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GENDER DISPARITY IN THE PRODUCTION AND PERFORMANCE OF MUSIC IN IGBO SOCIETY: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL

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Abstract

The concept of feminism has remained a bane among women folk in Igbo society and even beyond. This paper critically examines the musical involvement of men and women in the areas of production and performance in Igbo society, to determine the factors responsible for greater or lesser contributions from either of the sexes. Sources of data included literatures, interviews and practical examples. The information gathered showed that men's greater participation in public musical activities in Igbo society have to do with some natural, cultural and societal factors and therefore suggests a reorientation to accommodate a balanced gender representation.
GENDER DISPARITY IN THE PRODUCTION AND PERFORMANCE OF MUSIC IN IGBO
SOCIETY: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL
IBEKWE, E.U.
Abstract
The concept of feminism has remained a bane among women folk in Igbo society and even beyond.
This paper critically examines the musical involvement of men and women in the areas of production
and performance in Igbo society, to determine the factors responsible for greater or lesser
contributions from either of the sexes. Sources of data included literatures, interviews and practical
examples. The information gathered showed that men’s greater participation in public musical
activities in Igbo society have to do with some natural, cultural and societal factors and therefore
suggests a reorientation to accommodate a balanced gender representation.
Introduction
Music is considered one of the most lucrative businesses in the world today not only in Nigeria
especially, among younger generation artistes, though our discussion centres on the percentage of
gender representation. Most people in a bid to make both ends meet, capture on this inherent potential
of the art and dabble into various types of music making. Several entertainment industries are now
flooded with “musicians” of different sorts ranging from high-life to the so called gospel music. This
development is very unruly and devastating as often times the products packaged for the eager
waiting audience are according to Nzewi, (2007) devoid of “musical sense… and musical
meaning” (115). Other types of music such as traditional, classical and church music are scarcely
delved into. That is to say, they are not receiving maximum attention from the new breed musicians,
even younger audience do not see them as trendy hits. The reason is quite obvious and very much
connected with the content and form of presentation. These unpopular types normally follow a
prescribed order, censorship and scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the performance of highlife and gospel in recent time has gone wild and vile to the
detriment of societal expectations. Some gullible individuals who turned themselves into music
artistes as a result of economic quagmire end up plagiarizing, copying and presenting substandard
music. Imperatively, one needs to draw a distinction between church music and what people now call
gospel music. Church music is composed and performed in line with the liturgical guide lines and
supervision, while the so called gospel music are composed and performed outside liturgical
supervision and guide lines, irrespective of the fact that it is expected to use biblical and religious
texts to preach the gospel (as the case with what used to be known as gospel music before). That is
why one can now hear any kind of jargon in the name of gospel music. It appears in diverse forms
such as pop, calypso, even raps or any other type of renditions. For the purpose of this discussion, we
are going to ex-ray different aspects of musical practices and find out people’s involvement as regards
production and performance.
Production:
Production involves the act of making or manufacturing a product from raw materials, which may
employ varying processes at different stages depending on the type of product required. It also
includes all the managerial abilities required to achieve or realise the required end the finished
product. The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language
Encyclopedic Edition (2010), defines production as, “that which is produced or made; any tangible
result of industrial, artistic or literary labor” (1006). Based on this definition, our discussion now
focuses on the production of musical works which is a branch of artistic productions. In this gallery
we have the composers; the choir masters, the raconteurs, poets or lyrics’ writers. Others include
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technologists; engineers; aestheticians and so on. Each of these has a contribution to make in the
production process of a musical work.
A Music Composer:
A music composer is one who creates music by putting sounds together to form a logical and sensible
expression. A composer is a music maker, an arranger and originator of musical piece either for voices
or instruments. Composition on the other hand is seen as an expression of self. Copland in Ofosu
(2010), aligns that, “every artist’s work is of course an expression of himself, but none so direct as
that of the creative musician. He gives us, without relation to exterior ‘events’ the quintessential part
of himself…” (p.106). That is exactly the case with individual composer. In some cases, he may
borrow his texts from raconteurs, poets or lyrics’ writers and apply musical expertise to create good
melodious or harmonious renditions. On the other hand, composition in a traditional set up enjoys
communal sharing and contribution. In that case it is the societal interest that is represented and not
individual composers’ interest.
