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Allow Peace to Reign: Musical Genres of Fújì and Islamic Allegorise Nigerian Unity in the Era of Boko Haram

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A proliferation of popular music genres flourished in post-independence Nigeria: highlife, jùjú, Afrobeat, and fújì. Originating within Yorùbá Muslim communities, the genres of fújì and Islamic are Islamised dance music genres characterised by their Arabic-influenced vocal style, Yorùbá praise poetry, driving percussion and aesthetics of incorporation, flexibility, and cultural fusion. Based on analysis of interviews and performances in Ìlọrin in the 2010s, this article argues that the genres of fújì and Islamic allegorise Nigerian unity—an ideology of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and equity—while exposing the gap between the aspiration for unity and everyday inequities shaped by gender and morality.
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Allow Peace to Reign: Musical Genres
of Fújì and Islamic Allegorise Nigerian
Unity in the Era of Boko Haram
A proliferation of popular music genres flourished in post-independence Nigeria: highlife, jùjú,Afro-
beat, and fújì. Originating within Yorùbá Muslim communities, the genres of fújì and Islamic are
Islamised dance music genres characterised by their Arabic-influenced vocal style, Yorùbá praise poetry,
driving percussion, and aesthetics of incorporation, flexibility, and cultural fusion. Based on analysis of
interviews and performances in Ìlo ̣rin in the 2010s, this article argues that the genres of fújì and Islamic
allegorise Nigerian unityan ideology of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and equitywhile exposing
the gap between the aspiration for unity and everyday inequities shaped by gender and morality.
A proliferation of popular music genres flourished in post-independence Nigeria from the
1960s through the 1980s: highlife, jùjú,Afrobeat,fújì,andwákà. Distinct from the other
genres, fújì grew out of Yorùbá Muslim communities. Fújì and its women-inclusive relative,
Islamic, are dance music genres characterised by their Arabic-influenced vocal style, Yorùbá
praise poetry (oríkì), and driving percussion.
Fújìs popularity hit a peak in Nigeria and on
the global stage in the late 1980s and early 1990s.Today, fújì and Islamic bands continue to
record their music and perform throughout Nigeria and across the globe.
Through an analysis of aesthetics and performances, and interviews with artists,
this article argues that fújì and Islamic allegorise a Yorùbá Islamicnarrative of Nigerian unity
a morally charged ideology of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and equityemerging
from these genresaesthetics of incorporation, flexibility, and cultural fusion.
The first half
1. The italicisation of the musical genre of Islamic should clarify the distinction between the musical genre and
the religion/culture.
2. I wish to express m y sincerest gratitude to the artists of the Ìlo ̣rin branch of the Performing Musicians Association
of Nigeria, especially President Alhaji Sàká Dánfó and Alhaja Sheidat Fatimah Al-Jafariyah, leader of the Islamic
Musicians Association, for their support and encouragement. I am grateful to the Department of Performing Arts at
the University of Ìlo ̣rin and my host, Dr. Jeleel Ojuade, and his family for their generous hospitality and research
assistance. I also wish to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding this research.
Yearbook for Traditional Music (2020), 122
© International Council for Traditional Music 2020
of this article defines the concepts of aesthetic formation and allegory in relation to the genres
of fújì and Islamic during the 2010s in Nigeria. The following section is a brief analysis of a
popular music video, Stop the Violence,by Lagos-based fújì artist, Alhaji Sulaimon Alao
Adekunle Malaika (aka KS1)
and guest artists Oritse Femi, Cashson, and Tetsola. The final
section analyses the ethnographic case of Islamic artist Alhaja Sheidat Fatimah Al-Jafariyahs
performance at the University of Ìlọrin, as well as the video and lyrics of one of her original
hit songs, Kádàrá/Destiny.An analysis of these cases suggests that there is a gap between
the ideology of unity, inherent in the form and content of fújì and Islamic, and Nigerians
struggles with everyday inequities shaped by gender and morality.
An analysis of popular music provides one lens through which to understand
Nigerian artistsand their audiencesconversation about Nigerias struggles for national
unity. The nation of Nigeria has beenshaped by its history of Islamisation (beginning in the
late 1500s in Northern Nigeria), Christian missionisation (beginning in the 1840s), British
colonialism (lasting from about 1901 until 1960), industrialisation of oil (beginning in the
1950s), national independence from Great Britain (1960), civil war (1966 to 1979), and a
series of local wars and struggles throughout Nigerias history among and between over
300 ethnic groups. Though conflict between the Muslim Northand Christian South
have plagued Nigerias struggles for national unity, most Nigerians have practised and
continue to practise some form of Islam or Christianity while living peacefully together in
mixed religious communities. Significantly, many Nigerians continue to incorporate some
form of indigenous philosophy and religion into their worldviews and cultural practices.
This article builds on the body of Yorùbá music scholarship that documents and
analyses Islamised Yorùbá musical genres (Euba 1971; Omibiyi 1975; Adegbite 1989,
2016; Waterman 1990; Barber and Waterman 1995; Adeola 1997; Abubakre 2004;
Daramola 2007; Frishkopf 2007; Olaniyan 2007; Danmolé 2008; Omojola 2012,2016;
Oladiti 2015; Abiodun 2019). It also contributes to the work of anthropologists and
historians (Laitin 1986; Matory 1994; Abubakre 2004;NaAllah 2009; Peel 2016) who
have documented how the interaction between Islam and indigenous Yorùbá cosmology
and philosophy has strongly influenced Yorùbá cultures in predominantly Muslim cities
and towns in southwestern Nigeria for at least two hundred years.
