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How Were, Fuji hook Anthropologist Debra Klein

Published by Guardian on Fri, 21 Sep 2012

SHE speaks Yoruba with relative ease, her genealogy as an American notwithstanding. But beyond this, Prof. Debra Klein, an Anthropologist from Gavilan College, Gilroy, California, United States of America is deeply in love with black culture, Yoruba cultural heritage especially.In addition to authoring the book, Yoruba Bata Goes Global published in 2007 by the University of Chicago Press, she has undertaken scholarly researches into the heart of Yoruba cultural life. Her study of Nigerian history and the Yoruba language as well as her first ethnographic research projects began in Erin-Osun in 1990 as an exchange student at the University of Ibadan. During this period, she showed tremendous interest in such issues as Yoruba marriage, family and gender, bata performance, socialization and education among others. In 1995, she continued her study of the Yoruba language and conducted preliminary research in Osun State to prepare for her dissertation research project on Performing national culture: Bata Artists and the Nigerian State. From 1996 to 1997, she lectured in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Ibadan and collaborated with Nigerian professors to develop courses on African ethnography, anthropological theory, communication, and performance. Ditto in 2005 and 2010 as she continued her ethnographic research in Kwara and Osun states.And just last month, Prof. Debra completed a Faculty Research Fellowship in the Performing Arts Department at the University of Ilorin. Entitled Reclaiming the Orisa in Nigeria: The Intersection of Traditional Indigenous Religion and Islam in Yoruba popular Culture, the two-month programme climaxed with a public lecture featuring Debra as the guest speaker.With Mr. Tunde Agboola as compere, the lecture attracted the participation of scholars, academics including the Vice Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede; his counterpart at the Kwara State University (KWASU), Prof. Abdul Rasheed Na'Allah; Prof. Abiola Irele among others. In attendance also were members of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Kwara State chapter led by its Governor, Alhaji Saka Danfo; and other sister organisations such as Fuji Musicians Association of Nigeria (FUMAN) under the leadership of Governor Jasola; ISMAN; and GOMAN among others.In his welcome remarks, Dean of Arts, Prof. Charles Bodunde, expressed happiness about the programme and commended the courage of the guest speaker, who he said undertook the research despite the insecurity situation in the country; he also shed light on the necessity of the research and appreciated her for giving scholarly treatment and global exposure to our cultural heritage with regards to Fuji music.The VC of UNILORIN, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede in his remarks entitled, More Dialogue, Less Monologue extolled intellectual ingenuity of Debra, saying, 'Prof. Klein is a through-bred scholar in the true sense of it as a champion of dialogue. She dialogues with the Yoruba culture especially its music and then she discovers our commonality as human beings and the meeting point of cultures. The implication of this dialogic engagement is the appreciation of the fact that there is always another method, another approach, another culture, another language, without which there is no sense.'Continuing, Oloyede said, 'I find Debra a good example of what scholarship should all be about: dialogue. Scholarship should influence and impact on society, not just for the sake of ego. She is an anthropologist, which makes her more of a person who relates with people, and she is an expert on globalization, trans-national culture and Yoruba studies. Apart from being a scholar, I also think she is a Yoruba cultural activist because she believes that the Yoruba need not imitate other people because they have a rich cultural tradition that can launch them to the top. I read her in our annual Unilorin Star magazine of 2010, the year I first met her in my office, that the 'Yoruba culture has contributed a lot to world civilization and still has much to offer in enriching the global human culture.''Our lecturer today is a global citizen beyond being from California. She speaks Yoruba, a language she can read and write. She is also proficient in French and she has a smattering of Italian and Spanish. She 'dialogues' with other cultures and traditions among which Yoruba occupies a unique position and taking a cue from her, I believe that the more we know about one another through dialogue at various platforms, the better we become as individuals and societies. Dialogue facilitates, monologue complicates; therefore, there is need for more dialogue, less monologue.'He underscored the importance of the lecture saying, 'her research interest this time is Fj music with its roots in the wr (Ajsr) tradition. As we all know, wr simply means 'a wake-up call' for those preparing Sahur (pre-dawn meal) during the holy month of Ramadan. It is this tradition that metamorphosed into the popular music genre known as Fuji. Fuji has grown larger than its beginning and it is considered a global phenomenon presently, attracting the interest of music lovers and scholars all over the world. The choice of Ilorin would be natural as a rich city with Islamic cultural activities. It would now be clear why we have members of PMAN here; it is because they have been working with our lecturer of today.'I want to commend Prof. Klein therefore for symbolizing what our country needs. Rather than mystify our differences, we should understand them and then celebrate the common grounds of our culture and make Nigeria a tourist haven where peace and harmony prevail. We certainly have a lot to learn from ourselves using our rich cultural heritage to strengthen our unity as a people. The symbolism of Ilorin as a peaceful and pluralistic society is also a message to Nigeria and Africa.'The lecture, entitled, Culture and Power: A Critical Anthropology for the New Millennium chronicled her two-month research on Fuji music, and the findings. Essentially, it was an analytical account of the scholarly exercise detailing processes adopted and difficulties encountered. She began by narrating the indifference showed by her university and bank at the start of her trip to Nigeria late last June. According to her, she was deprived of funds from her bank, with an excuse that she might not be allowed to withdraw from her account because the bank had severed business relationship with Nigeria at this time due to the insecurity challenges in the country. Her university outrightly discouraged her from coming due to the same reason but she came despite all the discouragement.Explained also was her interview experience with the members of PMAN in Ilorin; as well as interaction she had with great Fuji act, Kolawole Ayinla Kollington in Lagos. She also paid homage to the late Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister as she visited his grave at his family house in Isolo, Lagos.Prof. Na'Allah spoke on the Evolution of Fuji music, lending credence to some of the conclusions enumerated by Debra in her research. And thereafter the hall became alive with series of performance by the musicians in attendance. Regarded as the originator of Were music in Ilorin, Baba Olobi gave the curtain raiser as he narrated the history of Ilorin musical performance. Notable artistes of Were and Fuji from FUMAN, ISMAN and GOMAN also gave good account of themselves.Indeed, the live performances afforded the audience the opportunity to differentiate between the two music genres i.e. Were and Fuji. Musicians such as Baba Olobi, Isi Kabaka, Saka Danfo, Saka Jagun and Saliu Kuntu performed Were music while Adisa Owala, Jasola, Usman Okiki and Jamiu Ayinde Aloba among others thrilled audience with Fuji tunes. The female folk was not left out as Alhaja Seida Fatimoh Al-Jafariyah from the ISMAN group also entertained the audience.In his closing remarks, Prof Oloyede commended the guest speaker and the PMAN group and suggested the need for collaboration between the town and the gown. He also suggested that the collaboration might be in form of performances on Ileya day celebration involving all and sundry. According to Oloyede, Prof. Debra's lecture has underscored the need for UNILORIN to establish an Anthropology department. He therefore raised a committee, albeit informally for this assignment. With Prof. Na'Allah as chairman; other members are Prof. Akinwale, Dr. AbdulRasheed Adeoye, Dr. Jeleel Ojuade, Dr. Yusuf and Dr. Onireti of the Religions Department.
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