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Strategic Collaborations between Nigerians and Germans: The Making of a Yorùbá Culture Movement


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Èrìn-Òṣun, Nigeria is renowned for being home to lineages of traditional drummers and masquerade dancers. Since the 1960s, Èrìn-Òṣun artists have collaborated with European and U.S. artists and scholars. Drawing upon three years of ethnographic fieldwork from 1995 to 2005, this chapter analyzes Èrìn-Òṣun artists’ strategic collaborations with a prolific German culture broker, an ethnofusion band, drumming students, and Yorùbá business entrepreneurs. This chapter argues that viewing collaborations through the lens of status-shifting strategies reveals the interconnected aesthetic choices and material realities that constitute reinventions of Yorùbá culture.
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8 Strategic Collaborations between
Nigerians and Germans
The Making of a Yorùbá
Culture Movement
Debra Klein
.un, a developing town in Ò
.un State renowned for its traditional
culture, is home to families of practicing bàtá and dùndún drummers and
masquerade dancers. Since the 1960s, È
.un artists have collaborated
artistically and intellectually with European and American artists and schol-
ars. This chapter illustrates the concept of strategic collaboration: the art
of occupying and performing one’s status position to facilitate a common
project. In Yorùbá culture, one’s position can shift from patron to client and
back again, but the involved parties must be willing to acknowledge such
shifts. When Westerners have collaborated with È
.un artists, dynamics
of status have often gone unspoken and have led to tense relationships and
unfi nished projects. Drawing upon three years of ethnographic fi eldwork in
the 1990s, this chapter documents and analyzes È
.un artists’ collabo-
rations with an ethnofusion band, drumming students from Germany and
Yorùbá business entrepreneurs. The culminating example illustrates how the
desperation of Nigeria in the late 1990s fueled an era of creative and elabo-
rate visa scams. Viewing collaborations through the lens of status-shifting
strategies allows us to assess the motivations for aesthetic choices and mate-
rial realities that constitute the reinventions of Yorùbá culture.
When I met Làmídì Àyánkúnlé and his family in 1990, I had unknow-
ingly joined the proliferating cast of locally storied foreign collabora-
tors that preceded me. As charismatic as his reputation, promotional
literature and photos attested, Làmídì lured me into the unfolding pro-
duction of a Yorùbá culture movement with the charm and enthusi-
asm of a professional culture broker. Not only had I come to the right
place to learn about Yorùbá bàtá, I had met a self-styled representative
of Yorùbá traditional culture, àà ìbílè
.. As evidence that he was also a
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professional purveyor of àà ìbí
. overseas, Làmídì has narrated his tra-
jectory of countless contact moments and collaborations over the past
fteen years. Well known for his career of cross-cultural encounters and
travel, he would come to be respected throughout his part of the world
as Bàbá Ìlú Òyìnbó, Father of Foreign Lands. Indeed, I quickly learned
that Làmídì had cultivated a vast, circuitous and expanding network of
overseas collaborators in the production of traditional culture—patrons,
clients, friends, co-performers, anthropologists, fans, students and busi-
ness entrepreneurs. Upon my arrival, I too became incorporated as the
newest, and thus most promising, collaborator. As talking drummers are
also professional praise singers, invoking the names of those foreigners
whom I had followed was almost a daily practice among Làmídì and his
family during my fi eldwork years. Chief Muraina, Christian and Gerald
Embryo, Andy Frankel, Ulli and Georgina Beier—these coproducers of
Yorùbá culture had become Làmídì’s key collaborators as well as coau-
thors of a Yorùbá culture movement.
Figure 8.1 Yorùbá drum workshop with Làmídì Àyánkúnlé,
1987. Promotional pamphlet for a performance in Bayreuth,
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“Performance” and “performativity” have been central themes in
the analysis of Yorùbá cultures.
1 Focusing on collaborative relation-
ships as performances of status distinction, I also fi nd it useful to think
of performance
as a mode of inquiry on several di erent levels: fi rst, in the analysis of for-
mal events in which artists “perform” for audiences; second, in informal
contexts in which one can observe the enactment of social categories;
and third, as a way in which to analyze scholarly modes of inquiry.2
Attending to the fi rst two levels, I analyze the interplay of power and dif-
ference within events, relationships and networks.3 Since the 1990s, schol-
ars have been exploring histories and events of cross-cultural encounter,
contact and collaboration; they have been urged to detail and assess what
kinds of interactions happen during moments of contact among di er-
ently situated actors, “for what exceeds the apparatus of coercion and ste-
reotype in contact relations may perhaps be reclaimed for current practice
in movements to expand and democratize what can happen in museums
and related sites of ethnomimesis.”4 I am interested in marking how his-
torical relationships of power are reproduced and challenged through the
processes of contact and collaboration. Làmídì Àyánkúnlé exemplifi ed the
possibilities of turning contact relationships into collaborative ventures
in networking and culture production. I use the term “collaboration” to
uncover the kinds of “friction”—those moments of productive and unpro-
ductive tension—inherent in the process of coming together across di er-
ence. This kind of di erence is a “model of the most culturally productive
kinds of collaboration.”5 Di erence becomes a necessary ingredient for
developing a project’s vision and ambition; misunderstandings are the
“stu of global ties.
6 Because of misunderstandings across di erence,
new possibilities emerge all the time.
