  • Chapter Sixteen: The Process of Composing Talking Drums
  • Introduction
  • Analysis of Talking Drums
  • First Movement
  • Second Movement
  • Third Movement
  • Sections and Solutions
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Seventeen: Compositional Style and the Search for Identity in Nigerian Art Music
  • Introduction
  • Sowande’s Pioneering Works
  • Akin Euba’s African Pianism
  • Orchestral Works
  • Artistic Transformation of Folk Songs
  • Musico-Dramatic Works
  • Summary and Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Eighteen: Fela Sowande and Posterity: Whither Nigerian Music?
  • Introduction
  • The Public Arena (Lay Public)
  • The Music Circle
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Part Five: Music and the Performing Arts
  • Chapter Nineteen: Music in Nigerian Traditional Dance Performance
  • Introduction
  • Dance and Music as Manifestations of Social Dynamics
  • Interrelationship of Dance and Music
  • Relationship on the Level of Interpretation
  • Relationship on the Level of Form and Technique
  • Relationship on the Level of Function and Context
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Twenty: Working Dynamics in Directing an Opera for Stage: Bode Omojola’s Ode for a New Morning
  • Introduction
  • The Libretto
  • Setting
  • Historical Setting
  • Political Setting
  • Stage Realization
  • Directorial Concept and Interpretation
  • Music
  • Dance and Movement
  • Acting and Mime
  • Scenography
  • Properties
  • Costume
  • Lighting
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Twenty-One: The Performing Arts: Music, Dance and Drama—Contributions to National Development
  • Introduction
  • Contributions to National and Cultural Development
  • Political Development and National Patriotism
  • Contributions to Development of Broadcasting Media and Global Networks
  • Education
  • Contributions to Economic Development
  • Music Industries
  • Orchestras and Bands
  • Musical Instrument Technology and Publishing
  • Recording Companies
  • Radio and Television Jingles and Advertisements
  • Dance Troupes
  • Drama/Theatre Companies
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Twenty-Two: Music and the Nigerian Theatre: The New Social Dynamics
  • Introduction
  • Historical Facts
  • The Classical Phase
  • Observations and Deductions
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Perspectives on Music and Social Dynamics in Nigeria


“Human behavior produces music, but the process is one of continuity; the behavior is shaped to produce music sound and thus the study of one flows into the other.”

—MERRIAM (1964: 6)


Merriam’s classic observation articulates a major theme in ethnomusicology and highlights the polarity that defined its growth as a discipline in its early years. Put simply, this division exists between “extrageneric” and “congeneric” approaches to the understanding of the significance of music (Cooke 1959: 152). The first privileges the value of music as an integral part of a wider cultural fabric, while the second concentrates on the meaning of music as coded and realized within its own internal structures. These two approaches are highlighted to a certain extent in the works of two key pioneering scholars: Alan Merriam (1964), in his predominantly “contextual” approach, and Mantle Hood (1971), in his emphasis on the significance of “the music itself.”

Although the focus on the polarity between the “contextualists” and the “structuralists” has waned significantly in current ethnomusicological discourses—partly because of the realization that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive (they should indeed be seen as complementing of each other)—the difference of emphasis highlighted in the two approaches speaks to some central issues about the criteria for mediating a musical performance and the different ways in which music communicates. ← 1 | 2 →

Two of the pioneering scholars who have attempted to demonstrate the significance of referential meaning in music are Deryck Cooke and Leonard Meyer. Cooke, through analyses of works by European composers who retain tonality in their works, states that “the mysterious art known as music is primarily and basically a language of the emotions through which we directly experience the fundamental urges that move mankind without the need of falsifying ideas and images, words or pictures” (Cooke 1962: 272). Meyer’s view reflects a structuralist-expressionist perspective through the explanation that, while a level of musical meaning manifests in the perception of structural relationships, music does also arouse connotative responses. According to him, “whether a piece of music arouses connotations depends to a great extent upon the disposition and training of the individual listener and upon the presence of cues, either musical or extra-musical, which tend to activate connotative response” (Meyer 1956: 264). The emphasis on the significance of referential meaning as stressed by these two scholars contrasts with the position of major proponents of structuralism like Igor Stravinsky (1962) and Eduard Hanslick (1986).

Although the basic elements of the arguments of these scholars are applicable to traditional African music, the main cultural premise for their ideas is European instrumental classical music. In Nigerian music, social meaning is communicated and interpreted within social and religious contexts in which music performances take place. Even on occasions when they are performed outside their specific sacred or secular contexts, music events in Africa are often mediated primarily in ways that reinforce the social values and belief systems associated with their “original” contexts. John Blacking, who made this observation earlier—with reference to South African music—also explained that such types of musical communication are referential in the sense that their “extra-musical social meaning is conveyed not so much by the music itself as by direct association of sound patterns with specific social contexts” (Blacking 1969: 46).

As highlighted in the position of Blacking, the factors that govern the mediation and interpretation of music are often deeply grounded in cultural practices and social phenomena that resonate well beyond, and often define the context and scope of, a musical performance. Blacking, commenting further on this, noted that music is “an outward sign of human communication whose main function is to enhance in some way the quality of individual experience and human relationships. Its structures are reflections of patterns of human relations. The value of a piece of music as music is inseparable from its value as an expression of human experience” (Blacking 1969: 33–34).