Part of a broader project that documents the negotiation of gender, morality,
ethnicity, and nationality within the genres of fújì and Islamic, this article focuses on the
predominantly Yorùbá Islamic city of Ìlo ̣rin, rather than Lagos or Ìbàdàn, the urban hubs
of fújì.
Perhaps lesser known for its fújì music, Ìlọrin is the home of wéré (fújìs
3. For brevity, I will refer to Alhaji Sulaimon Alao Adekunle Malaika as Malaika.
4. For brevity, I will refer to Alhaja Sheidat Fatimah Al-Jafariyah as Sheidat Fatimah.
5. Hausa and Arabic clerics and traders most likely lived in todayśyo ̣
́region during the 1500s, though
Yorùbá conversions were not documented until 1775 (Matory 1994:496).
6. For the past three decades, I have conducted research with Yorùbá performing artists in Nigeria. Building on
my previous work, this article is based on participant-observation, interviews, and conversations with artists and
colleagues in and around Ìlo ̣rin in 2010 and 2012.
foundational genre), fújì, and several regional iterations, such as Islamic. A medium-sized
Nigerian capital city with a population of around one million, Ìlo ̣rin is renowned for its
institutions of higher education and Quranic scholarship, and recognised as the home of
Yorùbá handcrafts and oral culture production, such as as
:o oke (traditional hand-woven
cloth) and traditional genres of praise poetry and dance, including dadakuada
and erée
Though Ìlọrin is predominantly Yorùbá, it is an ethnically diverse city, including
people of Fulani, Hausa, and Nupe descent, as well as other minority groups.
Muslim traders from Mali and Niger brought Islam into Yorùbá regions during
the late sixteenth century. When Hausa Muslims became dominant in eighteenth century
Nigeria, they continued to convert Yorùbá people as far as the coast. By the early
nineteenth century, the number of Yorùbá Muslims was substantial (Peel 2000). A major
turning point in Ìlo ̣rin and Yorùbá history was in 1817 when Fulani Muslims established
the first emirate in Ìlo ̣rin and appointed its first emir (king), Abdul Salami. Becoming the
most southerly emirate of Nigeria, Ìlọrin was the only Yorùbá region to be conquered in
the jihad that established the Sokoto Caliphate. During the colonial period, Ìlo ̣rin was part
of Northern Nigeria, which prevented Christian missionisation and facilitated Islamisa-
tion, resulting in a Muslim majority (Peel 2016). Thus, Ìlo ̣rins unique status as the
Meccaof southern Nigeria, the gatewayto the Muslim North, has been the result of its
two-hundred year history of the indigenisation of Islam.
As the only Yorùbá emirate (Islamic kingdom), Ìlo ̣rin provides a singular
ethnographic model for examining the fusion of northern Nigerian Islamic and Yorùbá
Islamic cultures. Through an exploration of Yorùbá Islamic identity and analyses of Ìlo ̣rin-
based performances and artist life histories, my broader research suggests that Ìlo ̣rin serves
as a crossroads between southwestern and northern Nigeria, shaping fújìs aesthetics and
allegory of a peaceful, unified nation.
Yorùbá Islamised musical cultures consist of a range of musical genres described by
scholars and artists as fusions, syntheses, or hybrids of indigenous Yorùbá and Islamic
cultures (Abubakre 2004; Daramola 2007; Danmolé 2008). Fújì and Islamic are genres of
what musicologists have categorised as socio-religiousmusic, having derived from
semi-religiousvocal music performed for spiritual inspiration at Muslim events such
as graduations (wolimotu), sermons (waasi), and festivals (Id-al-Fitr and Id-al-Kabir).
7. The name dadakuadahas no clear etymological meaning; it is not a word in any of the languages spoken in
Ìlọrin. In his masters thesis, Adeola discusses at length its possible origin and meanings (1997:312).
8. Erée bàlúù is the women-centred iteration of dadakuada, featuring women dancers and male instrumen-
talists, that emerged in the 1970s (Adeola 1997:21).
Characterised by the addition of instrumental music, and also serving as entertainment for
events such as child namings, marriages, and funerals, socio-religious music
genres are
forms of popular culturean historically, socially, and culturally produced realm of
practices and aesthetics which have emerged from the material conditions of their
production (Barber 1987).
During the 1940s, male vocalists created wéré music to wake up their neighbours
to prepare the morning meal during the annual month-long fast of Ramadan (Abubakre
2004; Abubakare, interview, 29 July 2012). Wéré means quick,referring to the musics
wake-up call function. Ajísari, an interchangeable name for wéré, means waking up for
sari.Typical of many professional singers in Nigeria, wéré vocalists often began singing in
the absence of or before pursuing formal training. An ensemble of agogo (metal gongs/
bells), sákárà (round, single-skinned frame-drum), or a s
̀ke ̣
̀re ̣
̀(gourd rattles) accompanied
wéré singers as they traveled from home to home composing songs to encourage their
neighbours to wake up.
In the 1950s, fújì emerged from wéré music. Fújì artists and scholars trace fújìs
origin to Father of Fújì Music Síkírù Àyìndé Barristers (19482010) storied divine
inspiration to transform wéré into a popular dance music as a new genre of Yorùbá
popular music (Abiodun 2011; Klein 2019). Defined by its unique combination of vocals
and percussion, fújìsfull-bodied sound was produced by a large band, including a front
man, several back-up vocalists, and an orchestra of percussionists. Since the 1980s, a
keyboardist, saxophonists, and electric and pedal steel guitarists have added musical
elements to the sound from a range of cultures and styles, particularly disco, reggae, jùjú,
Afrobeat, highlife, and hip-hop.
