Tag Archives: Igbo instruments

Music. Dance. Spirit.


Igbo Women Playing Udu Drum

By Ezi

For most people, when they think of music (egwu) the immediate things that come to mind involve some form of technology that outputs a song which contains vocals and/or instrumentation. They may think of their favorite artists or songs and hum their tunes. But, I see music as not only something that emanates from my headphones day in and day out, but also sounds, unrefined at times, that emanate from not only within me, but within the environment. Everywhere around you there exists sound and essentially music, if you can open yourself up to a wider definition of what music is and where you can locate it.

There is a rhythm to life. The birds chirping, the sway of an ocean’s waves. The rhythm of 1,000 feet hitting the pavement on their way to work.

Music – vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony

Rhythm – The pattern or flow of sound created by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in accentual verse or of long and short syllables in quantitative verse

I will dare to say this and you can quote me, that when it comes to instruments, the drum is the pulse of Africa. From East to West, North to South.  Whether it is the ekwe, the djembe, the bata, or the ngoma; the drum operates as that rhythmic pulse, in my opinion. In lieu of the physical drum, the body is also a drum. The body is an instrument, so why then can we not imagine it as a drum? Touch your inner wrist. Do you feel your pulse? Or simply listen to yourself and you will hear your pulse.

For me, when my body is in sync with the instruments that I hear in a song, that is when I can have the most enjoyable and spiritually pleasing experience with music.

Some questions that usually come to mind:

1) What message(s) is this song trying to convey to me?

2) Who is delivering this message(s)?

3) What effect is this song having on my mind, body and soul?

Music is a fundamental component in the way of life of African people.

“Music usually accompanies African religious ritual and is used in prayer to request favors or help from the spirit world. The drum unlocks communication with the spirit world.  Songs are usually accompaniedby the beating of drums and the playing of other instruments.” (Aloysius M. Lugira, African Traditional Religion, p. 74-75)

The beauty in music is that it has a very attractive quality that allows it to be retained in the mind. You can hear a song and it can stay in your head for however long. You may not remember every lyric, but you certainly may remember the melody, the memory attached to the song, as well as what you felt when you heard the song.

When you listen to music, wherever you find it, ask yourself what is the message(s) being conveyed in the song, who is conveying this message(s), and what kind of effect the music has on you.