As expected, the interrelatedness of musical performance, social phenomena, and cultural beliefs manifests in multiple perspectives. Musical performance provides the context for understanding various aspects of community life, including patterns of enculturation and education, organization of political institutions, ← 2 | 3 → historical processes, gender practices, belief systems, and social hierarchies. The various chapters of this book, written by experts in different areas of music scholarship, explore the diverse ways in which music reflects and is shaped by historical and social dynamics of life in Nigeria.1

These essays emanated from a conference that I convened at the University of Ilorin in 1993. In this edition, the essays have been revised and updated to accommodate new ideas on the various issues covered, and to reflect recent cultural, social and political developments in Nigeria. One of the reasons for which I organized the conference was to form an association that would provide a platform for Nigerian music scholars and composers to exchange ideas on a regular basis through annual conferences and workshops, and to make their works available through publications and performances. The conference featured Professor Laz Ekwueme as keynote speaker, Professor Meki Nzewi as distinguished scholar, and Dr. Achinivu Kanu Achinivu as conference choral conductor. As planned, I coordinated the formation of a new association, known as Musicological Society of Nigeria (MSN), at the conference. Dr. Achinivu was elected national president, while I became the national secretary. As the founding national secretary, my job was to ensure the survival of the new body. The society was later registered under a new name, Association of Nigerian Musicologists (ANIM), to avoid a confusion of identity with a previously registered and totally different organization, Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON).

It is gladdening to note that ANIM has grown in size and influence since 1993, thanks to the hard work of a set of dedicated leaders like Dr. Femi Faseun, Dr. Femi Abiodun, Professor Mosunmola Omibiyi-Obidike, Professor Daniel Agu, Professor Femi Adedeji, and Professor Charles Aluede, who have served as president or secretary over the past eleven years.


It is important to note that many of the authors featured in this book made these contributions at the formative stages of their academic careers and have since risen to higher academic cadres. Yet, the issues and the arguments in their essays remain cogent and relevant, highlighting some of the key areas that have continued to attract the attention of Africanist scholars. My summary of the various chapters ahead highlights some of these issues.

Tunji Vidal and Richard Okafor, among others, trace the intertwining relationships between musical change and social transformations in Nigeria, while Laz Ekwueme, Lucy Ekwueme, Ranti Adeogun, and Femi Faseun discuss music education, with emphasis on the challenge of forging a socially relevant curriculum in a postcolonial African nation. Oluyemi Olaniyan, Emeka Nwabuoku, ← 3 | 4 → Ngozi Mokwunyei, J. Ofosu, Ademola Adegbite, Sam Amusan, and Taiye Adeola discuss a variety of performance and social practices associated with indigenous music, while Ayo Akinwale, Chris Ugolo, Segun Oyewo, and Adolf Ahanotu explore the interrelationships between music, drama, and dance, as well as the intertextual ways in which creative and artistic forms of communication take place. Achinivu K. Achinivu discusses the significance of performance as a form of research, and the challenge of combining performance and research activities within the Nigerian university system. The chapters by Joshua Uzoigwe, Oluwalomoloye Bateye, and myself examine contemporary Nigerian art music from the perspective of how composers conceptualize intercultural creative expressions.2 Uzoigwe’s essay is particularly significant in providing a rare opportunity to hear directly from one of Africa’s most important composers about the creative choices that informed his compositions. Christian Onyeji discusses how indigenous musical instruments could be standardized and incorporated into modern music practice.


As shown in this brief summary, many of these essays articulate or are informed by some specific theoretical or thematic concerns that could be explored further and problematized in new research works. Such theoretical issues and themes that I was able to glean from the chapters—whether faintly suggested or strongly articulated by their authors—include the following:

i. dynamics of local musical diasporas (Mokwunyei),

ii. the performer as an ethnomusicologist (Nwabuoku),

iii. performativity in traditional festivals (Ofosu),

iv. Africanist ethno-theory (Adeola, Amusan, Olaniyan),

v. organology (Onyeji),

vi. bi-cultural music pedagogy (Laz Ekwueme, Fasheun, Lucy Ekwueme, Adeogun),

vii. dynamics of musical pluralism (Vidal, Okafor, Adegbite),

viii. intercultural aesthetics (Uzoigwe, Bateye, Omojola),

ix. the performer as a researcher (Achinivu), and

x. concepts of the African total theatre (Oyewo, Akinwale, Ugolo, and Ahanotu).

It is also important to note that these various essays are marked by a range of methodological approaches that include ethnographic research, historiography, and the structural analysis of music. The variety of methods and themes featured in this book draws attention to the multifaceted dynamics of musical practice in ← 4 | 5 → Nigeria and the multiple cultural contexts and social spaces within which music is performed and mediated. It is hoped that the discussions in the book will help stimulate further studies in ways that widen and deepen the terrain of musical discourse in Nigeria and indeed in Africa as a whole.


1. Nigeria, with a population of about 180 million, is Africa’s most populous nation. For further information on the background history of Nigeria, see: Coleman (1965), Burns (1972) and Ayandele (1966).

2. For a concise study of the works of modern Nigerian composers, see Omojola (1995).


VIII, 226
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. VIII, 226 pp., num. ill. and tables

Biographical notes

Bode Omojola (Volume editor)

Bode Omojola is Five College Professor of Music, teaching at Mount Holyoke College and the other institutions of the Five College Consortium, namely, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Omojola obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Leicester in England, and has held the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship at the University of Cologne, Germany. A former Radcliffe Institute Fellow in Musicology at Harvard University, Omojola was the founding National Secretary of the Musicological Society of Nigeria (now the Association of Nigerian Musicologists). He currently chairs the Five College African Studies Council of the Five College Consortium. His previous books include Yoruba Music in the Twentieth Century: Identity, Agency and Performance Practice (2012) and Nigerian Art Music (1995).


Title: Music and Social Dynamics in Nigeria