During the 1950s, the fusion of indigenous Yorùbá and Islamic religious music
also produced gendered genres, influenced by the gender politics and belief systems of
the Islamic traditions. Wákà, meaning chanted poemin Hausa, derived from the semi-
religious womens genre of alasalatu, meaning owner of prayerin Arabic (Daramola
2007:5153). Wákà was commercialised and included the same instrumentation as fújì.
In and around Ìlọrin, the term Islamic became an interchangeable name for the genre of
wákà. The Ìlọrin branch of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN)
classifies its regional iteration of wákà as Islamic; the Islamic branch of PMAN is called the
Islamic Music Association of Nigeria (ISMAN). While numerous labels reflect slight
regional variations, these styles emerged in the 1950s and were originally performed by
women vocalists for Islamic events such as weddings and celebrations for pilgrims
returning from Mecca. Since the 1980s, professional Muslim women vocalists have
fronted their own bands, which are identical to fújì bands in their instrumentation. While
its themes and aesthetics are often more closely tied to morality than fújì, there is
significant overlap between Islamic and fújì.
9. Socio-religious music also includes the genres of wákà,wéré, seli, sákárà, apala, awurebe, dadakuada, and
During the 2010s, Islamic included both women and men as lead vocalists. Fújì
has only included men as lead vocalists to date, and the instrumental music of both genres
has been played exclusively by men. Unlike fújì, women performers of Islamic have a
dominant presence on stage and in videos. The following section details the fusion
elements of the genres of fújì and Islamic.
Anthropologist Birgit Meyers concept of aesthetic formationoffers a framework for an
analysis of how the Islamised genres of fújì and Islamic have the power to hone individual
imaginations into shared imaginaries (2015:18) and thus mediate between the personal
and the social. The concept of aesthetic formation is the idea that human beings exist in
relationship with material cultural forms, present in their everyday lives, a sensory fabric
through which they experience the world. Media such as music mobilise aesthetic
formations to draw us people into shared imaginaries, representations that underpin
the moral and intellectual schemes and sensory modes that govern ways of being in the
world(2015:1415). For example, Meyer illustrates how Ghanaian movies are not just
movieswith no lasting effect; the power of their aesthetic formation can be seen in their
audiencesacceptance of and belief in a narrative about Ghanaian cultures potential
danger due to its evil-invoking religious practices.
Identifying and analysing a genres aesthetic formation allows us to understand
what is aesthetically specific about a genre and how and why that genre has an effect on our
ways of being in the world. The aesthetic formation of the Islamised genres of fújì and
Islamic is a fusion or synthesis of Arabic and Yorùbá musical cultures that emerged from a
process of acculturation (Abubakre 2004; Daramola 2007; Danmolé 2008) over the
course of the past two hundred years in southwestern Nigeria, during which Islamic
traders and merchants imported and established the religion of Islam, Islamic scholarship
in the Arabic language, and Quranic schools. Islamised music in Nigeria can be seen as a
site in which artists and audiences negotiate the indigenisation of Islam (Rasmussen
Musicologist Yomi Daramola defines Yorùbá Muslim musical style as a hybrid
of the Yoruba and Islamic cultures(2007:46). In his discussion of Nigerian popular
music genres, ethnomusicologist Bode Omojola establishes a framework he terms
syncretic-hybridity,a reinvention of indigenous genres while manipulating, under-
mining, demystifying, minimising, and mirroringnon-indigenous elements to signify
multiple meanings (2012:164). Below, I describe the syncretic hybridity of Yorùbá Islamic
fusions in the genres of fújì and Islamic and how these genres impact their audiences during
the 2010s. After describing the fusion of Islamic and indigenous Yorùbá elements in these
genresvocal style, song content, and performance attire, I discuss the indigenous Yorùbá
element of percussion and the genresallegorical impact.
An Arabic vocal style is melismatic with a nasal timbre, characteristic elements of
Arabic singing and Quranic recitation. Indigenous Yorùbá vocal aesthetics include syllabic
chant-like singing, unison singing, continuous duration performance, and a nasal timbre
(Olaniyan 2007:26). However, it is difficult to completely disentangle a Yorùbá vocal style
from its Arabic influences. Over the course of hundreds of years, an indigenous Yorùbá vocal
style has been Islamised, while a Nigerian Islamic vocal style has been indigenised, resulting
in the syncretic Yorùbá Islamic vocal style characteristic of fújì and Islamic.
Both genres include Yorùbá praise poetry most commonly sung in the Yorùbá
language, covering a wide range of themes, including social and political issues, morality,
and audience membershistories. Such themes emerge from the artistseveryday lives and
are stylistically rooted in ewì, a neo-traditional style of moral and topical Yorùbá poetry.
Ewì songs often begin with invocations to God, the ancestors and/or the Òrìs
spirits, gods, and goddesses), and include praise songs, prayers, proverbs and stories.
Common ewì,fújì, and Islamic themes include wealth and poverty, success and failure,
politicians and their legacies, good versus evil, peoples sources of power, infidelity,
secrecy, magic, greed, pregnancy, money, loyalty, war, and love. Fújì and Islamic artfully
weave these moral and spiritual messages into popular dance music themes about having
fun on and off the dance floor (Klein 2019:147).
While the themes of Islamic are more closely tied to Muslim morality than are
those of fújì, there is significant overlap of themes between the two genres. Most, if not all,
Islamic songs begin with the basmala (invocation to God) and include Quranic recitation
in the Arabic language. Depending on the time period, artist, and context, fújì songs may
also include the basmala and Quranic recitation. In my preliminary investigation of song
texts, I have found that fújì and Islamic songs draw upon both Yorùbá indigenous and
Islamic worldviews, resulting in complex explorations of life expressed through a Yorùbá
Islamic aesthetic formationa fusion of philosophies, musical elements, languages, and
visual representations.
