Monday, March 31, 2014

Transcribed Interview

Transcribed Interview on Nigerian Dance with Olubanjo Adigun
My field expert is Olubanjo Adigun who is a professional Nigerian dancer and teacher. Adigun was brought to my attention by my former African dance teacher. The African dance circle in America is very close. She gave me a list of names of those who were well-versed in Nigerian dance. This interview was conducted in the month of March on a Sunday evening. This interview was conducted by telephone and a recording device. Olubanjo Adigun, received his inspiration for traditional dancing from his mother. She taught Olubajo traditional Yoruba dance during her early years, also brought him with her to the village ceremonies so he could learn the dances. In 1986, Banjo received his degree in Stage Management and Choreography. At that time, he and only 18 other artist were selected from an audition of 1,500 artists to represent Nigeria members of “African Heritage Dance Troupe.” This troupe performed throughout Nigeria, and became the “ambassadors” of traditional African dance and music. The troupe also travelled extensively throughout Europe, using dance as a tool to educate the Westerners on the realities and rich culture of their native land. Adigun  arrived in the United States for the first time in August, 1989 the newly formed Oduchiala Dance Troupe, bringing with them their own unique style and music. Adigun strives to preserve African tradition, culture and values through his teaching and performing. As of today, Adigun teachers at an African dance studio and is a professor in the art of dance.
Q: Is the Yoruba culture of Nigerian dance any different from African Nigerian Dance?
R: Yoruba is the culture of Nigeria mostly in the northern part of Nigeria and that is where my heritage comes from. There are three different regions in Nigerian:  Yoruba occupies the northern region, there is an Eastern and Southern part as well. Those are the three different cultures that make up the Nigerian culture.  They each speak a different language and there are over 500 languages in the Nigerian culture. There are a lot of different dialect and languages.
Q: What makes Nigerian dance different from other African dances?
R: African dances [in general] are very close and very similar in rhythm and steps. What makes Nigerian dance different is that you cannot take away the region and the culture from the dance and you cannot take the dance away from the region. They go together and cannot be separated; without the region you cannot have the dance and without the dance you cannot have the region. You have to understand the rhythm of the drum before you can understand Nigerian/ Yoruba dance. The drum is talking to you and you are responding to what the drum is saying, so both of you are talking to each other. The drum is saying oo bam u oo bam u and you are saying “do like this do like this.” You are the dancer and you have to respond to that [rhythm] and you are doing exactly what the drum is saying. You are talking to each other. You are one with each other; when the drum talks to you, you talk back with your body. You respond to the drum, and that is the basic of African dance. You talk back and forth with [the drum]; whereas in the Western world you count and you don’t listen to what the drum is saying. [You must] respond to what the drum is saying. When the drummer looks at you, you will respond to what he drum is saying and your body responds. It is not ballet we don’t do that.  
Q: Are there any specific drums that you use for the dances?
R: Well in the Yoruba culture we have the juju ban drum; it makes the sound dun dun. We have the talking drum from the Yoruba culture as well. Like I said the drum talks so we call it the talking drum. When the drum is talking you listen and that is how you communicate with each other. When the king wants to communicate with the people, we send out a drummer and the drummer will knock on the drum. This will tell the people it is time to listen to the word. When we hear what the drum is saying then we can begin to understand what the king’s message is, so it is very important in the Yoruba culture. A part from the talking drum the dun dun, there is a cow bell also called the ago ago. The ago ago is the gong of the cow bell, when the gong is played and you hear a gong from the king’s tower it is telling you come around I have a message. Come wherever you are and come around and hear what the king is saying. When people hear the gong they come running to hear the message. If you are not around to hear the message from the talking drum then the message will eventually get to you. It is ultimately a call and response between the drummer and the dancer.
Q: Do you notice a prominent change between African Nigerian dance and American Nigerian Dance?
R: If you learn from me, Olubanjo Adigun, I will have to teach you the authentic Nigerian dance, but if you learn from the people that I have taught it might be [slightly] different. There will definitely be a difference because there is always going to be individual uniqueness. If my student wants to teach it might be a little bit different. He will keep the originality, but the rhythm might be a little bit different. Please don’t try to make it too American because you cannot count you must understand the drum. I stress that the most to my students here if you cannot respond to the drum you cannot just do whatever you want. If you have to count that is not the right way to dance. I try as hard as possible to stay away from counting.  I am very strict with my class; I tell them don’t count because if you count you are not going to listen to what the drum is saying and you are not going to get the authenticity of the dance.
Q: What is Bi-Okoto?
R: Bi- Okoto it is literally meaning like a spinning top that turns round round round round. That is the literal meaning of okoto. It literally means top and when we dance, we swirl around and that is where that name comes from.  
In conclusion, my interview was very successful. Adigun was very helpful with answering all of my questions. He cleared up a lot of my confusion with the Yoruba dance versus the Nigerian dance. His pneumonic examples and responses made it easier for me to envision the drum and the dancers. The most helpful response that furthers my thesis in my capstone is the response to, “what makes Nigerian dance different from other African dances?” The response explaines that there is no difference between Nigerian dance and other African dances; they are all used to relay messages and for communication between the king and the villagers. The information about how the dances are danced and how it is all movement to the music; there is no counting. The dancers must communicate and move in sync with the drum without step counts, which is completely the opposite for Western dances. Compared to my background reading, Adigun’s responses were parallel with my previous readings. Adigun’s examples of the drum beats and the definition of what Bi-Okoto improved my understanding of what is going on when the dances are being performed. Mr. Olubanjo Adigun was an essential part to my project and has improved and clarified all of my previous confusion and information. This interview has furthered the success of my capstone on the historical and modern ways of communication through Nigerian dance.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Completed Capstone Outline

