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Dance and Music


Idu cultural dance

Idu cultural dance was borrowed from Umuomaku town over 50 years ago. The idea of borrowing the dance was initiated by Late Azubuike Okemili, Late Ezechi Ezeno and Late Alaedum Dimnwaeze. After negotiation, the conditions given by the owners of the dance were fulfilled; the teaching and learning period commenced and it lasted for two years. This act established a lasting relationship between not only the villages but the entire Akpo and Umuomaku communities. The music ensemble is presently known as Idu Akpo not Ogbo. This agrees with Nzewi’s submission that any and all music produce in an indigenous culture was by convention the property of the community collective. The history of the origin of Idu here is contrary to the submission by Akas (2014) which states that: This dance Idu was believed to have been performed by the strongest man in Akpo village in Aguata. This man was declared the strongest man because he was a strong wrestler, a good farmer and a fearless man, on several occasions, it was said that he has fought with spirits unconsciously and defeated them. The establishment of the group was necessary as a result of the quest and desire of the people to have an entertainment music ensemble that will be very outstanding and unique. It was also established to give them (the village) a unique identity, to raise fund for community development and to serve as an agent of unity. Their first performance featured about twenty members.

Numerical Strength

The numerical strength of the group has continued to increase over the years. Idu is made up of varying personalities which are endowed with different creative abilities. The organizational structures of Idu is in line with Onwuka’s assertion that a typical Nigerian traditional or contemporary dance group consist of selected members who are functionaries, expressive artists or attendants. The functionaries of Idu were picked by appointment; this has been the practice of the group since inception. Idu cultural dance ensemble is a stylized dance that has four categorized dance movements (obala egwu). The performance of the four dance movements in any function depends on the performance context. The duration of each of the four dance movements/segments is determined by the lead instrumentalist.

The first movement

The first movement is in a lively tempo introduced by the nne ekwe, master instrument followed by the okpokolo, the pulse maker which maintains a steady beat that regulates the tempo of other instruments. This segment and other segments are performed in a circular formation. Dancers adhere to the rhythmic pattern established by the instrumentalists. The segment is characterized by zig zag movement of the dancers while they still maintain the dance formation. The master instrumentalist introduces the second movement by playing a signal phrase that alerts other instrumentalists and the dancers of a change in movement. Onuorah – Oguno (2005) highlighted this fact when he opined that musical phrases, characteristics of different dance steps are played to cue the dancers.

The second segment

The second segment begins in a moderate tempo. Here, the dancers in their circular form faces the center, stamp their feet to the ground moving rhythmically to the left and right. The tempo increases as the music progresses; with the increase in tempo, the dancers systematically and rhythmically sits on the ground with stretched legs making forward and backward movements with their buttocks. ft, right and stamps their feet on the ground making a slight jump. At a point the dancers pull out their machetes and demonstrate their pride as warriors. The dancers go frenzy as they show off their creative abilities. The music spurs them to exhibit some unexpected actions like cutting down of branches of trees. Some climb the palm trees without the climbing rope to aid them. They are called to order with the melodic phrases played by the flutist, thus they return to the normal dance movement. This segment introduces ‘ida iya’, an act that determines how strong a man is, it also shows how one is valued by the people. Anyone with a questionable character is not applauded while men of noble characters are applauded and appreciated by spraying of money. ‘ida iya’ is not done by the dancers but by members who are not involved in the dancing and other members of the community.

The fourth segment

The fourth segment of the dance is introduced by the master instrumentalists after ‘ida iya’. This segment is also in a lively tempo and the same dance formation is maintained. The group retires with this movement in reverse order. The dancers leave the performance ground followed by the instrumentalists. The performance of Idu is not an annual event neither does the seasons of the year affect its performance as stated by Akas (2014)