During performances, artists frequently wear the same styles of dress that they
wear in everyday life. Traditional styles of Yorùbá dress have been influenced by Muslim
dress over the past two hundred years, a fusion of Yorùbá and Islamic style. Yorùbá
womens dress consists of a skirt (iro), a long piece of cloth tied or tucked around the waist,
a matching long-sleeved blouse (bùbá), and a matching headscarf ( gèlè) tied in a range of
styles. Women also wear Muslim caftans, long dresses with or without embroidery, and an
additional headscarf (ibori in Yorùbá or hijab in Arabic) (see Figure 1). Mens traditional
dress consists of roomy trousers (s
:òkòtò), a long and roomy shirt (bùbá), and a wide-sleeved,
flowing robe (agbáda). While older generations of artists perform in these stylesoften
made from fashionable, exquisite clothyounger generations often choose Western-
influenced, fashionable clothing (see Figure 2).
The signature indigenous Yorùbá element of fújì and Islamic is an orchestra of
driving percussion ensemble. Dùndún drums are the most numerous of the percussion
instruments in any ensemble, particularly the gángan, the smallest of the double-headed,
hourglass-shaped drums. These are commonly known as talkingdrums, as dùndún
drummers mimic the tones of the Yorùbá language by squeezing and releasing the tension
straps to change the pitch of the skin. Dùndún drums primarily provide a fast-paced and
constant ostinato background, while skilled drummers also intone speech as they play
proverbial texts, which convey messages to the band and audiences alike (Olaniyan
2007:26). Legendary fújì star Ayinla Kollington introduced the bàtá rhythmic drum to
the ensemble during the 1980s (see Figure 3).
Since the 1980s, drummers have also
added a western-style drumset, in addition to bells and rattles used in various styles of
Yorùbá music. Most bands include s
̀ke ̣
̀re ̣
̀(gourd rattles), and many bands include agogo
(iron bells) and aro (a pair of circular iron idiophones that the musician claps together).
Many of todaysfújì and Islamic bands include instrumentation from other
Nigerian and global music genres. Syncopated chords played on the synthesiser often
provide hooks, which help to make fújì songs and albums recognisable and memorable.
Synthesised sound effects, such as strategically placed, high-pitched glides, were perceived
Figure 1. Sheidat Fatimah performing in traditional attire. Photo by author.
10. The inclusion of bàtá in fújì bands can be controversial, particularly for devout Muslims who reject
anything associated with the Yorùbá spirits. When Kollington added bàtá drums to his band, he was celebrating
his cultural heritage while experimenting with a new sound, which he called Bàtá Fújì.
as modern and edgy additions in the 1980s. Fújì saxophone and guitar styles borrow from
jùjú pedal steel guitar and horn arrangements recalling highlife, creating a more laid-
back vibe.
The genres of fújì and Islamic allegorise a set of valuesunity, peaceful coex-
istence, tolerance, and equitya shared way of being in the world with which many
Nigerians identify, proudly idealising these values as Nigerian(Danmolé 2008). Yomi
Daramola further describes the meaning of Islamised genres as an accord between Islamic
and Yoruba musical culturesborn out of the peaceful coexistence between Islamic and
Yoruba traditional religions(2007:54), a way of being in the world that is open-minded
and accepting of difference that professional musicians model within their communities
and beyond (2007:48).
Figure 2. Malaika wearing traditional attire (photo by KS1 Malaika, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0
license in Wikipedia.)
Since Ìlọrin became an Islamic emirate under the rule of Fulani royal élites in
1817, Ìlọrins governance and educational institutions have negotiated the tensions
between Ìlọrins unique status as the only Yorùbá emirate, on the one hand, and a global
Islamic city comprising a diverse ethnic and religious population, on the other. Ìlọrins
institutions have historically embraced the citys Yorùbá culture as folkloreor heritage
while denying or condemning Yorùbá Òrìs
:àculture and cosmology, Abdul-Rasheed
NaAllah, a scholar of Ìlo ̣rin oral culture, grapples with the meaning of inhabiting both
Yorùbá and Islamic identities, describing an Ìlo ̣rin identity which embraces both its
Yorùbá and Islamic heritages as an Islamicityunique to Ìlo ̣rin (2009:11).
Throughout my research, my colleagues and interviewees referred to the insti-
tutionalised and religiously orthodox form of Islam in Ìlo ̣rin as Islamist.Drawing from
scholarship documenting Yorùbá Islamic culture and my fieldwork data, I refer to the
Islamic culture lived and practised by most Yorùbá people in Ìlo ̣rin and other Yorùbá
communities as Yorùbá Islam,a flexible and incorporative Islamic culture rooted in
indigenous Yorùbá values of tolerance and open-mindedness.
Cultural theorist James Clifford (1986) and anthropologist Carolyn Martin Shaw (1995)
defined and modelled the use of allegory as an analytic device for identifying broad morally
charged and ideological narratives that inform or shape an ethnographicaccount of a culture:
Allegory (more strongly than interpretation) calls to mind the poetic, traditional,
cosmological nature ofwriting processes. Allegory draws special attention to the
narrative character of cultural representations, to the stories built into the represen-
tational process itself. (Clifford 1986:100)
Figure 3. Bàtá and dùndún drums. Photo by author.
Cliffords classic article, On Ethnographic Allegory(1986), contributed to the post-
modernist critique of ethnographic writing that continues to remind producers of cultural
analysis that cultural analysis is often informed by, or infused with, some allegory or
morally charged story.