I am interested in these moments of “friction” in which “stumoves:
alliances are forged or broken, international tours are produced or stifl ed,
visas come through or fall through. In order to understand the specifi city
of collaboration in Yorùbá context, I would like to propose the concept
of “strategy as a modi er of “collaboration.” “Strategic collaboration”7
is thus the art of occupying and performing one’s status position to facil-
itate a common project. Depending on the collaboration, in Yorùbá cul-
ture, while status is fl exible the involved parties must be aware of and
willing to acknowledge such status shifts. Although Yorùbá collabora-
tors fi nd familiarity, comfort and motivation as they assess and perform
their appropriate status positions in collaborative relationships, they also
nd limitations, frustration and tension. Their strategies involve assess-
ing what possibilities exist for occupying x position in a relationship.
However, once the collaborators fi gure out who is who—who’s got the
money and who’s doing the labor in the most reductionist sense—the
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134 Debra Klein
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process of collaboration advances. From a generalized western perspec-
tive this way of collaborating can be disappointing because it calls atten-
tion to dynamics of inequality.
Social status, wealth and individual di erences remain critical in under-
standing the dynamics of Yorùbá culture. Every individual develops a dif-
ferent character, ìwà, and has a di erent “head,” orí, destiny. Everyone
is born into a particular lineage in a particular town or city. In addition
to these ascribed status positions, Yorùbá men and women are expected
to spend their lives building their names by participating in and cultivat-
ing networks of supporters. Inequalities are inherent in, and thus tend to
shape, relationships. To someone born and raised in the United States such
as myself, Yorùbá peoples’ openness about status di erences and inequali-
ties can seem jolting. Once the positions are defi ned, it is almost a cultural
imperative that the junior person will “work” the status gap to curry favor
with the senior person.
In detailing collaborative relationships among Yorùbá artists, their Euro-
pean counterparts and Yorùbá business entrepreneurs, I argue that a suc-
cessful collaboration is one in which each of the parties involved achieves
something satisfying, even if unintended or new. In the small-town Yorù
context, I have found that the concept of equality is not applied to social
relationships. Rather, relationships are defi ned as culturally appropriate by
the extent to which each party occupies and acts swiftly from his or her
status position.
For example, I asked one of Làmídì’s key collaborators and patrons,
Chief Muraina, to explain to me why one of Làmídì’s important collab-
orative relationships with one of his primary and renowned European
sponsors, Ulli Beier,8 went awry in the early 1990s. Làmídì’s side of the
story was that he had been gravely disappointed by his sponsor and thus
felt betrayed. My original interpretation was that his European patron
did not see the need to apologize for his behavior because he did not see
Làmídì as an equal partner. To me, this reproduced the inequality inher-
ent in neocolonial relationships between cosmopolitan Europeans and
small-town Africans.
Deploying the concept of strategic collaboration, I have come to inter-
pret the tension between Làmídì and Beier as a situation that might have
been avoided had Làmídì been willing to collaborate strategically. Accord-
ing to Chief Muraina, it was not the place of the patron to step outside his
(mutually agreed upon) status position to apologize to Làmídì: the misun-
derstanding was an instance in which Làmídì did not assume his culturally
appropriate role—acting from his junior status position—and thus su ered
the consequences of having developed unrealistic expectations.
During an interview, Chief Muraina emphasized the fact that there had
been “no rapport” between Beier and Làmídì; thus, Làmídì was one of
Beier’s many patrons with whom he did not have an interpersonal relation-
ship. To Làmídì, however, Beier was a key patron whose loyalty Làmídì
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grew to respect and expect. In Chief Muraina’s analysis, it was the respon-
sibility of Làmídì, because he occupied the junior position of a younger
man and client, to approach his patron and fi nd resolution. Had Làmídì
been strategically collaborating, he would have acted from his status posi-
tion and perhaps saved himself years of grief. Rather, Làmídì transgressed
his position by expecting Beier to treat him like a status equal.
Is there room for transgression in strategic collaboration? Are status
positions always fi xed by cultural, historical and political structures of
inequality? In this case, it was a social fact that Beier, an elder European
sponsor, had not cultivated a personal relationship with Làmídì. Thus, it
was up to Làmídì to act strategically to further their collaboration, but
instead he held his sponsor accountable for betraying him. Làmídì’s col-
laborative style was transgressive and not strategic. His sponsor, Beier, did
not owe Làmídì an explanation or apology. That was reality.
Acknowledging and playing with the inherent inequality in every col-
laborative relationship or project requires strategy, wit and fl exibility.
Furthermore, the most successful collaborations (in which all parties are
satisfi ed) involve status shifting, during which transgressions—challenges
to historically and culturally defi ned expectations—may even become
part of one’s strategy. Those who have been able to transgress seem to
have engaged in relationships based on spending lots of time together.
Chief Muraina distinguished between a relationship in which a patron
would “sit together” with a client and a more typical one in which a
patron would not take the time to “sit together” with a client. When
patrons and clients forge their relationships in a variety of contexts in
which they shift statuses, the patron-client dynamic becomes compli-
cated. The È
.un artists have sustained their careers as traditional
artists by collaborating strategically, and this chapter aims to unfurl the
story of their networking.