Music Technologists / Engineers
These are people responsible for all the activities involved in the production of musical work
including applied and industrial services. Idolor (2002) indentifies such services to include,
“identification of problem area in music practice, drawing a feasible design, sourcing available
materials, production, control and maintenance of instrument…engineering work in recording
industry such as recording, mixing, pressing, duplication of audio and video cassettes, cutting of
compact discs, packaging and distribution” (p.58). Technical applications in production involve local
and scientific services (which are not within the scope of this discussion). In all these processes of
production it is human beings that enhance each process right from composition to technological and
engineering services. All these provide an enabling ground to find out the ratio of human involvement
in musical production and performance in relation to gender disparities.
Data Collection
The researcher employs quantitative research approach and uses both academic and non-academic
environments, in order to get a workable population set up. Academic environment is considered
necessary as it constitutes a training ground for academic musicians. Through random sampling,
investigative interviews and personal observations, the data were collected and analyzed. Institutions
of Higher learning where music is offered within the East geo-political zone (covering Abia,
Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States) represent the academic environment. This comprises those,
both past and present, who contributed in turning out musicians of various categories through
classroom tutorials, while other musicians who are well known in the zone but are not musically
educated represent the non-academic environment.
The Institutions for the study include,
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State
University of Nigeria Nsukka
Eha-Amufu Federal College of Education Enugu State
Ndufu Alike Federal University, Ebonyi State.
Nwafor Orizu College of Education Nsugbe, Anambra State
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam Campus Anambra State
Alvan-Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, Imo State
Godfrey Okoye University Enugu State (GO University)
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The staff strength of the above listed institutions as of the period of the research (March-August 2017)
are summarized thus; At the Department of Music, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, there are
eleven Lecturers comprising five males and six females. University of Nigeria Nsukka, has eleven
lecturers excluding non permanent staff (6 males and 5 females). While Ndufu-Alike Federal
University, Ebonyi State. has three permanent teachers and two part-time teachers all males. (5
males). Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam Campus, has four (2 males, 2
females). At Eha-Amufu Federal College of Education, Enugu State, there are six lecturers (2 males, 4
females). Alvan-Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri, Imo State has seven (4 males, 3
females). Nwafor Orizu College of Education Nsugbe, Anambra State, has a total of seven lecturers (5
males and 2 females) and lastly, the young Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu State, coming up with
three (3) male lecturers. The Department of Music in Godfrey Okoye University which is at its
neonate stage is a brain child of Prof R. C. Okafor with two other male lecturers in assistance
Included in the research also are the retirees and the late members totalling up to twenty-one (18
males and 3 females). All these are men and women who engage /d in training of young musicians in
different areas of specialization. Some are well known composers, some are stage performers,
pianists, choral arrangers, astute researchers and so on.
Non-academic Musicians
Under non-academic environment we have musicians past and present who specialize in High life and
other aspects of popular music, about sixteen of them (14 and 2 females). Other younger Igbo pop
musicians who make waves in the pop music scene are from this research recorded twenty (18 males
and 2 females). Under Church and Gospel Music fifteen of them are recoded (12males and 3 females)
This list is not an exhaustive account as it is impossible to make a complete list of all the musicians of
Igbo extract without omissions. It is just a working sample for this discourse to enable us have a
glance on the level of musical productions and participations in relation to gender disparities in Igbo
society.
Data Analysis
The record above is analyzed thus:
Musicians Males Females Total
Academic –Serving,
Retired and Deceased
50 25 75
Non-academic,Church,
gospel and Popular
44 7 51
Total 94 32 126
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This is in the ratio of 47:16. By percentage it is 74.6% approximately 75% for males and 25% for
females. The percentage shows greater number of males than women in music performance among
the Igbo.
Factors Influencing Musical Performances in Igbo society visa-a-vis Gender Implications
A lot of factors are at play when it comes to music performances in relation to gender representations
in Igbo society. Some of these factors as would be discussed in this paper include; natural factors,
cultural factors and societal or social factors.