In my analysis of fújì and Islamic aesthetics, I have found the
device of allegory an instructive way to think about how these genres work on their
audiences, how they tell their stories, and how their moral stories are built into their
aesthetic formation. The genres of fújì and Islamic allegorised an ideal of unity in the
2010s, reflecting an ideology of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and equity. As with any
ideology, there are gaps between the ideal and the lived reality. An analysis of fújì and
Islamic reveals the gaps between narratives of an ideal Nigeria and everyday life in a nation
wrought by political, economic, and gender inequities.
In the early 2000s, national political power shifted from the North to the South,
exacerbating the levels of poverty in the North that led to the emergence of Boko Haram.
Founded in 2002 by Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf in Borno, Boko Haram is a Hausa name that
translates as western-style education is forbidden,referring to the education that leads to a
corrupt system of Nigerian politics and business. According to Boko Haram, Nigerian
corruption is un-Islamic (Last 2009:10). For the past decade, it has been almost impossible
to talk about Nigeria outside of the context of Boko Haram. The last two-month period of my
research in Ìlo ̣rin was tempered by my colleaguesfear for their and my safety in the event of a
potential attack or kidnapping. During my stay, a city-wide curfew limited residentsability to
safely leave their homes in the evenings. Although Boko Haram comprises a relatively small
group of poor, unemployed Muslim youth in northeastern Nigeria, this terrorist organisation
has effectively disrupted everyday life by instilling fear throughout the nation.
The crisis of Boko Harams kidnapping of over two hundred girls from their
secondary school in Borno garnered global attention and inspired fújì star Malaika to
co-produce and perform a hit song, Stop the Violence,allegorising Nigerian unity and
holding the Nigerian government accountable for locating and releasing the kidnapped
girls. While the world was watching, Malaikas song offered an allegory of Nigerian unity
for a local and global audience looking for an expression of moral outrage and a public
critique of national leadership.
Malaikas ideological narrative of national unity tapped into a global discourse of
gender equity. By the 2010s in Nigeria, it was widely believed that education should be
accessible to all girls and women, especially in the North, where colonialism and Islamist
11. Cliffords insights regarding the power of allegory in ethnographic storytelling contributed to the era of
reflexive anthropology. Feminist anthropologists and anthropologists of colour, in particular, established new
conventions of ethnographic storytelling that foregrounded analyses of power and culture alongside an analysis of
the researchers subject-position (see, for example, Abu-Lughod 1991; Tsing 1993; Rosaldo 2001).
12. Discussing the emergence of Boko Haram as a result of the extreme poverty in Northern Nigeria, historian
Moses Ebe Ochonu calls for significant investment in Northern Nigerias Western and Islamic educational
infrastructure, as well as a diversification of its economies. He also calls for a reinvention of the legitimacy of the
Nigerian stateby allocating control over resources, revenue, and development initiatives to local entities, such as
state and local governments (2014).
interpretations of the religion had limited such educational opportunities. Contrary to
assumptions that all of northern Nigeria is perpetually backwardswhen it comes to
education policy and gender, most of northern Nigeria does not adhere to an Islamist
worldview, as Barbara Brown points out:
Most families in northern, Muslim Nigeria have come to terms with the inevita-
bility, if not the desirability, of female literacy and education. Boko Haram
represents a retrograde belief system and criminal enterprise that nevertheless taps
into older prejudices towards secular schooling in general, and female education in
particular. (Brown 2014:7)
Boko Harams acts of violence targeting girls, however, reminded Nigerians and the world
that Nigerian girls and women continue to suffer under conditions of inequity and
violence. Analysis of artist interviews and fújì and Islamic performances reveals the gap
between the aspiration for gender equity and national unity, on the one hand, and the
experiences of gender inequity and national disharmony, on the other.
Alhaji Sulaimon Alao Adekunle Malaika, aka KS1, was one of the most popular fújì artists in
the 2010s. While his extended family is from Abeokuta and Ìbàdàn, Malaika was born and
raised in Lagos. Malaika began his career singing wéré music and formed his first fújì band
in 1985. Winner of several Best Fújì Music Artisttitles, Malaika is well known for his
collaborations with singer-songwriters and hip-hop artists. An ambassador for fújì,heis
often quoted for his belief that fújì music is the only genre that showcases Nigerian identity
abroadand restores nearly forgotten Yoruba values and heritage(Fujiipop 2015).
Malaikas VCD
,Stop the Violence, released in 2014 (see Figure 4), presents a
series of quickly flashing scenes featuring militant Boko Haram soldiers in combat gear;
the Nigerian flag; an imam giving a sermon; a Catholic priest giving a sermon; a screen shot
of all Nigerian presidentsfaces; footage of Barack and Michelle Obama; and newspaper
clippings about the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped. These revolving images are
interspersed with footage of Malaika and guest musicians singing in English and Yorùbá,
in generic recording studios with the Nigerian flag in the background. The videos close-
up shots frame the artistsfacial expressions and gestures, which communicate deep
concern for Nigerias future. The final scene is a plea by the artists, shouting in unison,
to Stop the violence!
13. A video CD or VCD is a compact disc format that has a resolution similar to that of VHS, a resolution of
lesser quality than the DVD format. In much of Africa, India, and the Middle East, VCDs are more common
than DVDs because VCDs are less expensive to produce.