In order to understand the German/US/È
.un alliances, I situate
Làmídì’s collaborations with a German ethnofusion9 band within a broader
history and discourse of musical collaborations between so-called fi rst- and
third-world artists. The closing narrative—the story of Rúkà’s project—
adds layers of ironic twists to the trajectory of È
.un artists’ collab-
orations over time and overseas. This collaboration between È
artists, foreigners and Yorùbá business entrepreneurs shows ways in which
di erently located participants have strategically worked dominant global
imaginaries of “The Africa.” Falling under the rubric of “world music” or
“world beat,” such collaborative projects are the subjects of many research-
ers.10 I fi nd it useful to think about world music as a global social movement
with a self-conscious politics for hopeful vision that is still in the process of
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136 Debra Klein
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articulation. At the same time, this movement reproduces persisting rela-
tions of inequality despite its best e orts not to do so.
Discussions about world music and world beat tend to focus upon these
terms as commodities themselves; they have been strategically marketed by
the transnational music industry to create a whole new category of music
for consumption.11 The term “world beat” was coined by DJ Dan Del Santo
from Austin, Texas, in the 1980s to refer to an array of “ethnic-pop mix-
ings, fusion-dance musics and emerging syncretic populist musical hybrids
from around the world.”12 Some of the more popular and well-marketed
examples of world beat collaborations between Western pop stars and
African groups include Paul Simon’s Graceland, Talking Heads’ Remain
in Light and Kate Bush’s Sensual World.13 In an e ort to discuss the Ger-
.un overseas alliance, I draw out some insights from the world
music movement’s critics.
Although we might think of the “world” in “world beat” as a reference
to collaborative musical projects between musicians from di erent parts of
the world, specifi cally, between fi rst- and third-world musicians, the phrase
“beat” further evokes some of the movement’s cultural politics. The white
pop-stars quests forthe beat, stemming from a history of essentializ-
ing and racializing African bodies, contribute to a growing transnational
dialogue about the meaning of “The Africa.”14 Such a politics and global
imaginary propelled Western pop stars to reach out across borders, and
the cultural politics of personal relationships of collaboration over time are
complicated, varied and instructive. By agreeing to join such a movement,
African artists are also informed by and complicit in a global imaginary
of “The Africa” that represents the decolonizing tactics of building rela-
tionships of mutual respect and equality through artistic collaborations.
Although collaboration opens possibilities for all involved, as a process,
it is rarely smooth or mutual. Rather than look at the transnational music
industry or commodifi ed products of collaboration (cassette tapes, CDs,
videos, etc.), I consider the process and discourse of the collaboration
itself critical and underexamined objects of analysis. What happens at that
moment of artistic merging and creation, and how do its participants nar-
rate the process?
A derivative of world beat, world music has come to stand for musical
diversity as opposed to the implied Eurocentrism of the term “music.”15
Like the politics behind Tunji Beier’s group, Okuta Percussion, the poli-
tics of this world music movement are liberal and relativist: all musics are
good, equal and deserving of global recognition. The most cynical critics
of the term “world music” consider it a useless marketing scheme.16 Not
only does world music include music from all over the world arbitrarily
divided by country, region or ethnic genre, the term lumps such diverse
musical styles into one category. Reproducing neocolonial relations of
power in which the West controls the markets, the term could be consid-
ered anattempt to banalize di erence by placing all these non-Anglo-
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American musics under the same rubric.”17 Furthermore, the term has
expanded to include the musical collaborations once categorized as world
beat—alliances between non-Western artists and international elite avant-
gardes. To me the expansiveness of the term world music does not suggests
its meaninglessness; rather, world music as a movement could be seen as
an e ort to expand possibilities for new types of strategic alliances and
internally generated critique.
In 1969, Embryo, the jazz-rock quartet of radical German musicians, had
just been conceived. Of the bands four members, Christian Burchard
and Gerald Luciano were the front men. Christian was the visionary and
vibraphonist; Gerald played an array of percussion and bass. Since meet-
ing Làmídì in 1990, I have heard many stories about Christian and Ger-
ald of Embryo. Like the names of the few foreigners who have spent time
with Làmídì in È
.un, Christian and Gerald are forever household
names. After digesting years of stories and with the help of my yellowing
photocopies, I write Embryo into the expansive È
.un overseas net-
work. Festival programs, tour schedules, invitations, newspaper reviews,
album jackets, promotional materials, photos: these scraps excavated from
Làmídì’s important-paper box, along with interviews and conversation,
allow me to piece together a history of Embryo and the group’s pivotal role
in È
.un artists’ lives and careers. Burchard, refl ecting on his group’s
origin in a “Jubilee Tour 89” promotional pamphlet, said:
The riots of 1968 had reached Munich at last. Masses of people pro-
tested against state despotism such as emergency laws. There were
Maoists and Trotskyists and others who refused a party-line—they
were all called the “Underground.” One of our most important meeting
places was in the Ungererstrasse just before the motorway entrance to
Nurnberg. The cold steel and concrete of a computer fi rm stands there
today. It was a ectionately called “Paranoia Centre” and to this day
I can’t remember how it came to be. There in a few barracks the fi rst
dropouts lived: specialized drug users, psychedelic freaks and amongst
them musicians belonging to the music commune Amon Duul. There
were regular underground fi lm showings and we had our fi rst sessions
there. Rebelling art academy students held their meetings there, pam-
phlets were printed and even bands from far away like Guru Guru
could be heard.18
Embryo grew out of a countercultural, antimainstream politics movement
that had spread across the globe by 1969. Radical students and artists pro-
duced new forms of protest art. Always defi ning their music against the
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138 Debra Klein
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grain, Embryo called their music “ethnomusic” because they looked to
other cultures for inspiration and collaboration. In the late 1970s, they
traveled extensively in India. In the 1980s, they traveled to Nor thern Africa
and Nigeria. Not only was the band interested in learning and playing dif-
ferent kinds of music with artists of these countries, they wanted to expe-
rience how music was lived in di erent cultures. A progressive newsletter
detailing Embryo’s journey quotes Charlie Parker to convey this sentiment:
“Music is life. If you don’t live it, it’ll never come out of your instrument.”