Natural factor
Natural factor here implies that which exists beyond man’s control. In that aspect man is meant to
obey and abide by it. Human existence obeys one of such cosmological principles of creation.
Referring to the Biblical account of creation, in Genesis Chapter 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in
Our image, according to Our likeness”...(p. 2), and man was made. After that, God created a woman
out of man’s rib. That is to say, He made woman out of man –the genesis of inequality in human
existence. A man is a man because he was made a man likewise a woman. In any case, neither man
nor woman has any hand in his or her being. Without going into the extremities of evolution and
metaphysical analogies of existence, human beings are simply created male and female with their
respective attributes. Hence from this coincidence of natural / biological sexual attributes which the
bearer has no control over, the issue of being a man or a woman came into being. This natural force
has made man behave the way he behaves and woman the way she does. According to Ibekwe,
(2009), a man will have to think towards achieving masculine responsibilities, while a woman will as
well aspire to meet up with her own responsibilities as a woman.
It is natural for women to give birth to children and consequently wean them. In the process of doing
all these assignments there are indoor musical renditions that follow each stage, which men are not
part of. In Igbo traditional society, women are designated keepers of folklores and folksongs which
they do best during leisure periods and cooking hours. They spend most of their time with children at
home attending to family chores while men are away exploring every avenue of getting money for
family up keep.
Ideally in Igbo tradition, a man is not worth a man if he cannot provide for his family. That was why
Achebe (1958) describes Unoka in Things Fall Apart as a lazy man because he was busy playing his
flute while able bodied men were busy clearing virgin forest for planting. This natural factor of being
born a man or a woman places women in a subservient position in society and thus situates them
mostly for indoor activities. Aside this, individual public music making in traditional Igbo society
does not receive much acclamation let alone coming from women. They normally perform in groups
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and form associations for music making so as to keep to their womanly ascribed roles. Susan
Auerbach (1989) decries a similar situation among the rural Greek women as requiring, “complete
devotion to home and family in the domestic sphere and virtual invisibility in the public sphere. A
good housewife and mother protects her family from slander through hard work and chaste, modest
demeanor”. According to her, “an act of singing or dancing, which is frequent, spontaneous, or
unusually enthusiastic or skilful, may be seen as frivolous display, attracting undue attention” (28).
Naturally, women are special creation from God with some measure of beauty, tenderness, attraction
and luring voices. In addition to this natural beauty, some artificial inducements, adornments, physical
exposure of some sensitive parts of the body which some reckless musicians are associated with in
this modern time public performances give wrong impression on the status of women. The fact that all
these beauty accessories and uncontrolled exposure of body parts have less societal approval, it then
becomes a bane to the full realization and exploitation of musical talents and potentials especially for
women who still desire to live by societal dictates. Most men even disdain such displays especially
when it has to do with a married woman. .
However, the paper does not argue that men are in total control of music making in Igbo traditional
society rather it contends that male dominance in public musical activities is as result of unparallel
liberty and freedom of expression they enjoy whether individually or as a group. That is why the act
of minstrelsy and praise singing reside mainly with the male folk even before the outburst of modern
popular music. Although in his book Music in Nigerian Society while discussion on “women in Igbo
musical culture”, Okafor (2005) identifies Nwanyinnia Okoroawa Otuochere a female minstrel from
Uruala,in Imo State, yet her likes are not many, and therefore constitutes an insignificant number in
comparison to male minstrels. Obviously natural factors have some limitations or restrictions on
women’s musical involvement to a certain level because no matter how indecent a man appears on
stage it is not comparable with a woman’s similar appearance. The later provokes or receives scornful
appellations.
Cultural factors
Culture is man-made laws and principles which people are meant to obey and observe as their way of
life, human imperfections notwithstanding. It includes their beliefs, norms and values most of which
are selfishly instituted for reasons not far from a show of supremacy and intimidation. While
appraising the harmful traditional practices in contemporary Igbo Society, Asigbo and Ibekwe (2015)
posit,
In Igbo culture, due to the fact that patriarchal institution is given prominence in the scheme
of things, most of their laws or traditions are gender discriminatory, hence there is no equity
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and freedom. Dialogue most times is reduced to the barest minimum in matters that concern
women since they are considered to be on a lower socio-political scale from men. (p.228).