Nigerian Dance Capstone Outline
Thesis Statement: The function of Nigerian dance has changed over time, but the importance of Nigerian dance has remained the same.
Most dances you can separate from their country of origin, but Nigerian dance is close to impossible to separate the dance from the culture or vice versa. The Nigerian culture is rooted in dance. Their stories are told through dance and the stories yet to come will be interpreted through dance as well. Every step and drum rhythm has a meaning and a story behind it. The history of Nigeria is tied to their dance and that is the phenomenal imagery of the Nigerian dances. The dances are used for communication and they “illustrate the meaning and underline the symbolism of those occasions” (Ajai 1). After centuries of history and culture clashes, the function of Nigerian dance has changed to meet modern day needs but, the importance of Nigerian dance has remained the same.
  • Nigerian dance/ southwestern culture holds all of the history and stories from the beginning of African time.
“Africa had no history to speak of. Not only were its societies regarded as primitive and unchanging, they were believed, due in large part to the widespread absence of literacy, to posses no collective historical consciousness” (Oxford 3)

“For a visitor to present- day Africa, or for a consumer of African culture outside the continent, this diversity is most apparent in the realm of representation, especially artistic expression: music, dance, the plastic arts, architecture, clothing, bodily decorations, and so on” (Oxford 26).
    • The culture clashes in Nigerian history are some of the main reasons for the interpreted stories through dance.
      • Ancient Yoruba was a Christian culture, but the practice of Christianity was corrupted by “’heathenism’, political fragmentation, and the slave trade” (Parker  42).
      • Being corrupted by colonial conquest with politics and the slave trade is a main reason why Yoruba culture is so rooted in their beliefs and practices. For a second, the Nigerians, realized that their culture could be completely decimated by the Europeans.
    • The Yoruba culture is an example of a project or an experiment of colonial conquest. The Europeans constantly attempted the projects of ‘ethnogenesis’ with militarized aristocracy and Christianized elites to “revamp and expand European ideologies” (Parker 43).  
      • Ethnogenesis (from the Greek ethnos ἔθνος, "group of people" or "nation", and genesis γέννησις, "origin, birth", pl. ethnogeneses) refers to the process of formation or emergence of ethnic groups.
      • The dances that the Nigerians perform are all from a story of slave trade, European imperialism and other culture disagreements.
      • Because of the imperialism and the conquering of the African continent and Nigeria, itself, dance was used to communicate with others. It was considered a different language; “African dance… [a] spoken language, is a source of communication through which is possible to demonstrate emotion” (Weish 13)
  • There are other ways to communicate, but the people of the Yoruba culture in Africa, decided that dance was a better way of communication.
    • These dances hold original meaning and representation. Not only are they beautifully choreographed, but they are motion picture of history.
      • “African dance translates everyday experiences into movement” (Weish 14).
      • African dance is used to interpret everyday life and what is going on. It is like telling a story with music and movement.
    • The original dancers were disciplined a certain way in order to keep the secrets of the dances.
      • The original dancing was very sexual and was not encouraged for the younger of the children to perform.
      • “This movement, pelvic contractions, was used in all categories of dances.”
      • It was considered a “sexual notion” ( Weish 15).
    • Slavery in Africa was a major culture clash and the disagreement with the practice was expressed through rapid gyrations of the body to a drum beat.
      • Despite the distance from northern and southern Africa, most of the same destruction and communication from colonization was the same.
      • “Trade, slavery and Islamic colonization have resulted in the Islamazation of African music [and dance]” (Murray  90)
      • The history of Nigeria has been one of the main determining factors with the evolution of African/ Nigerian dance.
      • “The shape of current Africa music and dance in Africa results from a variety of historical changes: ecological, cultural, social, religious, political” (Murray  92).

