Philosophical Elements in Agidigbo Music and their Didactic Values for Promoting Effective Educational System for Africa.

AuthorSamuel, Kayode


There have been several calls from many quarters, scholarly and otherwise, repeatedly directed at Africans on the need to be introspective and vigorously search for practicable solutions to the perennial challenge of leadership capital deficit plaguing the continent and her numerous institutions. The need to recapture lost opportunities and apprehend a promising future for Africa cannot be better stressed than now following a decline in and subsequent collapse of the people's enviable values and effective enculturative modes. Africa, no doubt, possesses an overwhelming humanity legacy that is efficacious to redeem numerous forms of moral drifts as well as mediate many defiant humanity practices through her purposive home-grown interventions. This divinely supreme wisdom was once deployed through advanced application of Africa's living heritage, especially as contained in her indigenous knowledge system. It also manifested within both the informal and non-formal settings that characterized Africa's traditional form of education. In this work, we attempt to interrogate how Africa's (more specifically Yoruba's) philosophical nuances, as exemplified in agidigbo music, promote an understanding of the people's educational and enculturative values for the purpose of developing the total man.

Yoruba is a term used after a people and the language commonly spoken in the six states of Southwestern Nigeria as well as in some parts of Kwara and Kogi states. They are made up of many sub-ethnic groups including Ekiti, Ijebu, Egba, Ijesa, Igbomina, and Ilaje, with prominent cities in Yorubaland including Ibadan, Osogbo, Abeokuta, Akure, Ado-Ekiti, Oyo, Ijebu-Ode, Ogbomoso, Lagos, Ondo, Ilesa, Iseyin and Ile-Ife (Omojola, 2012). According to Borokini and Lawal (2014), Ile-Ife is generally regarded as the religious-cultural center for all the Yoruba people. Besides Nigeria, descendants of Yoruba are found in the Republic of Benin and Togo. They have also spread to several parts of the African diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, notably Brazil and Cuba, as a result of the trans-Atlantic slavery that occurred between the 16th and 19th centuries (Omojola, 2012).

The Yoruba are music enthusiasts just as the art is also an inseparable element of their culture. Music is found in many of their social ceremonies except a few occasions including the burial of a young person or at certain festivals, like Edi (1) as well as during an outbreak of epidemic disease (Euba, 1990). Another notable attribute of the Yoruba is the fact that they possess a rich culture and tradition. They place a high premium on good character as evidenced in a philosophical principle known as omoluabi. The training among them, usually through music, folk tales, festival, proverbs and other traditional elements is targeted at achieving an integrative and formative effect on the character, skills and mind, as well as the physical and spiritual abilities of the learner.

The ultimate goal is to ensure that the individual lives effectively and grows up to become a responsible citizen in the society. A person is considered an omoluabi (good person) if s/he displays exemplary humane attributes, which include rendering help to others, respecting the elderly, leading a good moral life, speaking politely, not being lazy but hard-working, etc. All these virtues are well articulated in the people's music and in their day to day interactions.

Agidigbo music is a traditional social musical genre that is commonly used for relaxation, panegyrizing, satirizing as well as at ceremonies among the Yoruba. The music is rooted in proverbs, aphorisms, parables, metaphors and traditions of the people with some coded song texts requiring deep understanding of culture. As an agency of education, agidigbo music is often presented using skillfully crafted language including figures of speech, imagery and other poetic elements in expressing deep Yoruba philosophical nuances. Philosophical messages are often coded in terms of language presentation, their symbols are, more often than not, fragmented, leaving listeners to reason deeply in order to deduce the full meaning of the music (Idamoyibo, 2013:117). The foregoing could best be illustrated in a saying: l'owe l'owe la a lu'lu ogidigbo (2) ; ologbon ni i jo o, omaran ni i mo o, ewe koko la fi i se e, ganmuganmu la fi i lu u; ko gbodo fo, beeni ko si gbodo ya, which was interpreted as: 'ogidigbo drum is cryptically played like proverbs; it is only the wise that can dance to it and only the informed can discern it' (Olatunji, 1984; Samuel, 2015).

As common in many African societies, the concept of education among the Yoruba is holistic, and practical-oriented. It is geared towards moulding character and ensuring the individual emerges as a useful member of the community. The principles governing virtues of the society are taught through exemplary lifestyles and a demonstration of good character by adults. Other media include: folktales, proverbs, poem, songs, myths, direct instruction, and other unwritten norms of the society. Awoniyi (1975) notes that the principle governing Yoruba education is based on the doctrine of omoluabi and the by-product of education is to make an individual an omoluabi. Education is a life-long process, the whole society representing the 'school' system wherein numerous aspects of character-building as well as the development of physical and mental aptitudes, acquisition of good moral qualities, knowledge and techniques are properly cultivated. However, the people's enduring culture and society, which used to be grounded on traditional systems, have largely been overwritten by Western ones, and a holistic system of education as embodied in the omoluabi system is on the wane. Western education with its postmodernist scepticism towards grand narratives and long-held codes of morality has made a casualty of such philosophies as omoluabi. The present study aims consequently to stem the tide of this moral decentering in a society caught in the web as well as a liminal space between the traditional and the western. This, it aims to do by foregrounding the elements of omoluabi in agidigbo music.

This paper is divided into four main sections. The second section following this introduction briefly draws attention to a few relevant scholars' positions and discourses under the sub-topic of the determinants of Omoluabi. In the third section, the authors articulate specific issues bordering on Omoluabi philosophical engagements as practised in agidigbo music. In the fourth and concluding section, there are attempts to draw out possible implications for educational advancement of Africa by calling attention to how to harness the valuable resources embedded in agidigbo music through well-targeted suggestions for purposeful interventions.

Scholarship on the Determinants of Omoluabi

The subject of omoluabi has been widely discussed by different scholars. Omoluabi is defined as functioning or exhibiting inherent virtue and value of iwapele (gentleness); a well brought up or a highly cultured individual (Abimbola, 1975; Fayemi, 2009; Abiodun, 1983). Some other authorities suggest that the literal meaning of omoluabi is: orno ti Olu-iwa bi, meaning: a child birthed by chief-of-good-character (Gbadegesin, 2007; Fayemi, 2009). Such an individual can be described as excellent in character. In the same vein, Oluwole (2007) defines omoluabi as "Omo ti o ni iwa bi eni ti a ko, ti o si gba eko" (A child who lives by the precepts of the education s/he has acquired). All the foregoing descriptions allude to the fact that the hallmark of an omoluabi is the person's moral pedigree, an issue to which we shall return later in this paper. Suffice it is to state that the principles underlining omoluabi are usually expressed in moral or cultural values of the society as exhibited by an individual. Vital elements embedded in the omoluabi philosophy include: respect for old age and the elderly, loyalty and appreciation to parents, honesty in both private and public dealings, as well as devotion to duty, empathy, sociability, hard work, diplomacy and intelligence amongst others. All these may also be expressed in various ways in the form of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics or aesthetics manifesting in all aspects of their culture, music being a vital component.

Existing studies on agidigbo in Nigeria have either cursorily described the instrument or merely sandwiched the genre within the general classificatory modes rather than the philosophical messages embedded in the music. Also, a nexus between...

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