Predicated on this cultural patriarchal hegemony and imbalances, laws are lopsidedly made in favour
of the male folk. It is often said that ‘he who blows the piper dictates the tune’. In Igbo tradition, a
woman must be under her husband. And for them a woman’s activities are most times under man’s
supervision including music performance. Ekwueme (2004) captures this show of superiority among
male folk in group performance thus, “In general, sex division is the norm. Men and women dance in
their own respective groups”(p.73). He further substantiates that,
Men’s dance groups may not have female members except those rare cases where a woman of
distinction in the village may have taken some special men’s title. She may be member of the
group but under no circumstances may she actually take part in dancing in public. (But) in
women’s group however, there is usually... a man or several men who are fully-fledged
members of the group, assisting with such things as administration, discipline and certain
actions forbidden to women by local tradition. (p.73)
Women in Igbo traditional setup do not have the privilege of moving from place to place entertaining
people with music neither do they have approval of doing apprentice job under the tutelage of well
known musicians just as men do. Women who are involved in such serious public music displays
(apart from traditionally approved folk and group performances) are considered wild and
promiscuous. The person is seen as going against the societal stipulations which expects every woman
to remain docile and submissive even against her wish, and for a prospective young woman she rarely
gets proposals for marriage as such women are seen as being unruly and uncontrollable and prone to
independent life style. It is only a very insignificant percentage of men that can allow or tolerate a
serious performing musician as a wife. This societal artificial restriction and assessment on women is
not domicile in Igbo tradition only but cross-culturally applied. In a related account of Adagbabiri
rural women of Bayelsa State, Odi (2009) submits that, “people’s life are shaped by their
environment, culture, tradition and customs,… there are some cultural practices that place women at
disadvantaged positions. These practices entrenched in them a resignation which Paulo Freire
describes as the ‘culture of silence” (p.148). All these he says, “hamper the empowerment of women”.
Undoubtedly, this stringent and obnoxious tradition in no small measure has a psychological effect
and a kind of check on women folk in Igbo society. The effect is so infectious that even in this
contemporary time, very few women are seen taking up music performance as a profession. Some
single ladies who venture into public performance quit or retire from the job the moment they are
married for fear of being divorced. Most of the people interviewed, said that entertainers are hardly
controlled and that they are always saddled with the problem of infidelity. Unfortunately, this may be
the reason why most women with musical abilities do not bother to harness or explore the
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talent/potentials in them. Little wonder then, majority of women musicians are in teaching profession
while few are in organized stage performances. (Taken from the data above) However, all these are
seen as ignorance, abuse of power and infringement to human rights constitution. Human Rights are
those activities, practices and behaviours which should be observed or respected in order to give
credence and meaning to human existence. In that dimension, Asigbo, and Ibekwe, (2015) decry that,
these human rights should not be severed through the imposition of obnoxious laws, customs
and traditions rather they should be respected, preserved and sustained. (Because) In our
societies today, the violation of human rights has been the bane of many homes under such
guise as tradition, and to make the matter worse, people are subjected or reduced to status less
than human just to give credence to man- made laws. It is the ignorance of one’s rights that
gives room for intimidation and other social malaise. (p.227)
In relation to all these discouraging factors from public performance practices, some other man-made
laws which are inimical to woman folk include forced marriages to solidify old relationships to the
detriment of a girl child, unequal education for male and female children and too much emphasis on
the issue of submissiveness which even have Biblical injunction. All these make or package most
women in a low standard mould. From the ongoing discussion one could easily deduce that male
dominance is a discouraging factor, and contributory to disparity in music performance in Igbo
society. All these are possible because of the fact that the making and execution of these man-made
laws lie within the confines and domains of men.
Social Factor
Socialization can be seen as coming out of one’s enclosure to share, accommodate and interact with
people of different ideologies and temperament. It has brought about revolution and a sort of boom in
almost every sector of human endeavour including music production and performance. This is a
situation where people come out of their shell to embrace modernity with all its implications. Taking
it further, socialization in this discourse can also be re-packaged in what may be called cultural
globalization where people of different cultural backgrounds are brought together in a common table
to intermix in a symbiotic platform. Mass exodus of people from rural to urban areas has enlarged the
scope of music interactions with people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Hinging on this as it relates
to production and performance in Igbo traditional society, Utoh-Ezeajugh, (2010) sees globalization
of music industry as taken a number of forms.