  • Historically, Nigerian dance was used to  unite different languages from different villages that are in close proximity (different dances that mean certain stories that are communicated through the Nigerian culture).
    • Dance was used as a form of possession.
      • Patterns were the understood language of the dances and music.
      • “Musical patterns are often conceived as verbalized in black African cultures” (Weish 93)
    • Today, the historical stories that are now performed and traditional dances.
      • The dances in Nigeria are portrayed to be very rich in patterns and costumes and rhythms.
    • Dance is also used to portray religion/ power.
      • Since Nigeria is a very wealthy and powerful African country, the government is very strict and the people, of today are “protesting against oil companies in parts of Nigeria because it is ruining their environment” (Bi-Okoto Educational Packet 7).

  • In modern day times, Nigerian dance is still kept traditional.
    • The dancers are dancing for a certain purpose.
      • There are several dances and reasons to dance.
      • Each dance in the Nigerian culture is for a specific reason.
        • Fisherman’s Dance
          • The celebration for the end of the fishing days
        • EDO
          • The dance before Harvest season
        • Bi-Okoto
          • The “twirling” dance
    • There is a meaning for all of the costumes.
      • The women wear a certain skirt, which depends on the dance that is being performed.
      • The headdress is something that is required for each dance, by women (Dagan  45).
    • Is the rhythm the same and the same meaning in the African dances performed today?
      • The drums are a call and response rhythm.
      • In conjunction to my earlier statement, the rhythm of the drums and the dancing are a form of communication for the African tribes.

  • The modern day function of Nigerian dance is still used as communication, but more for performance purposes.
    • The dances are performed for certain ceremonies and religious events and festivals.
      • There are more celebrations in Nigeria than I Africa so there are more reasons and opportunities to dance.
    • The teaching of Nigerian dance has changed from generation to generation.
      • Today, children are taught the traditional dances.
      • My interviewee is a Nigerian dance teacher and he only teaches the traditional Yoruba dances.
      • He believes that if you are going to learn how do to Nigerian dance; it needs to be the traditional and original version (Bergho 12).
    • The steps and the communication of today still remain traditional with modern function.
      • The dances are still used for fun and communication, but not so much for another language to hide secrets.
      • African dance is still used to connect languages and break down barriers still to this day.
Works Cited
Ajayi, Omofolabo S. Yoruba Dance: The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a
Nigerian Culture. Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 1998. Print.
Anonymous. “Bi-Okoto Educational Packet.” Anonymous. Print  
Bergho, Felix, Traditional African Dance in Context. Anonymous. Print
Dagan, Esther A. The Spirit's Dance in Africa: Evolution, Transformation, and Continuity in
Sub-Sahara. Westmount, QC, Canada: Galerie Amrad African Arts Publications, 1997. Print.
Murray, Jocelyn. Cultural Atlas of Africa. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1981. Print.
Parker, John, and Richard Rathbone. African History: A Very Short Introduction.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
Welsh-Asante, Kariamu. African Dance: An Artistic, Historical, and Philosophical Inquiry.

Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 1996. Print.

Thursday, March 6, 2014