Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Udje Dance In Urhobo Land

Pic by Google : Udje Dance 
The Art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds to produce beauty to form harmony and expression of emotion is music.

Dance is an art form which is the rhythmic movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music. The Urhobo, numbering about three million people, occupy mainly the western and northern fringes of the Niger Delta River of the present Delta State. Large pockets of Urhobo people also live in the contiguous states of Bayelsa, Rivers, and Edo, and as immigrants in many Yoruba-speaking areas such as Ife, Lagos, and Okitipupa.

Large communities of Urhobo migrants are now settled all over Nigeria, including Jos, Kano, Maiduguri, and Yola. Many have also settled in C6te d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Liberia. According to Tanure Ojaide, "The Urhobo in their present environment are said to be an amalgam of different waves of migrating groups and an indigenous group that absorbed them. 

The main group migrated from the Edo region, where they had settled in a space called "Aka" (associated with Benin) and had been forced to migrate at different periods during the tyrannical Ogiso dynasty.

Oral history and myths are still replete with stories of Urhobo people being selectively used for human sacrifice by the Obas, which led to their escape by land and rivers through areas like Abraka, Ologbo, and along the Niger River. At least one group migrated from the Ijo area through the Amasuoma clan. There also appears, from Urhobo vocabulary, some remote Igbo connection, which could be because of the period of migration along the Niger River and proximity to the western Igbo group of Ukwuani. Onigu Otite's The Urhobo People has a detailed historiography of Urhobo, taking into account Hubbard's colonial work, Egharevba's study of Benin and neighboring groups, and Obaro Ikime's study of the Niger-Delta peoples".

The Urhobo people presently in the central part of the state, enjoy making and listening to music which is predominant in all their ceremonies. Music is employed to reflect many moods; drumming can signal the emergence of war and even the beginning of festivals.

The Urhobo now occupy some twenty-two clans/kingdoms that can easily be divided into southern and northern terrains. The southern Urhobo border on the Ijo, Isoko, and Itsekiri. These live across mangrove swamps and very luxuriant rain forests.

The major occupations of these groups of Urhobo are fishing, hunting, and farming. Those to their north, far from the wide rivers but still riverine, also farm, hunt, and fish. Nowadays, many Urhobo live in urban areas such as Sapele and Ughelli and form the overwhelming majority in the politically contested town of Warri. The urban Urhobo are mainly traders.

An Urhobo musician is expected to be dexterous with the use of various drums as well as be a Poet. He is expected to be poetic in his songs creation. Example is the "Udje" songs which are long poetic renditions, is an example of the peoples' expectation of their music maker. The songs and drumming are fused into a harmonious blend. The songs make use of repetitions to create a desired poetic effect on the listener.

Dancing and singing, is ever so lively and they range from the vigorous "Udje", "Ikpeba" and "Opiri" to the gracefull "Ikenike". Udje dance is a rythymically vigorous and well appreciated Urhobo dance.

Udje is a unique type of Urhobo dance in which rival quarters or towns perform songs composed from often exaggerated materials about the other side on an appointed day. Udje songs are thus dance songs sung when Udje is being performed. In traditional Urhobo, major crimes were punished either by selling the offender into slavery or by execution. Minor crimes were, however, punished by Satire.

Udje Dance Songs are Satire:

The songs strongly attack what the traditional society regards as Vices. There are blatant lampoons as when barrenness, ugliness, and other natural deformities of a person are sung. The singers want what they consider to be positive norms of the society to be upheld. Thus, central to the concept of udje dance songs are the principles of correction and determent through punishment with "wounding" words.

The songs are very relevant as societies everywhere continue to fashion means of protecting their ethical and moral values. In the udje dance song tradition, excesses are checked since there are sanctions against falsehoods as well as lampoons against natural defects.
The songs maintain a delicate balance between the general good of the society whose ethos must be upheld and respect for the law-abiding individual.

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