First, it has involved the creation of transnational corporations producing and marketing
records. Second, it has involved the import and export of musical products and penetration
of national markets by foreign artists and music. Third, it has in part been based on a
broader transfer of style and images that largely rooted in American Youth Culture and
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Black Culture that have provided the ultimate source of the industry’s cultural output.
(p.204)
She further adds that “the global music industry seeks to a great extent to undermine the local musical
traditions and to influence the new generation by the latest western styles” (p.204). This submission is
quite tangential to what is happening in Igbo society music performance terrain. Different kinds of
music making are now in vogue with styles considered to be trendy among the younger generation.
Women now seem to be liberated from the shackles of most of the obnoxious traditions. Women are
now trained in schools like their men counterparts and are free to choose any kind of career. Women
now study music, teach and perform it anywhere. What becomes the case here is, what percentage of
women in relation to men is into full music production and performance in Igbo society? This will
take us back to the analysis above where women representation in musical practices is compared with
that of men. The figures comparably show that men and women involvement in music production and
performance does not tally irrespective of the fact that socialization has brought or created a lot of
awareness in the society. Men are still in the fore front taking the lead in virtually all aspects of
performances.
Under this social factor still, people’s attitude toward music is at times highly discouraging most
especially among the younger and upcoming entrants whose interests in music are damped by sharp
refusal from their parents. The rate at which people enjoy music differ greatly from the way they
embark on the performance of it. From personal experience those who enjoy music most are those
who would not want to get involved in the actual production and performance of it. Many parents do
not allow their children especially those with recognisable talents to engage in music making for fear
of ending up producing hooligans in the name of musicians. The situation is worst when it comes to
student’s admission into higher institution. Some of them would boldly broadcast that they did not put
music in Jamb, only that they did not get the required cut off in their choice areas. On the contrary
some few ones who offer music would face the disappointment of lack of support from their parents
who would prefer them reading Medicine and Law to Music. Some parents kill the interest of their
children with such question as “after your study of music what next”. All these affect the way music
is produced and performed in society.
Conclusion
The analyses drawn from the above investigation brought women involvement in music production
and performance to the lowest ebb irrespective of the fact that they are the major carriers of cultural
identity in almost every society not only in Igbo. The fact that their roles are most outstanding in most
traditional activities ranging from rites of passage, entertainment, initiation, social control to death
does not square up the gaps. According to Ibekwe (2012), there is no community in Igbo society that
exists without various groups of women performers or dancers. (p.116). Nevertheless, the researcher
8
observes that in as much as socialization has come to liberate or free women from cultural laws and
entanglements yet the psychological trauma with its consequent intimidating factors are still domicile
with women folk. Perhaps women’s contributions to musical production and performance can only be
enhanced if they are given adequate, exposure or conducive ground to exploit their creative ingenuity.
The paper therefore suggests that a provision should be made for proper orientation and re-orientation
before a good number of women would participate in public performances most especially outside
traditional or group performance terrain.
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Article
Full-text available
Music is an integral part of everyday life in Awka traditional community. It is a very important aspect of their culture. Music accompanies every socio-cultural activity of the people. Consequently, there are varieties of musical types practiced by various categories of people in Awka. This paper is concerned with activities of Odezuruigbo Cultural Dance Music, an outstanding women music group in Awka. It discussed amongst other things the organization and the socio-cultural implications of odezuruigbo cultural dance music. Data for this study were drawn from fieldwork, oral interview and review of related literature. The findings of this study revealed that the impact of odezuruigbo dance group in the life of Awka community is indispensable. It also revealed that some gender dichotomies in the use of some local musical instruments are gradually becoming insignificant. This study recommended that the practice of those socio-cultural festivals which promote the traditional music and dance of the people be encouraged. Key Words: activity, culture, cultural dance, dance music, and odezuruigbo
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