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date: 21 October 2019


  • Ronnie Graham


Yoruba percussive and vocal genre. Waka has its origins in south-west Nigeria, where extensive Islamic conversion during the 19th century produced a variety of musical genres performed during key periods in the Muslim calendar. Waka (Hausa term for song or poem) was originally sung by women, accompanied by handclaps and beaten seli or pereseke (tin discs with metal rings attached), and remains one of the earliest of these genres. With the addition of drums in the Ijebu area, waka increasingly parted company with Islam by the 1920s, and with the involvement of professional musicians it became a more commercial and recreational music, devoid of religious purpose. The style continued to flourish informally over the next 40 years, until it assumed a new significance in the 1970s through the recordings of leading purveyors such as Madam Comfort Omoge and Salawa Abeni, the queen of Waka.

With men confined to instrumental ensembles, the modern ...

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