IVORY BANGLES

The musical people of Africa are noted for their cultural heritage. There are songs or music for all sort or setting of life and all kinds of human endeavors. There are songs that commemorate birth, death, marriage, rite of passage, recreation, songs of praise and scandal. The use of songs of scandal is a very popular tradition among the Igbo people that live in rural areas and also in the said communities where this tradition is still practiced. There are two types of songs of scandal: the one in which the individuals names or institutions are being mentioned and the other, the names of the individuals or what is being satirized are not mentioned but a detailed description and traits will be depicted that even the lay man or blind man can tell who or what the song is referring to. In some cases, the harassment would be greatly loaded with high voltage abuses, disgusting words and obscene language. The songs are performed with such great meanness with obvious reason to hurt, provoke or slander.
This tradition is been held in high esteem, because among the rural folks there is a strong concern for good morals, social justice, and great respect for the norms and taboos of the land or society. Individuals or societies whose activities in secret or in open falls short of the code of conducts, or rebel against the norms, are regarded as enemies of the people and so they should be exposed, shamed or excommunicated. No matter how indifferent or thick skin one might pretend to be, he or she cannot afford to get scandalized in songs over and over again in the village or town. The culprit becomes the head line news and gossip of the day in the town and environs.
In Nigeria, the Igbo’s who usually lives in the rural settings uses songs of scandal during moonlight plays. Under this shade of darkness, the village folks take the advantage to vent their anger, hostility, and objection on people and institutions that are considered unprincipled, corrupt and harsh. There is a popular saying in Igbo that the moon is no respecter of persons and thus the artists enjoys a lot of excessive freedom of expression, without any restriction or whatsoever. There is no respect or regard to the status or image of the person targeted in the songs. However some of these improper, obscene, or indecorous words are not use in the everyday activities.
The fear of the possibility that one would be out in the open to the scandal of moonlight music does serves as a strong psychological restraint against social extremes and misdemeanor. This helps the society in a way to grow strong mentally, socially, morally and otherwise. Parents try as much as possible to inculcate this discipline into their children because if any is exposed to the song of scandal, it is a shame on the family and so grown up daughters are admonish concerning their relationship life for fear of illegitimate pregnancy or sexual abuse for such a tale will make a wide fire in the moonlight song.
In traditional Igbo setting, the idea of chronic bachelor-hood or celibacy is seen as unnatural and a behavior of threatened irresponsibility. It is believe that at a certain age, a man is expected to leave his biological home and create his own immediate family but if he consciously or unconsciously fails to perform this natural order or societal obligation, he is frowned at and seen as one who is irresponsible and a threat or liability to the society. He is taunted, ridiculed and stigmatized in songs with the intention to provoke him to perform what is expected of him. On several occasions this stigma also affects the immediate family and relations because a proverb in Igbo says that “if one finger is dipped in the oil, the oil spreads and touches all the other fingers and other parts of the body”. For this reason, his family may marry a wife for their irresponsible son or brother. Sometimes they may chose to impose a wife on him in as much as it saves them from the public scandal.
There is a song in Igbo titled Okpokolo ejuka meaning chronic bachelorhood, a bad thing, a tragedy. Below is the translation of the song
Solos…………………………………………………………………………………Chorus
Life of an old bachelor…………………………………………………………………..shame
Life of an old bachelor………………………………………………………………  ..shame
An old bachelor is not a man…………………………………………………………..shame
An old bachelor  is not a woman……………………………………………………….shame
He is a bat…………………………………………………………………………………shame
An animal that sleeps upside down…………………………………………………….shame
An old bachelor has no family………………………………………………………….shame
A bachelor is a dangerous animal………………………………………………………shame
His mother has no child………………………………………………………………….shame
His father has no child…………………………………………………………………..shame
His family should feel ashamed………………………………………………………….shame
Because a bachelor is a disgrace………………………………….…………………….shame
An old bachelor cannot stand in public….……………….……………………………..shame
Because he is not a man………………………..……….………………………………..shame
An old bachelor has no honor ……………………………………………………………shame
Because he has no home………………………………………………………………….shame
An old bachelor is like a thief……………………………………………………………shame
Because a bad father is better than an old bachelor…………………………………shame
Don’t swear for an old bachelor…………………………………………………….…shame
Because he is nobody……………………………………………………………………shame
He is worse than a living dead…………………………………………………..…….shame
Can a bachelor take a title? ………………………………………………………………………shame
An old bachelor is an abomination……………………………………………………shame
All:    Yes he is an abomination
          Yes he is an abomination
          Yes he is a living dead.
In Igbo tradition, the worst curse that could be inflicted on a person is calling that one a living dead: ‘Odi ndu onwu ka ma’ – someone whose life is worse than death. Usually family members do not allow their member to be inflicted with this stigma.
Children also have their own songs of scandal an example is the song of scandal for a bed-wetter. The song is to shame the victim and input psychological fear in the child in order to stop the unhealthy and bad habit. The peers and playmates of the victim usually drag him about all over the neighborhood, teasing and tormenting him and making all sorts of caricature of him. At intervals, they would set him in their center and force him to dance to their music. It is a very sad and agonizing experience for the child: however, any child subjected to that kind of experience makes serious effort to avoid re occurrence.
In many African communities, a virgin maiden is the peacock of her family and land. It is in this the family finds joy and peace but when the flower is broken, it is a sad news and shame. It is in this light the Ibibios of Akwa Ibom state celebrate their virgins through the virginity cult known as ‘Mbopo’. The music used in Mbopo dance ceremony is an example where the wordings of a song are much more important than the music.  The music is of no relevance to the listener but the social commentary. Other noticeable traits in the Mbopo dance ceremony is the use of instruments as symbols of purity, chastity and virtue. This instrument cannot be used in any other performances either dances or music and it is restricted to members of Mbopo families. Virgins are the only ones expected to take part in this festival organized by the community, to treat them to a sumptuous feasts which usually take place at the market square on special days. During this celebration week, no other festival or ceremonies are allowed to take place. The text of the song of Mbopo dance music in translation goes like this.
See us the golden ones
See us the unbroken coconuts
See pride of parents and the land
The patient and wise ones
Who will wear gold and coral beads
And ivory bangles
The greedy ones and foolish ones
Are thieves and rats
They steal the unripe apple
Unripe apple sets the teeth on edge
The fruit of the unripe apple
Is the bastard child
The reject of man and the gods
The shame and abuse of parents.

From the text, you could see that there is always a reward for every deed: good or bad for it is not in the gain for African music to sound pleasing or pleasurable to the ears but has a reproductive function that produces mental and social reaction; something that can be explained and has a vital purpose. To comprehend and see beyond the aesthetics of African music, it is of utter most importance to appreciate the people’s social, moral and cultural values.

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