Embryo’s prolifi c recording career19documents their collaborations with
musicians from Europe, the United States, Korea, Egypt, Brazil, Austra-
lia, India and Nigeria. Through experimentation and collaboration across
di erences, Christian demanded a new politics: anticolonialist, antiracist,
antiwar and anticapitalist.
The emergent class of Yorùbá entrepreneurs seeking to invest in a via-
ble commodity provided a useful contrast to the proliferating network
of foreign students who invested in the culture of bàtá as a lived tradi-
tion. Both the entrepreneurs and students gravitated toward the culture
of bàtá to strive for better lives. For foreign students, the culture of bàtá
itself represented a better life—an alternative to the alienating, industrial-
ized, technologized, urban, fast-paced realities of life in Germany and the
United States. For Yorùbá business people, the hope of investing in and
selling bàtá provided them with an opportunity to join the assembly line
of Western progress.
Rúkà is one such Yorùbá entrepreneur. In August of 1997, Rúkà began
to solicit the services of the È
.un drummers and masquerade danc-
ers. Rúkà is one of the many children of a famous Òs
.ogbo artist. That
summer, she had decided to reinvent herself as a traditional artist so she
could travel to the United States. Rúkà also planned to carry her people
with her, a culturally appropriate gesture of a responsible and considerate
big (important) woman. She and her Cultural Heritage group were intent
on doing whatever it took to secure their U.S. visas and to hire authentic
artists to help them transform into representatives of Yorùbá traditional
traveling theater. Their only setback: Rúkà and her people were not yet
artists. These ambitious young ladies had grown up in urban settings of
Ibadan and Lagos. Hailing from relatively well-o families, Rúkà and her
entourage were quite confi dent in their plan to become capital-earning
businesspeople. With roots in Òs
.ogbo, Rúkà and her group chose to tap
one of their hometown’s most successful industries—the culture industry.
With the hope of learning the art of bàtá, Rúkà headed for È
.un in
.ogbo, not really knowing what to expect. She gave herself no more than
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a few months to learn and become a profi cient and authentic performer of
her own cultural heritage.
Upon their arrival in È
.un, Rúkà and her friends were directed
to Làmídì’s compound. Eventually, they began to divulge pieces of their
mission to Yè
.kínì, Làmídì’s junior brother. An appropriate broker for this
.kínì was a senior master drummer. Because the drummer broth-
ers were not yet familiar with Rúkà or her family, they were skeptical of her
plan and ability to compensate them fairly. However, Yè
.nì agreed to help
Rúkà by setting up training workshops with his junior co-performers, but
he chose not to participate in the sessions himself. This two-month series
of negotiations with Rúkà thus fell into the hands of the most junior Àyàn
and Ò
. performers capable of training nonartists.
One day I observed the Ò
. and Àyàn artists as they scrambled for trans-
port. When I asked them where they were going, they told me Rúkà was
arranging a program for herself and them in the United States. With the
right dose of skepticism, the artists also admitted that she promised to pay
them in stages, which made the contract worthwhile. Although I main-
tained critical distance (to avoid being sucked into the visa-procuring pro-
cess), I was interested in Rúkà’s collaboration with the È
.un brothers.
Thus, I participated in some of the arranged sessions to glean some under-
standing of the situation.
Critical of Rúkà’s plan, Làmídì knew that she and her group would not
fool any U.S. audience or student once the amateurs started to drum, dance
or sing. Làmídì and I have discussed the misconception that all Africans
are drummers,20 and Làmídì’s twist on this theme emerges from his per-
spective as a professionally trained drummer. Many Africans, he argued,
do not know anything about drumming but have learned to work such
ignorance to their advantage. One of the main reasons Làmídì had little
patience for untrained Nigerians who posed as professional drummers is
that he has met so many foreigners who have worked long and hard for
their knowledge and understanding of his culture. “They know Yorùbá
history and have also learned to play bàtá rhythms from books or profes-
sional musicians,” he said. Cynical about the emergent culture of quick-fi x
entrepreneurs, Làmídì was unimpressed with the schemes that took advan-
tage of his family.
.kínì’s regular day job was driving a taxi. Like most taxi drivers,
.kínì owned his own vehicle. Rábíù loaned Yè
.kínì the money to buy his
station wagon taxi, imported from Benin upon their return from Germany
in 1996. Although taxi driving was one of the most viable occupations in
the Òs
.ogbo area, the cost of fuel and car maintenance prohibited much
of a profi t. Generously, Yè
.kínì regularly o ered his taxi services to trans-
port the Ò
.túndé group to their performances. However, Yè
.kínì’s dual
role as driver and lead drummer meant that he often had to compromise
one type of work for the other. Risking the fi nancial loss, Yè
.kínì often
ended up transporting the crew to and from their sessions with Rúkà in
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140 Debra Klein
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.ogbo. Although Rúkà did not reimburse Yè
.kínì or the others for their
transport, she granted them a lump sum of náírà to cover costs just about
every other session. The money was enough to keep Yè
.kínì and the other
artists interested.