Fújì star Malaikas video performance exemplifies a Yorùbá Islamic aesthetic
formation, incorporating rap, hip-hop, and global cultural aesthetics into a sensory fabric
woven together with the following threads: an allegory of Nigerian unity, peace, and
gender equity; Yorùbá and English languages; fújì instrumentation; elements from rap and
hip-hop music (electronically programmed drums, rap solos, the five-minute arrange-
ment); melismatic vocal style; praise singing; a catchy chorus; Western-influenced cos-
tuming (trousers, t-shirts, button-down shirts, hats, necklaces); and a generic studio
setting with the Nigerian flag as a backdrop.
Malaikas song effectively informed and inspired national and global dialogue
and awareness. The chorus consists of the words Stop the violence, allow peace to reign.
Nigerians arise, lets build a new nation. Lets shun the violence and live in peace,a call to
mobilise fújìs allegory. The song calls upon Nigerians, U.S. politicians, and religious
leaders to pray for national unification and rise above the sectarian violence that has shaped
Nigerias national struggles. In the middle of the song, the three guest artists rap in unison
in the English language:
I pledge to Nigeria, my country, to be faithful, loyal, and honest. Equal rights and
justice is what we want. Elevation is all that we pray for. This is a state of emergency,
something bigger than what my eyes can see. We are calling on you, religious leaders.
Hausa, Igbo, and Yorùbá, lets unite and come together. Let all Nigerians be
prayerful. Unity is the key. (Malaika 2014)
Figure 4. Stop the Violence VCD cover.
These lyrics articulate the effect the artists intend their song to have on the world. During
the rap section, the video flashes from a chief imam to a Catholic priest, urging unity across
religions. This scene is followed by a plea to the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria,
urging unity across cultures.
A few scenes later, the video flashes to Boko Harams kidnapping of the girls and
an image of Michelle Obama holding the now-iconic sign, Bring back our girls.”“Stop
the Violenceinvokes the global discourse of gender equity to express solidarity with
human rights movements and global citizens who are fighting for equal opportunity and
respect for girls and women. Malaikas song effectively exposed the gap between the ideal
Nigeria and the lived reality, while offering a vision of a unified Nigeria across religions,
ethnic groups, and genders.
The career of Alhaja Sheidat Fatimah Al-Jafariyah, an Ìlọrin-born and -based artist of the
Islamic genre, was on the rise in local, national, and international circlesin the 2010s. During
my fieldwork, Sheidat Fatimah was the most famous and prolific member of the Kwara State
musiciansunion, and leader of her branchsIslamic Music Association of Nigeria.
Born in Ìlọrin in 1972, Sheidat Fatimah was one of fifteen children raised by her
father and his four wives. One of her uncles was the first of her family to join the Muslim
association, Jafariyyah, a branch of Shia Islamic scholarship and worship. Sheidat Fatimah
grew up attending Islamic prayer groups on Fridays and Jafariyyah meetings on Sundays,
where she learned to sing azikir, the Yorùbá transliteration of the Arabic zikr, a form of sung
poetry consisting of prayers or phrases repeated as a form of devotion to God (Frishkopf
2007:644). Describing her enthusiasm for singing from a young age, Sheidat Fatimah said,
Everywhere I went, I hummed azikir(Al-Jafariyah, interview, 9 August 2012).
Recognising her talent, Sheidat Fatimahs family and friends advised her to enter
azikir and Quranic recitation competitions, which she continued to win throughout her
childhood. A family friend in Lagos and others were so amazed by the sonorous quality of
her voice that they continued to sponsor her early career. With the support of her family,
she became a professional singer of Islamic and began to record CDs in the 1990s. For the
past three decades, Sheidat Fatimah has performed at countless events throughout Nigeria
and for sold-out crowds in Ghana, Dubai, and Mecca. Many of her VCDs are posted on
YouTube and have received tens of thousands of hits. In demand for performances
throughout Nigeria, Sheidat Fatimah does her best to balance her time between the
recording studio, performing, and raising her children.
During my fieldwork, my research team planned an event featuring perfor-
mances by local wéré,fújì, and Islamic artists at the University of Ìlo ̣rin. The standout act
was indeed Sheidat Fatimah, who captivated the audience with her singing and dancing,
wearing a sparkling white hijab and a traditional-style skirt and blouse, sewn out of
exquisite white lace cloth (see Figure 5). Our surprise guest was the renowned literary
theorist Gayatri Spivak, who was the first audience member to leap to her feet, followed by
a crowd of enthusiastic audience members, to spray Sheidat Fatimah with naira (Nigerian
currency), acknowledging her stellar performance.
To close the event, a university
administrator offered his remarks, during which he interrupted his light-hearted cadence
with an admonition:
Sheidats performance is one of the things that the mallams [Quranic scholars]
condemn. Shes praising the Prophet, singing from the Quran, but definitely Islam
would not agree with a woman coming out to dance in such a manner. So these are
the contradictions that we need to actually bring out and solve. (University of
Ìlọrin administrator, closing remarks, 22 August 2012).
On the heels of the three-hour programme, this remark became one of the most buzzed-
about moments of the event. Proud of her first performance at the university, Sheidat
Fatimah graciously asked the media to delete the administrators comments from the
recording so that her fans would not hear the disparaging rhetoric. After the event,
Figure 5. Sheidat Fatimah performing at the University of Ìlo ̣rin. Photo by author.
14. Sprayingis the practice of offering performers cash on the spot when audiences are particularly moved by
a performance.
audience members wondered aloud about the appropriateness of the administrators
Islamist perspective in his criticism of Sheidat Fatimahs performance.
