Art04


Yorùbá culture and music as connections, identity formation and disruptions among African Americans 
Convenorss:
Albert Oikelome (University of Lagos)
Olusegun Stephen Titus (Obafemi Awolowo University)
Olupemi Oludare (University of Lagos)
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Chairs:
Omotayo Oloruntoba-Oju (Adekunle Ajasin University)
Stream:
Arts and Culture
Location:
Chrystal McMillan, Seminar Room 2
Sessions:
Friday 14 June, 8:45-10:15, 10:45-12:15 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This work will examine how songs, dance and festivals provide an opportunity to better understand group identity and reinforce cultural memory in the United States of America. The project will also identify changes in the production of Yorùbá culture in the USA in comparison with Nigeria.

Long Abstract

African music and dance are emerging as viable tools for identity formation among African Americans in the United States of America. This is seen in the increase of festivals, performances and other activities that recreate cultural practices of West Africa in particular. Festivals provide a space and resources for constructing ethnic identity that augments racial identity. Of particular interest to this study is the increase of Yorùbá cultural activities within African American communities. Increasingly, Yorùbá culture is being embraced by some African Americans as a means of rediscovering or redefining one's cultural heritage. Celebrating Yorùbá traditions including oriṣa worship, rites of passage and àríyà ceremonies in America provides an avenue for exploring linkages between Yorùbá land and Africans in Diaspora. The study of this phenomenon in the United States is distinct from past studies of retentions of Yorùbá culture in Brazil, Cuba and Haiti because there has not been a continuity of Yorùbá cultural practices in the US. This recent trend in the US involves new cultural contact between Americans and Nigerians, often through Americans making a pilgrimage to Nigeria or developing relationships with immigrants living in the US. One narrative of the process of Yorùbá identity formation by an African American born in the US is Efúntólá Oseijeman Adéfúnmi (1928-2005, née Walter Eugene King) who traveled to Haiti, Cuba and ultimately Nigeria before establishing Òyótúnjí Village in South Carolina in 1970. This project will examine the role of Yorùbá music and other representations of Yorùbá culture in African American celebrations, festivals and rituals.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Olupemi Oludare (University of Lagos)

Paper short abstract:

This work examines how the musical and cultural functions of songs, instruments and ensembles serve as identity connections and formation in Yoruba music in Nigeria and the diaspora by analyzing the kinship and gender stereotyping in Yoruba music and among African Americans and South Americans

Paper long abstract:

Music in African societies encompasses the totality of their socio-cultural way of life. While it functions as the spiritual gateway for worshiping and communicating with the gods, it also serves the mundane musical and cultural sensibilities of identity connections and formation. These sensibilities, reflected in their ethics and ethos, are substantiated in their kinship and gender stereotype structure. In Yoruba societies, where their traditional music showcases their social structure, the interaction between musical and cultural functionalities and kinship and gender identity is sacrosanct. Each genre have different musical and cultural functions, with kinship and gender association, such as Bata drums for Sango, dundun drum music by the Ayan family, the mother (Iya-ilu), female (omele abo) and male (omele ako) drums and others. These identity connections and formation are exhibited in the numerous musical and cultural festivals in the diaspora, such as the musical performances in the Oyotunji Yoruba village in South Carolina, New Orleans VooDoo traditions in Louisiana, Odunde festival in Philadelphia, Santeria in Cuba, Carnaval in Brazil and so on. This research thus examines how the musical and cultural functionalities in Yoruba music engenders kinship and gender identity in Nigeria and the Diaspora. It engages ethnographic research methodology, with data elicited through observation, interview and bibliographic evidences. The study reveals the process of identity connections and formation in Yoruba music and how it promotes and preserves the importance of kinship and gender Yoruba cultures. It therefore recommends further research in music and culture in African societies and the diaspora.

Author:

Omotayo Oloruntoba-Oju (Adekunle Ajasin University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses continuities and disruptions in the African Diaspora, with a focus on the search for ancient African signifiers in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean ritual and festival drama, and reverse signifiers indicating the influence of Cuban and Caribbean on African Nigerian festival drama.

Paper long abstract:

Continuities between Africa and its Diasporas are too easily taken for granted, and they often mask stark signs of disruption in the materiality and spirituality of Black existence in the Black Diasporas. Conversely, marks of disruption also mask signs of continuities.

Comparison is the key to unraveling these continuities and disruptions. This paper juxtaposes ancient African signifiers of continuities in Afro-Cuban and African-Caribbean ritual and festival drama and dance with the reverse signifiers Cuban and Caribbean influence on African Nigerian festival and literary expressions.

Classic African-Caribbean ritual theatre representations by Errol Hill and Derek Walcott, and the Afro-Cuban theatre classics of Hernández Espinosa's (such as Oba y Shango) and Pepe Carril's (Shango de Ima: A Yoruba Mystery Play) provide compelling comparative perspectives. Afro-Cuban theatre festivals such as the Miami based Ife-Ile annual Dance Festival and the New York based Oyu Oro Afro Cuban Experimental Dance Ensemble offers performance satellites for the Afro-Cuban literary experience as well as connections between African scholars on the continent and in the Diaspora. Reverse influence echoes from diverse literary sites: from the Nigerian Calabar and Lagos Street Carnivals to Nollywood movie series such as Igwe Jamaica, and novelistic expressions such as Aribisala's The Hangman.

There is palpable irony in the preservation of ancient African modes of thought, religion, speech and cultural or literary practice that have long been forgotten, largely modified or ignored on the African continent itself. This often leads to a reverse quest for these ancient signifiers and their connections across the Atlantic.