One rainy autumn evening, I spontaneously hopped into the car with
. as he drove to retrieve the crew ats place in Òs
.ogbo. I was
eager to meet Rúkà and hear about her plans fi rsthand. Her house was big,
with a spacious front parlor meant for entertaining guests. She and her
friends were big in stature as well as in status, evidence that they had been
living comfortable lives. Rúkà’s friends o ered us boiled cassava and okra
stew with fi sh. They went out to buy a Gulder beer for Yè
.kínì and a Pepsi
for me. I was never formally introduced to Rúkà, although she immediately
began to joke with me about knowing how to dance and sing bàtá. Rúkà
freely demonstrated her new moves. Although Rúkà and her group seemed
enthusiastic about and respectful of the complex alárìnjó tradition and the
.un artists’ expertise, they did not seem particularly worried about
picking up the skills quickly.
Our brief conversation revealed to me Rúkà’s next step: shooting a pro-
motional video of her performance troupe, featuring her Cultural Heritage
group and the È
.un artists. This video would serve to convince the
U.S. embassy that Rúkà and her group were legitimate, professional art-
ists trained in the alárìnjó tradition. Although Rúkà did not promise the
.rìn- Ò
.un artists visas to the United States, she did promise to send them
letters of invitation once she arrived. Meanwhile, she would pay the art-
ists for their help in making the video. With precarious day jobs at best,
the È
.un artists considered their time with Rúkà to be good work
The cast of participating characters from È
.un included Múìdínì
on ìyáàlù, Làmídì’s most accomplished and versatile bàtá-playing son; he
also apprenticed as a barber during weekdays. There was the twenty-year-
old Túndé, Yè
.kínì’s oldest son, who had mastered the sound and technique
of the omele mé
.ta, transforming the smallest drum into a solo, talking
instrument. After he and his father returned from a trip to Germany, Túndé
invested his earnings in a rented barbershop in town. Along with
both Múìdínì and Túndé were regular drummers for the Ò
.túndé group.
This team of drummers was highly respected for its talent and musician-
ship. The opportunity to negotiate and direct Rúkà’s artistic project opened
up new training ground for these junior performers.
Following their fathers’ leads, the È
.un artists were learning the art
of cultural brokerage—communicating specialized knowledge and skills
with the twin goals of collaboration and commodifi cation. Rúkà scheduled
the video-making venue for a mid-September Monday. In order to uphold
their end of the deal, the È
.un artists had already compromised their
work and family obligations. That morning, the artists were playing for a
small family funeral ceremony. Not only did they leave the ceremony before
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it was time, they left without Múìdínì, who had yet to return from his
weekend fújì gig in another town. The next obstacle was fi nding Yè
.kínì and
packing the drums and masquerade materials into his taxi. I had agreed to
shoot a back-up video of the performance, a task that allowed me to collect
research material and appear useful.
Rúkà and her entourage piled themselves into three cars: a Mercedes,
Rúkà’s Peugeot, and a chartered taxi. Upon our arrival, we were dis-
mayed to learn that Rúkà still had not confi rmed a site for the video
shoot. Thus, we all loaded ourselves into our respective cars and trav-
eled in caravan from one end of Òs
.ogbo to the other. We fi nally took
our show to the famous Ò
.un Grove where we could make noise, use the
cement stage and be inspired by natural and spiritual forces. It turned
out that the grove was the choicest site all along because our embassy
audience would appreciate the natural backdrop.
Upon arrival, the È
.un contingent was ready to go, except for the
traditional costumes Rúkà had promised. After Rúkà and her group dressed
and talked among themselves, she apologetically handed the artists their
mismatched, haphazardly assembled costumes. Already losing patience, the
artists simply put on their costumes so they could get to work. Fortunately,
Múìdínì showed up just in time, boosting our energy level up a notch.
The ensuing rehearsal-turned-performance unfolded awkwardly. The
women dancers did not dance in step with the drum rhythms. The Cul-
tural Heritage group struggled to execute the words of their songs with
volume and confi dence. However, the Àyàn drummers carried the show
with the grace, composure and skill of veteran performers. The masquerade
and acrobatic displays were also professional. Unfortunately, however, it
is always the performers out of sync who stand out in an otherwise well-
rehearsed and well-directed show. Because I had never observed an alárìnjó
show with amateur performers, I was embarrassed.
Rúkà and her Cultural Heritage group tried to release their ìwà l’
(inner beauty) through their performance: they smiled, interacted with each
other and appeared to be having a good time—all important features of a
good show. However, their aesthetic did not su ce. Due to their minimal
training, Rúkà’s group did not communicate with the drummers or their
audience. The true trick of bàtá-style dancing and drumming is to antici-
pate or initiate rhythm changes and breaks. Minimally, an accomplished
bàtá performer feels confi dent enough to interpret the main grooves of the
dances, called ijó oge and gbamù, and to play the scripted breaks. Through
this, a performer’s inner beauty will emanate. Clearly, Rúkà’s group had
not dedicated enough time to experiencing and feeling bàtá in ceremonial
context. In spite of it all, the Àyàn artists proved a lively threesome. Not
only did they play the more popular Bàtá Fújì dance grooves of ijó oge and
gbamù, they also played the range of òrìshà, Yorùbá gods, rhythms as a
dùndún ensemble. Likewise, Kó
.jè and Wálé gracefully pulled o a two-
person masquerade and acrobatic display, a nearly impossible feat for two
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142 Debra Klein
T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution
artists. In the end, Rúkà and her group were pleased with their performance
and with the artistry and professionalism of the È
.un contingent.