Iduu Akpo

The dance Iduu Akpo dance performance is an annual performance from a primodial era till present day in Akpo … it is also good to note that this dance is not performed during rainy season, because rainy season is a period of farming and serious labour, while dry season, which is a period when the dance is being performed serves as a period of enjoyment and relaxation after harvesting the farm produce. Idu performs at functions on invitation. The invitation could be with or without the masquerade depending on the discretion of the group or host. Their performance style in any event depends on the context of the event. If they are invited to accompany their host to a condolence visit, they lead their host into the arena with music in a moderate tempo. The host and his friends take the lead followed by the instrumentalists and then the dancers. After presenting the condolence items, the group is given an opportunity to perform. Most times, during funeral ceremonies the group is not allowed to display all the four segments of their dance. There used to be lineup of sympathizers or in-laws waiting to be ushered in to perform their funeral rites. When such is the case, each group is given limited time to display what they have. Due to the nature of the dance, the group has never at any time performed in a hall, their performance has always been in an open space. Audience participation is allowed in the performance of Idu. The audience show their excitement and appreciation by dancing/walking up to the dancers or instrumentalists to spray money on them. This appreciation is shown by both men and women except where masquerades are involved, the women will not move to the performance ground rather they throw their money from their where they were sitting or standing.


Igbo people are endowed with numerous dance music performances which portray the culture of the people. Traditional music is so much a part of Igbo culture that majority of the people who live in big cities and other places outside their home town organize traditional music ensembles as a mark of identity, to preserve their culture and to serve as a unifying factor that binds them together. This valuable Igbo culture is fast fading away in most communities as the younger generations are losing interest in this music genre. This paper therefore views traditional music as an indispensible part of Igbo culture. It further investigates among other things the history and performance of Idu cultural dance. To achieve this, the researcher employed some information gathering techniques such as oral interviews, fieldwork and review of related literatures. This research work reveals that despite the alarming influences of the western technology on Igbo culture, dance music performance has remained the climax of every cultural and social event in Akpo community. It also suggest that the people be encouraged in their music practices, to achieve this, music scholars should research on the activities of music groups within and outside their communities. This will encourage them to hold fast to their activities knowing that there are people that have interest in them.

Traditional/folk music is an integral part of Igbo culture. Its impact on the life of people cannot be overemphasized. In Igbo culture, music is not just performed for its aesthetic purposes; it is a medium for cultural transmission. Music is an essential part of the Igbo man’s life. There are musical activities associated with every stage of development in one’s life. Agu (1990) states that: Among the Igbo, it is said that music serves not only as a medium for entertainment and social relationship, but as an intricate part in the development of the mind, body and soul. It is assumed that the laws of the land are learnt through songs. The history of the tribe is learnt through songs and the accepted behavioral patterns in the society are all assimilated through music and dance (p. 49). The above assertion explains the reason why folk music has remained in Igbo culture despite the strong influence of western culture especially during the period of western colonization. In Igbo societies, music is performed as a social event as is the case with other African societies; in agreement with this Forchu (2011) and Nketia (1974) observed that, in traditional African societies, music making is generally organized as a social event. ‘However this does not preclude individual music making’ Nketia (1974:21). Onyeji (2013: 58) posits that African music is not a separate autonomous domain; it is inextricably caught up in a web of domestic social and political activities. This is in conformity with Miller (1972) in Agu (2015: 2) which states that music, like other arts, is not autonomous. He argued that it is always part of a total culture both in time and place. Music is part and parcel of life in Igbo culture. The roles of folk music in shaping the life of Igbo people are innumerable. It ploughs the mind of the people that make up the society leaving them as law abiding citizens. Through folk music the conventional rules of behavior are maintained. This is achieved when right conducts are encouraged through praise and appreciation, and ill behaviors discouraged through caution and ridicule. Breeding citizens with right mind sets go a long way to encourage development Music borrowing was practiced in Igbo communities and is still practiced in this age though it is not as significant as it used to be in the past. This affirms Ifionu in Keke and Obiekwe’s (2012:308) observation that, there used to be the culture of borrowing music and musical instruments from the neighboring villages and towns in Igbo land which is almost a forgotten culture.

Igbo Instruments

Igbo people have many traditional instruments that accompany their songs and music. The instruments are diverse and made from local materials such as tree logs, animal skin, horn, iron and brass. Popular musical instruments are the drums, flute, hand percussion instruments and gong.

Udu Instrument

A plosive aero-phone instrument popular with traditional igbo music is the Udu. The Udu is a percussion instrument made from a water jug. Artisans cut a hole in the side of the jug which produces a unique brass sound when a hand is placed over the top opening. The hand manipulations, skill and dexterity of the instrumentalist produce different brass tones. Similar instruments identical to the Udu have slight variations in shape, membrane cover or two distinct holes provide interesting sounds.

