The Origin of Dancing and Music

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In the past,only a few men and women lived on the earth. Thick forests, seas and trees covered other parts of the universe. The big trees became the abode of many spirits, fairies and gods. Some gods, occupied trees, rivers and streams. Some big trees were feared and respected as the abode of the gods. Besides, because of frequent harassment by human beings, the spirits and gods decided to live in the forests where they enjoyed alot of quiet and uninterrupted peace. Most men and women would always bring minor or major problems to the gods by visiting the shrines of the gods and local spirits in the forest. This constituted a sort of nuisance to the spirits and gods.

The animals on the other hand decided to live in the forests to escape man’s constant attack on them. Men went out daily to hunt animals for food. This put many animals at risk of extinction. So many of their species decided to live far inside the bush to escape the attack from man. It was only the cow, dog, sheep and fowls that live in the home with humans. Other animals that live in the bush feel threatened. Although humans eat the domestic animals, which also serve as pets ,they do no kill them at the rate they hunt the wild ones.

A man went out to hung game on one sunny afternoon. He chased an antelope, which ran very fast into a big bush to escape being killed. The man persisted in his chase and came to a part of the bush which looked like an open hall where the animals used as a rendezvous where they would meet to relax when they were not looking for food or when they were not running away from hunters. The hunter did not find any human being there, not was there any animal. He suspected that the space was so beautiful that it must be a center where people gathered for games or refreshments. He hid himself behind some big trees to wait for the people who meet there to assemble. After a while, the forest spirits began to assemble there for their usual evening party. Many other spirits and gods also came along with their wives and children. They began to sing, clap, dance, and enjoy some jokes.

Some of the birds sang beautifully while some of the animals played some musical instruments that produced melodious sounds. It was an evening of great joy and merriment for the animals, while the gods shook their bodies and moved their legs in rhythmic and regular steps. Some of the young birds played flutes and whistles. The melody was very gorgeous. The hunter was thrilled as he watched the program from his hiding place. he did not want any of the guests to notice that he was there. Many of the animals, and birds were so carried away in the party that they did not know that someone was hiding and spying on them from somewhere.

The guests at the party dispersed at the end of the program and each went home. The hunter did not move immediately. He kept quiet until everyone present had left. he finally left and on his way, began to imitate the spirits and gods by humming some of the songs he heard. He moved his steps up and down, shook his body, hands, and his head. Then he began to practice what he saw the spirits and animals do in the forest. The hunter later got home that night and woke up to his family that had already gone to bed. He taught the wife and children how to sing, dance and play some of the instruments. He improvised the drums and bands with pots, tables, stools and plats that he had in his house.

The members of the family enjoyed the late night entertainment the hunter brought home to them. So every evening, the family met, played some music, danced, smiled and entertained themselves. The words of the music did not matter so much to them. They concentrated on getting the rhythm right and the steps correspond with the rhythm. Some younger members of the family added some melody to the songs and the harmony was absolutely interesting. Thus this is how humans learned music and dance.

From “African Spirituality: An Anthology of Igbo Religious Myths” by Udobata R Onunwa

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