And for the fi nale, German tourists happened upon the scene, their
casual wanderings in nature interrupted by our bizarre display of culture.
Before we knew it, the tall and complicit Germans were draped with
Yorùbá cloth, poised to dance. I barely caught their story: they were sta-
tioned in southeastern Nigeria for a brief stint with an ongoing develop-
ment project. With appropriate gusto and understated amusement, they
accepted Rúkà’s exuberant invitation to dance on camera. True masters
of improvisation, the Àyàn drummers played their most danceable ver-
sions of ijó oge, accenting the downbeat of the four-four meter. The Ger-
mans loomed about a half foot taller than the rest of us, their movements
stifl ed by t heir lack of fa m i liarity w ith Yorù bàtá. Although the grove is
a tourist attraction, tourists did not frequent Oshogbo or Nigeria during
the 1990s. Their willingness to wander into our scene, dress in Yorùbá
cloth, dance for a video project featuring Yorùbá bàtá, and bid a quick
farewell—all without much fanfare—felt like a movie scene. The surprise
climax would be the perfect selling point at the embassy. Those days,
authentic Yorùbá performance troupes trained white people; the mas-
querade was complete.
Assessing a gig’s worth often comes down to the náírà (money),
the senior-most broker asked Rúkà for their money. She handed over 2,000
náírà (about $25), an amount that satisfi ed the group. Observing the ethics
of respect, hierarchy and family, the artists then gave cuts of their pay to
their fathers (and maybe their brothers and mothers) upon returning home.
The next morning, I checked the quality of the video. Transfi xed by the per-
formance, the curious fathers gathered round to watch their sons in action.
This was a new experience for the fathers; they had never seen their sons
emulate a full-scale alárìnjó show without them. Impressed and amused,
they proudly accepted that their sons had become their own masters.
Participating in a discourse of “The Africa” as home to drummers and danc-
ers, Rúkà and her Cultural Heritage group chose to study and emulate “the
traditional artist” role. Traditional performers, they reasoned, were able
to travel abroad with relative ease; the required transformation was worth
the trouble. As mere business entrepreneurs, they didn’t stand a chance; the
discourse of Nigeria as the global seat of corrupt business would not work
in their favor. Làmídì and his family were models for Rúkà’s Cultural Heri-
tage group: the È
.un artists had passports that a rmed their overseas
travel and subsequent returns. Sandwiched between the È
.un pass-
ports, the passports of Rúkà’s group would be well poised for stamping.
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Strategic Collaborations between Nigerians and Germans 143
T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution
The outcome of Rúkà’s e orts to transform herself and her group into bàtá
dancers was shaky but telling: shaky because their dancing and singing laid
bare their amateur status, telling because the hastily trained Cultural Heritage
group performed like beginners instead of “naturals.” The fact that Rúkà’s best
attempt to fi nd her way into this discourse of “The Africa” was an awkward
t proves the specifi city, while uncovering the power, of such a homogenizing
imaginary. As Làmídì argued, playing the drums well is about studying a set of
skills over time, not a “natural” trait of African-ness or blackness. Because the
.un artists apprentice to the art of drumming since they are old enough
to carry a drum, by the time they reach their teens, they may seem like natural
musicians. Although Rúkà did not actually believe that she merely had to stir
up her inherited ability to dance and sing Yorùbá bàtá, she strove to access an
imaginary that would a rm her self-portrayed rootedness in a naturalized
Yorùbá traditional culture. Furthermore, showing o her foreign apprentices
was strategic: the evidence of white students would prove Rúkà’s validity.
The German tourists swiftly entered, performed and then left the scene of
Rúkà’s video without missing a beat because such a possibility was already
an item on the itinerary of their imaginations. It was as though they had
bought their cultural experience ticket and cashed it in for a ride on Rúkà’s
Cultural Heritage set. The tourists had discovered “The Africa” that satiated
their spirit of adventure.
Given that my telling of Rúkà’s project was informed bys cyni-
cism, this version of the narrative reveals the dynamic tensions inherent in
a world music movement. The unful lled promises of the Yorùbá business
entrepreneurs reproduced a familiar dynamic of marginalization. Likewise,
the unfulfi lled promises of foreign students, including myself, perhaps pro-
voked a colonial dynamic of appropriation. Thus, an antipolitics strategy
requires a constant e ort to address and reshape these histories through col-
laborative projects.
An enterprising businesswoman, Rúkà rose to the occasion of learning
and then performing her Cultural Heritage. Unable to distinguish Rúkà’s
performance of Yorùbá tradition from any other such attempt, U.S. embassy
o cials were su ciently dazzled by the signposts of a familiar narrative:
village-based group of authentic artists who had traveled as such; video in
the grove with foreign apprentices in tow; shows lined up for Black History
Month. The U.S. embassy granted Rúkà and her Cultural Heritage group its
stamp of approval. The mimetic exercise was complete. All passports were
blessed with visas, and Rúkà was poised to make her fi rst overseas journey,
group members to join her in turn.
Such accounts of innovative entrepreneurship not only illustrate the col-
laborative ventures that fuel a culture movement, but they also testify to the
limits of and potential for opportunity during the late 1990s. The rise and fall
of Nigeria’s petrostate that boomed and busted in the 1970s made “illusion”
became the “basis for survival” in a post-1970s Nigeria.21 Because opportuni-
ties for survival were so few, a pervasive underground culture called “419”
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144 Debra Klein
T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution
emerged in which thugs and scam artists calculated acts of deception and
thievery to earn money. Within this context, Rúkà’s Cultural Heritage group
represents an above-ground attempt to create the illusion of a traditional per-
forming troupe. Embellishing upon the group’s inherited skills, supplementing
skilled performers where necessary and using the video camera as authenti-
cating technology, Rúkà was able to conjure visas out of staged portrayals of
cultural heritage.