Sheidat Fatimahs dance technique consisted of precise and subtle pulsing of
the shoulders and buttocks, a style originating in dances for entertainment as well as
dances honouring and worshipping the Òrìs
:à(Àjàyí 1998;Klein2007). A regional
variationofthisstyleispractisedilọrin as erée bàlúù, a singing and dancing genre that
emerged within Yorùbá communities (Adeola 1997:21). Womensdancinghaslong
been judged as problematic by Islamists, because dance places its central focus on the
body(Doubleday 2013:201), which is seen as a corruptible site associated with sensual
pleasure. In contrast, indigenous Yorùbá culture values dance as virtually indispensable
in the continuity and reinforcement of a Yoruba belief system, power structure, gender
dynamics, and other social values and practices(Àjàyí 1998:222). From a Yorùbá
Islamic vantage, Sheidat Fatimahs dancing and singing are appropriate expressions of
her reverence for God; moreover, Yorùbá dance is regarded as an essential form of
cultural expression and pride.
In indigenous Yorùbá culture and philosophy, gender categories are multiple
and flexible. [T]he Yoruba world is not dichotomised into clearly distinct male and
female sectors. Gender classifications are not organised in a fixed schema: they are
ambiguous and fluctuating(Barber 1991:277). Barbers classic study of Yorùbá praise
poetry in Okuku revealed that while women were free to become powerful in any realm,
including the performing arts, most women chose not to compete in male arenas.
However, whenever women became successful, they were seen as a self-aggrandising
threat to mens power and branded as witches (1991:235). Throughout Nigeria, witch-
craft is understood to be an innate power, secretive and destructive, and connected with
femaleness (1991:236).
In Yorùbá communities, the command of oral art is a power(Barber
1991:290), singing and dancing go hand in hand (Àjàyí 1998), and women are respected
for becoming professional oral artists. However, powerful Yorùbá womens association
with witchcraft is a pervasive example of the gap between an ideology of gender flexibility
and equity, on the one hand, and the lived reality of gender inequity, on the other.
In 2003, Sheidat Fatimah gave birth to her second child, whose father is the famous and
well-respected Father of Fújì,Síkírù Àyìndé Barrister. Because Barrister and Sheidat
Fatimah were not married, the public debated Sheidat Fatimahs morality with respect
to the nature of her relationship with Barrister. While Sheidat Fatimah chooses not to
speak publicly about her relationship with Barrister, she does reflect publicly on how the
media speculated about and misrepresented the circumstances surrounding the birth of
their child. Sheidat Fatimahs experiences and reflections inspired her hit album,
Kádàrá/Destiny, during this challenging period of her life. During our interview, Sheidat
Fatimah told me that she believed Kádàrá/Destiny was one of her best-selling albums
because she was able to communicate honestly about a situation many women experience,
being judged by people who believe they have the moral right to judge otherschoices (Al-
Jafariyah, interview, 9 August 2012). Examining the Yorùbá Islamic aesthetics of Sheidat
Fatimahs performance, I will analyse the following verse within the context of her VCD (see
Figure 6).
Kádàrá is the Yorùbá transliteration of the Arabic qadar, meaning destiny.
Sheidat Fatimahs interpretation of the Islamic concept of qadar is rooted in her belief that
God, Allah, determines ones destiny from birth. At first glance, this song may appear to
lack a syncretic Yorùbá Islamic worldview. However, I suggest that the VCDs aesthetic
packagelyrics, language, costuming, dancing, and sceneryproduces a Yorùbá Islamic
aesthetic formation, a fusion of philosophical concepts and aesthetics that allegorises a
narrative of womens empowerment.
Examining the overlap between Islamic and indigenous Yorùbá cosmologies, I will
briefly compare the Islamic concept of destiny with the Yorùbá concept of orí,acomplex
concept which translates as headand destiny.A significant overlap between these
concepts lies in the contemplation of the role of the individual in the realisation of ones
destiny. In a lecture at the University of Ìlọrin, Chief Imam Oladosu spoke on the topic of
Believing in predestination should not make Muslims idle, lazy or relent in their life
endeavors. Rather, it should make them work harder to actualize their destiny,
which remains unknown until it gradually unfolds. (Arikewuyo 2013)
Ta ló mọkádàrá kó jáde wá wí. He who knows destiny should come out and say.
ní bá mọkádàrá kó jáde wá wí. He who knows destiny should come out and say.
mo tuntun ta bí ta bí sáyé, A newborn baby,
Ṣẹlé so ̣kádàrá tó mú wá sáyé? Can you tell her destiny?
le ̣́mìí gúngùn ni abẹ́le ̣mìí kúkúrú? Will she grow old or die young?
Ṣólówó ní ó yà ni àbí tálákà? Will she be poor or wealthy?
Oníwà rere ni àbí alàburú? Will she be kind or cruel?
ní bá mọkádàrá kó wá wí fùn wa. He who knows destiny should come out and say.
ba tó s
̀ à re ̣. The same king who created me created you.
Ìgbà tó s
̀dáamikòsẹ́ni tó yé. Nobody knows when he created me.
Ìgbà tí ó pè mí padà o kò sẹ́ni tó lè so ̣. Nobody knows when he will call me home.
Kò sẹ́ni tí ó so ̣f́lọ
́un básìkò bá ti tó. Nobody tells God the time is up.
je ̣́ká gbà f́lo ̣
́un ká de ̣
̀nísinmi. Let us accept our fate and rest.
Alhaja Sheidat Fatimah Al-Jafariyah (c. 2002)
Oladosus discussion of the individuals role in the actualisation of ones destiny, and his
theological interpretation that that destiny remains unknown until it gradually unfolds
overlaps with the Yorùbá concept of orí. According to Yorùbá cosmology, each person
chooses an orí/head/destiny in conversation with the Òrìs
:àbefore being born, and then
one must play an active role in the realisation of ones destiny throughout ones life.