Ogene Metal Gong

The ogene is a struck idiophone instrument which produces a loud sharp sound. The large metal bell gong has immense significance in igbo music. The instrument is hollow with a flat conical shape and struck with a stick. The iron body and wooden stick provides a distinctive sound common to ethnic igbo music.


The drum is an integral part of song and dance in igbo land. The three major ethnic groups in Nigeria feature the instrument in many important occasions. They come in large, medium and small sizes depending on the region. Common drums used in igbo celebrations are the pot drum, slit drum ( Ekwe), Iroko and Egede drum.

The Pot Drum

The pot drum features a bell shape that resonate a low-deep pitched occasioned by rapid bursts of sound. Any change in tone depends on the amount of water inside the pot drum.

Egede Drum

The Egede drum is carved from a hollow log and a membrane is stretch over the opening. The musician plays the drum with a stick to produce melodious tunes. It takes several years for the drummer to master the craft.

The Slit Drum

The small slit drum consists of two horizontal slits and produces a distinctively hollow sound. The iroko is also a large slit drum vigorously played with two sticks. It takes tremendous effort and consistent pounding to produce sound. The iroko is used to covey urgent messages to villagers. It is not generally used in musical performances but to covey messages such as death or war.

The Igba Drum

The igba drum is used to herald the arrival of masquerades into the community. Used as accompanying instrument the versatile drum is played with fingers and a stick. It is made from hardwood and has an animal skin membrane.

Traditional Igbo Instruments

Opi Okike Udu clay jug Ichaka Odu-mkpalo Ekwe oja Enenke Ogene bell shaped gong

The Flute Instruments

The flute is a lead instrument that accompanies the drums. It produces a high pitched shrill sound that conveys meaning to the entire performance. Popular wind instruments found in tradition igbo music are ichaka, oja and okpola.

Oja flute

Oja flute is basically a small wood with an inner cavity placed on the lower lips. The musician controls the pitch and tone of the instrument by manipulating the thumb and ring finger over small holes in the instrument. The flute produces a sharp distinct sound that is enticing and entertaining.

Horn instruments

Horn instruments are also used in Igbo musical renditions. The horns are generally harvested from dead elephants, buffalo, goat, deer and ram.

Odu-okike horn

The odu-okike horn is a hollowed elephant tusk made into a wind instrument. The horn has deep traditional significance and used only by titled men in Igbo land. The large instrument symbolizes authority, prestige, wealth and power. Only aristocrats and title holders are allowed to blow the odu-okike horn. The horn is blown only on important festive occasions such as burial rites of titled men or marriage between igbo aristocrats. Other occasions include Ofala festival and chieftain installations.

Enenke horn

Horns harvested from different types of animal are grouped under Enenke. The horns have diverse applications such as notification of events and music renditions. It is played during different occasions such as marriages, festivals and somber moments. They use the instrument to call village folks for meetings or during burial ceremonies.

Igbo Rattle Instruments

A delightful looking rattle instrument is the Ichake-rattle. The ichaka rattle is made out of a calabash or gourd. The sound it produces is due to beads sewn to a net around the instrument. The instrument is played by shaking the gourd or tapping the beads.

Thumb Piano

Ubo Thumb Piano

Another musical instrument of note in igbo music is the thumb piano. The instrument has a wooden gourd resonator and metal cuffs for each key. The instrumentalist plays the piano with his fingers or thumbs.

Igbo music Odumodu

The ohuhu people are credited for the Odumodu style of music. Odumodu music is predominantly sung by men. The group has a lead singer and backup male singers. The songs are usually vibrant and meaningful.

Igbo highlife

Igbo highlife is a blend of traditional igbo sound and highlife. The music is played using both local and modern instruments with a lead guitar. The songs are melodious filled with message and repetitive lyrics. Notable igbo highlife artist are Oriental Brothers, Nico Mbaga, Sir Warrior and Oliver De Coque. Others include Chief Osita Osadebe, Celestine Ukwu and Bright Chimezie.

Igbo Rap and Hip Hop

Contemporary igbo music has new infusion in rap music. The rap is delivered in igbo or pidgin English and usually sung too highlife tunes. Other influences in the music are African American music, rhythm and blues including Nigerian sounds.

Egedege dance

The Egedege is an ancient royal cultural dance occasioned with elaborate flute playing, colorful outfits and different percussion instruments. The costumes worn by the dancers and lead singer are elaborate and flashy.

Traditional Igbo music is vibrant and fun, however the instruments are also played during somber occasions.

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