Performers of Yorùbá tradition, È
.un artists were willing to forge
alliances with Rúkà and her group. Hoping to get some quick cash while
expanding their networks, the artists legitimized Rúkà’s venture so that it
could compete in the fl ooded market of Nigerian survival schemes. Rúkàs
product may have been an illusion, but the collaborative relationships among
its participants were real. Although building upon a culture of illusions for
survival may seem inherently unstable, its foundation of committed collabo-
rators continues to sustain Nigeria’s popular economy. While Rúkà’s Cultural
Heritage group crafted the illusion of a traditional performing troupe, it pro-
duced real opportunities—out of strategic collaborations—for its members.
The examined dynamics of cross-cultural and intercultural collaborations
help us understand how relationships of power have infused collaborative
projects with the common focus of teaching, learning, producing and per-
forming Yorùbá culture. The foreign scholars and artists who chose to spend
extended periods of time as apprentices to È
.un artists came to under-
stand that Yorùbá bàtá is a living tradition that still thrives and changes
in local Nigerian contexts. By going against the grain of a global quick-fi x
imperative and by challenging status expectations, the German ethnofusion
band, German drum students, and U.S. anthropologists engaged in an anti-
politics of collaboration, spurred on by the transgressive style and expecta-
tions of our teacher and primary collaborator, Làmídì Àyánkúnlé.
1. Christopher Waterman, Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an
African Popular Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Karin
Barber, I Could Speak until Tomorrow: Oríkì, Women and the Past in a
Yorù Town (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1991); Andrew Apter, Black
Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yorùbá Society (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1992); J. Lorand Matory, Sex and the Empire
That Is No More: Gender and Politics of Metaphor in Oyo Yobá Religion
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).
2. Paulla Ebron, Performing Africa (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
2002), 1.
3. I turned to anthropological and cultural studies literature to explore the theo-
retical question of how concepts of “performativity” and “performance” open
discussions of power and identity. Cf. Debra Klein, Yorùbá Bàtá Goes Global:
Artists, Culture Brokers and Fans (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
4. James Cli ord, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Cen-
tury (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 200.
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Strategic Collaborations between Nigerians and Germans 145
T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution
5. Anna Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2005), 246.
6. Ibid., 247.
7. The concept of strategic collaboration has emerged from conversations with
colleagues since the 1990s. Lisa Bunin and Annie Lorrie Anderson have
developed concepts of collaboration in their discussions of organic cotton
production in India and Garifuna peoples’ political process in Guatemala,
8. Ulli Beier is a world-renowned scholar and culture broker from Germany
who has been dedicated to the study and promotion of Yorùbá culture since
his fi rst trip to Nigeria in 1950.
9. In their promotional literature and album jackets, Embryo described their music
as “ethnomusic” and “fusion.” I have conjoined the two terms to characterize
their artistic endeavors. Embryo explained that they had been playing ethno-
music twenty years before the term “ethno” became popular. Embryo used
“fusion” to describe their syncretic musical style—fusing together the “old”
(Africa) the “new” (Europe) and other musical genres such as jazz and rock.
10. Veit Erlman, “The Aesthetics of the Global Imagination: Refl ections on
World Music in the 1990s,” Public Culture 8 (1996): 467–87; Reebee Garo-
falo, “Whose World, What Beat: The Transnational Music Industry, Identity,
and Cultural Imperialism,” World of Music 35, no. 2 (1993): 16–32; Bob W.
White, Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu’s Zaire (Dur-
ham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000).
11. Steven Feld, “Voices of the Rainforest: Politics of Music,” Arena 99/100
(1994): 164–77; and Garofalo, “Whose World, What Beat.”
12. Steven Feld, “From Schizophonia to Schismogenesis: On the Discourses and
Commodifi cation Practices of ‘World Music’ and ‘World Beat,’” in Music
Grooves: Essays and Dialogues, ed. Charles Keil and Steven Feld (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1994), 266.
13. Louise Meintjes, “Paul Simon’s Graceland, South Africa, and the Mediation
of Musical Meaning,” Ethnomusicology 34.1 (1990): 37–73.
14. Ebron, Performing Africa.
15. Feld, “Schizophonia to Schismogenesis,” 266.
16. Hopkins in Jocelyn Guilbault, “On Redefi ning the ‘Local’ through World
Music,” World of Music 35.2 (1993): 3347.
17. Ibid., 41.
18. Christian Burchard, “Twenty Years Ago: An Embryo Musician Looks Back,”
in 20 Years Embryo Jubilee Tour ’89. 1989. Tour Program.
19. Embryo still enjoys a prolifi c and diverse recording and performance career.
Updated frequently, Embryo’s homepage ( includes a
thorough documentation of their history: biographies, photos, a discography
and interviews.
20. Ebron, Performing Afric a.
21. Andrew Apter, The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in
Nigeria (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 249–50.