Furthermore, through ritual processes, the Òrìs
:àmay enter/mount onesheadand
actively influence ones destiny. A syncretic Yorùbá Islamic cosmology emphasises these
concepts (Apter 1992; Abímbọ
Sheidat Fatimahs decision to compose, perform, and produce a VCD exposing
her vulnerability during a difficult time of her life models the Yorùbá idea that one must
take an active role in shaping ones own story, ones own destiny, to realise ones true self.
Orí could be understood as a persons individual principle of being, or potential for
final self-realization; ẹs
:è. (feet) could be understood as the steps by which a person
gets there. But note that getting there is always an active process. You dont simply
have a destinywhich works itself out in spite of you. (Barber 2000:396)
A Yorùbá philosophy of destiny asks one to embark on the path to realise ones human
potential (Barber 2000). Taking charge of her destiny, Sheidat Fatimah chose to compose
a song to address the publics judgment, asserting herself as a woman of faith capable of
making her own choices.
Figure 6. Kádàrá VCD cover.
In the video, Sheidat Fatimah sings the above verse as a solo in the span of thirty
seconds, during which she changes into three different costumesmatching blouses and
skirts and caftans sewn from fashionable cloth, each with matching headscarves, hijabs,
and shoes. Sheidat Fatimahs image fills the screen with her skillful, inviting, and
communicative singing and dancing. In between Sheidat Fatimahs solo scenes, a group
of women performers sing in unison and call-and-response, their costumes and dance
styles similar to those of Sheidat Fatimah. The videos images, taken around and within
Ìlọrins central mosque, further bring to life the songs Yorùbá Islamic aesthetic formation.
Since the video does not show the instrumentalists, audiences are encouraged to
focus their visual attention on the singing and dancing. As previously discussed, the
combination of singing and dancing is an example of a Yorùbá Islamic aesthetic contro-
versial among Islamists and others who have been trained to believe that Muslim women
should not express their reverence for God through dance (Rasmussen 2010; Doubleday
2013). During a musiciansunion meeting in Ìlo ̣rin that I attended, individual artists were
showcasing their compositions and genres. When it was the turn of the women erée bàlúù
dancers, several male musicians in the room covered their eyes. I later learned that they
were protecting themselves from the pleasure they might experience when watching their
women colleagues dance. Contrary to an Islamist interpretation of womens dancing,
Yorùbá Islamic genres embrace womens singing and dancing as culturally appropriate and
complementary forms of reverence and entertainment (Àjàyí 1998).
Sheidat Fatimahs video performance weaves together the following threads: an
allegory of womens empowerment; Yorùbá and Islamic cosmology and philosophy;
Yorùbá and Arabic languages; Islamic/fújì instrumentation; Yorùbá indigenous dance
style; Yorùbá Islamic costuming; and Ìlọrin mosque imagery. Sheidat Fatimahs perfor-
mance offers a morally charged narrative of Nigerian womens empowerment while
exposing the gap between the ideology of empowerment and the reality faced by women
who are not empowered to make choices about their own destinies.
Popular performance genres in the 2010s, fújì and Islamic allegorise an ideal of Nigerian
unityrooted in an ideology of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and equityvalues that
emerged within the context of Nigerias over 200-year-old Yorùbá Islamic history. During
my fieldwork in Ìlọrin, wéré artists in their seventies and eighties identified a shift in the
culture of the Ìlọrin emirate during the late 1970s, from a more flexible and tolerant
Yorùbá Islam to an Islamist culture. During this shift, the emir replaced Ìlọrins annual
wéré competition on Id-al-Fitr (the holiday celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast) with
a Quranic recitation competition. According to my interviewees, the end of the emirs
sponsorship of their annual competition devalued their music and compromised their
livelihoods, and has remained a source of deep sadness and nostalgia for more tolerant
times (Abubakare, interview, 29 July 2012).
In the 2010s, this trend continued among the institutions of education and
governance, which valued an orthodox Islamist over a less pureYorùbá Islamic
worldview. Embracing Ìlọrins dual Yorùbá and Islamic heritage, the popular musical
genres of fújì and Islamic produced a Yorùbá Islamic aesthetic formationa fusion of
Islamic and Yorùbá aesthetics, values, and narrativesthat allegorised an ideal way of
being Nigerian in the world during the era of Boko Haram.
Fújì star Malaikas song Stop the Violencebrought the aspirational message of
Nigerian unity and gender equity to a global audience during a time of national crisis.
Islamic star Sheidat Fatimahs song Kádàrá/Destiny,and her life story, illuminated a
message of womens faith and empowerment during ongoing struggles for gender equity.
Through the genres of fújì and Islamic, the performances of Malaika and Sheidat Fatimah
offered the nation messages of hope and empowerment while exposing the sizable gap
between the aspiration for Nigerian unity and gender equity, on the one hand, and the
experiences of those whose lives are constrained by structures of intolerance, violence, and
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... Ìlorin is a multi-ethnic Yorùbá city with over one million inhabitants, its inhabitants comprise people of Yorùbá, Fulani, Hausa, Nupe and other minority groups. Scholars have described it as "a space of fusion of northern Islamic and Yorùbá Islamic cultures" (Peel 2016;Klein 2020). ...
... As one of my research destinations, Ìlorin is particularly peculiar for the dominance of Yorùbá Islamic culture in the city -this Islamic religion and Yorùbá Islamic community are significant in the history of Fújì music. Klein (2020) describes Ìlorin as the home of Were music genre which is one of Fújì's foundational genres. Ìlorin is also "renowned for its institution of higher education, [and] Quranic scholarship" (Klein 2020: 2). ...
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