Author:

Grace Talabi (Stellenbosch University)

Paper short abstract:

'American Visa' is a topical Yorùbá musical work from a secular cantata that explores the interface between the social and cultural realities of the Nigerian society and the transcendence or continuity of the cultural activities outside of Nigeria (America).

Paper long abstract:

'American Visa' becomes an intuitively suggestive piece for the interrogation of Yorùbá cultural linkages with America's. Although the narrative in the text of this music anchors on immigration and specifically the manner by which, Nigerians respond to the country's economic challenges, the music composition concurrently is ingrained in the cross-cultural and acculturative musical processes and elements.

'American Visa' is a composition written in the year 2005 by a Nigerian composer of art music, Dayọ̀ Oyèdúǹ. It is a secular cantata piece and the last number in his collection of the Hospital Cantata. This is evidently a Yorùbá music composition that recognizes and articulates the interface between the social and cultural realities of the Nigerian societies and the transcendence and continuity of the cultural activities outside Nigeria. The role of a topical work as 'American visa' is suggestive of music's role as a link between the Yorùbá culture and its representations in countries other than Nigeria. While music serves as a cultural link, it also creates an awareness of human complexities and how they navigate through this to find meaning for living.

This paper, through the analyses of the music score and video recording, interrogates the convergence or divergences articulated in this music. It investigates how African cultural nuances are exemplified in Oyèdùń's 'American Visa' and the role of the music in a broader social context.

Author:

Albert Oikelome (University of Lagos)

Paper short abstract:

The current project will study music and dance in festivals and performances by specific groups with the aim of understanding how identity (more so than religious belief) is (re) constructed among African Americans.

Paper long abstract:

The past decade has witnessed a significant increase in Yorùbá cultural practices in the eastern United States, including Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. This includes festivals, religious practices and musical performances that serve both as a means of exchange of culture by Nigerian immigrants. Subsequently, this leads to further inquiries by the African Americans who desire to reconnect with their roots. Diasporic manifestations of Yorùbá culture always bear some resemblance with what is being practiced by Yorùbá communities in southwestern Nigeria. They are also distinct forms of cultural expression as they span a continuum from carefully authentic to creatively syncretic. This study seeks to compare what happens when recreated in the US. Using an ethnographic approach, the study will explore ways in which the music addresses issues of historical reconstruction, identity contestation and other issues that surround their very existence which is reflected in the songs. The research will cover musical activities in groups such as Òyótúnjí Village (Beaufort, South Carolina), Ayòdélé Drum and Dance (Chicago, Illinois), African Heritage Dancers and Drummers Group (Washington D.C.), Yorùbá Heritage Drummers in (Atlanta, Georgia), Ifa Temple of African Religion (New York) and Omo Òrìsà Ilè Òṣun Temple (Pennsylvania). Using Sue and Sue's Racial and Cultural Identity Development Theory, this study will provide insight particularly on how some African American are adopting and adapting Yorùbá Cultural heritage to form new identities.

Author:

Adebayo Ogunyemi (Mountain Top University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper interrogates how those elements of American cultural practices that infiltrated the shores of Nigeria in the early 20th century influenced the emergence and development of Yoruba Popular music. The paper prolongs discussion on identity formation by extending it Yoruba music development.

Paper long abstract:

300 years of trans-Atlantic slave trade left some imprints on the shores of Africa. The most discussed of these imprints are the negatives. Beyond the adverse are several encouraging trends which have not enjoyed the patronages of most discussants of this topic. Today, dotting the streets of Lagos are remnants of European architecture. Lagosians still bear names Salvardor, Pedro, Salvage that are rooted in their transatlantic experiences. Communities of slaves in Lagos still replicate the Brazillian culture of street carnivals. The name, Lagos itself is a derivative of this experience from the Portuguese who named the island, Lago-de-Curamo. This paper, therefore, interrogates how elements of America-cultural practices that infiltrated the shores of Nigeria in the early 20th century influenced the emergence of Yoruba popular music. These practices imported to Nigeria by returning slaves helped in forming a musical identity that eventually shaped the history of music development in Yoruba land. Genres of music like Highlife, Juju in Yoruba land owed their birth to this trans Atlantic experiences. This genre of popular music, now facing a decline in Nigeria are constituting a part of what is now reffered to in Americà as world music. This implies that these music, originally sourced from America are making a stylistic return to America under a new nomenclature. The paper prolongs discussions on identity formation beyond African-American to how The American experience of African slaves returnees have shaped their identity.

Author:

Adeoluwa Okunade (University of Port Harcourt)

Paper short abstract:

The ascendancy of colonial masters in Africa did not only change existing structure of the people, it also affected the norms, ethos, and values of the society.This, however, did not last for eternity.

Paper long abstract:

The Atlantic salve trade of the 15th century swept away many Africans to Europe and Americas with high degree of cerebral alteration and mental castration in several areas of life. The Yoruba nation of the South West Nigeria, in Africa had a great taste of this moment. Most of them were taken into slavery across countries. while, they were forced to behave 'illicitly' against their culture, and also pressed to change their religious beliefs, these enslaved Africans did not only refuse to drop their religion, they practiced it, though nocturnally with the appropriate music they had imbibed in their system before they were captured.These original beliefs of their music and religion remained for a long time as an underground activities in the Southern America, until recently, when it was legislated to be an official religious and music activities in the Southern America. With adequate bibliographical evidences lacquered with empirical submissions from the filed, this paper, gives narratives of the cultural spirit of Africans that refuse to die, even in the face of 'persecution'