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Full-text available
Purpose The Environment Agency estimates that one in six homes in England (approximately 5.2m properties) are at risk from flooding and 185,000 commercial properties are located in flood-prone areas. Further, an estimate of 10,000 new homes are built on flood plains yearly. The UK has witnessed a significant increase in flood events over the past 10 years. During this period, there has been growing research attention into measures to mitigate the effects of flooding, including the benefits of deploying sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDs) in new developments or as a retrofit. The purpose of this paper is to present the development of a cost-benefit analysis model for the retrofit of SuDs focusing on the potential for improved flood risk mitigation in the context of commercial properties. Design/methodology/approach A synthesis of flood risk management and SuDs literature is used to inform the development of a conceptual cost-benefit analysis model for the retrofit of SuDs and focusing on the potential for improved flood risk mitigation in the context of commercial properties. Findings SuDs have been applied successfully in different parts of the world; however, the uptake of SuDs, in particular, the retrofit of SuDs, has been restricted by a number of issues including a lack of experience and trust in their performance and a lack of understanding in their true benefits. In particular, there is the limited experience of retrofitting SuDs and there are no well-established procedures for evaluating the feasibility, value or cost effectiveness of doing this. Social implications This offers the potential to support the UK government’s flood risk management policy by helping to increase the resilience of properties, whilst offering other benefits to communities such as improvements in air quality and biodiversity and also presenting a clearer understanding of the monetary and non-monetary implication to owners of commercial properties for a more informed and acceptable uptake of SuDs retrofit. Originality/value The proposed model will allow a more comprehensive understanding of the costs and associated benefits associated with SuDs retrofit, highlighting the flood risk mitigation benefits that might accrue over a period of time for commercial property.
Prologue: In Medias Res TRAVELS Traveling Cultures A Ghost among Melanesians Spatial Practices: Fieldwork, Travel, and the Disciplining of Anthropology CONTACTS Four Northwest Coast Museums: Travel Reflections Paradise Museums as Contact Zones Palenque Log FUTURES Year of the Ram: Honolulu, February 2, 1991 Diasporas Immigrant Fort Ross Meditation Notes References Sources Acknowledgments Index
The jali--a member of a hereditary group of Mandinka professional performers--is a charismatic but contradictory figure. He is at once the repository of his people's history, the voice of contemporary political authority, the inspiration for African American dreams of an African homeland, and the chief entertainment for the burgeoning transnational tourist industry. Numerous journalists, scholars, politicians, and culture aficionados have tried to pin him down. This book shows how the jali's talents at performance make him a genius at representation--the ideal figure to tell us about the "Africa" that the world imagines, which is always a thing of illusion, magic, and contradiction. Africa often enters the global imagination through news accounts of ethnic war, famine, and despotic political regimes. Those interested in countering such dystopic images--be they cultural nationalists in the African diaspora or connoisseurs of "global culture"--often found their representations of an emancipatory Africa on an enthusiasm for West African popular culture and performance arts. Based on extensive field research in The Gambia and focusing on the figure of the jali, Performing Africa interrogates these representations together with their cultural and political implications. It explores how Africa is produced, circulated, and consumed through performance and how encounters through performance create the place of Africa in the world. Innovative and discerning, Performing Africa is a provocative contribution to debates over cultural nationalism and the construction of identity and history in Africa and elsewhere.
The presence of style indicates strong community, an intense sociability that has been given shape through time, an assertion of control over collective feelings so powerful that any expressive innovator will necessarily put his or her content into that shaping continuum and no other. (Keil 1985:122)
A wheel turns because of its encounter with the surface of the road; spinning in the air it goes nowhere. Rubbing two sticks together produces heat and light; one stick alone is just a stick. In both cases, it is friction that produces movement, action, effect. Challenging the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a "clash" of cultures, anthropologist Anna Tsing here develops friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that make up our contemporary world. She focuses on one particular "zone of awkward engagement"--the rainforests of Indonesia--where in the 1980s and the 1990s capitalist interests increasingly reshaped the landscape not so much through corporate design as through awkward chains of legal and illegal entrepreneurs that wrested the land from previous claimants, creating resources for distant markets. In response, environmental movements arose to defend the rainforests and the communities of people who live in them. Not confined to a village, a province, or a nation, the social drama of the Indonesian rainforest includes local and national environmentalists, international science, North American investors, advocates for Brazilian rubber tappers, UN funding agencies, mountaineers, village elders, and urban students, among others--all combining in unpredictable, messy misunderstandings, but misunderstandings that sometimes work out.
When Nigeria hosted the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977, it celebrated a global vision of black nationhood and citizenship animated by the exuberance of its recent oil boom. Andrew Apter's The Pan-African Nation tells the full story of this cultural extravaganza, from Nigeria's spectacular rebirth as a rapidly developing petro-state to its dramatic demise when the boom went bust. According to Apter, FESTAC expanded the horizons of blackness in Nigeria to mirror the global circuits of its economy. By showcasing masks, dances, images, and souvenirs from its many diverse ethnic groups, Nigeria forged a new national culture. In the grandeur of this oil-fed confidence, the nation subsumed all black and African cultures within its empire of cultural signs and erased its colonial legacies from collective memory. As the oil economy collapsed, however, cultural signs became unstable, contributing to rampant violence and dissimulation. The Pan-African Nation unpacks FESTAC as a historically situated mirror of production in Nigeria. More broadly, it points towards a critique of the political economy of the sign in postcolonial Africa.
Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and Politics of Metaphor in Oyo Yorùbá Religion
  • Andrew Apter
  • Black Critics
  • Kings
Andrew Apter, Black Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yorùbá Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); J. Lorand Matory, Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and Politics of Metaphor in Oyo Yorùbá Religion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).