Music And Dance of The Ibibios: A brief Exploration
The Ibibios are the predominant occupant of Akwa Ibom State, occupying the Southerneastern part of Nigeria for over 7000 years. They are divided into six Sub-cultural groups; Eastern Ibibio(they are considered as the proper Ibibio), Western Ibibio also known as Amang, Northern Ibibio, the Enyongs, Southern Ibibio, the Eket, Delta Ibibio and Riverine Ibibio known as the Efik. The Ibibios only believe the existence of two seasons in a year, the dry and rainy seasons. They possess the occupational strength in fishing, farming, hunting, carving raffia works, local arts and crafts as well as other indoor games.
Deeply rooted in religion, the Ibibios believe in the Supreme Being they call Abasi Ibom and other minor deities such as the Ekpo, Ndem, Ibok and so on. Their belief and religious sentiments has led to the creation and celebration of various festivals, ceremonies and events through cultural demonstrations. Examples of such are the new yam festival, traditional marriage (Usoro Udo), harvest festival (Usoro Idok) and lots more.
The Ibibio people believe that music cannot be separated from life. Therefore, song and dance performances are often use to communicate values, beliefs, lifestyle of the Ibibios and such performances functions as a form of social control and reporting of events within and around the community. Groups are formed within the community to perform a certain course in the community and most of these groups are gender inclined. The Akata music group for example, is a secret association majorly practiced in Adadia of Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, whereby all the performers are men and only initiated members can perform with the group. The performances often take place only at night. The Akata’s performance and function is to take up the role of social control and report social misbehaviours and to serve as an outfit sanitizing the community.
The everyday life of an Ibibio person signifies a new step taking in life and therefore, values has to be taught and it has to be seen as a life changing event. The Mbopo songs and dances a chastity to preach virtues of maidenhood and pride prior to her wedding, which is to inspire the maiden to always prioritize bringing pride to her parents, spouse and the community at large.
The Abang dance is the rendition of songs and dance to accompany the maiden out of the fattening room. The word Abang which means ‘pot’ is a symbol and tradition for the maiden to flesh up before her wedding, so she can be appealing to her spouse and her in laws as a well fed child from her father’s house.
The Ibibios also practice vicious dance songs whereby the performance is perceived violent in rendition. The Ekong Ukwa is a typical example of such dances. A masquerade play whereby performers often sustain bodily injuries. The masquerade known as ‘Mkpokporo’ emerges from a bush and runs towards the king’s palace, singing in what sounds like a recitative falsetto tones. As the masquerade approaches the palace, the music tempo increases and this is done so as to increase the excitement of the dancers. The dance does not come to an end without bloodshed most of the time.
The Ibibios’ deep belief in spirits and divination is a major factor to their dog headedness of refusing the infusion of civilization into their cultural beliefs. Near or far, the Ibibios carry their culture in high esteem and we cannot deny the beauty of the dances and the songs as they perform in colours and various dance styles. They are known to be the ethnic group with the richest culture in Nigeria till date.