When Language Makes You Dance: the Relationship between Dance, Tonal Language, and Drum Languages among the Yoruba of South West Nigeria
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- Institutt for musikk 
Among the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria, dancers have the ability to relate not only to music and rhythm, but also to the Yoruba tonal language. This is due to the fact that instruments being played during a dance event, once they are manipulated by the drummer, can follow the Yoruba language’s tonality. Therefore, the so-called talking drums are able to articulate proverbs, poems, stories. The dancers’ appropriations and interpretations of what the drums are saying create different artistic and cognitive layers during their dancing. Through Victor Turner’s observations on the ritual symbol, this dissertation analyses the polarisation of meaning identified in two different drum languages. The first one derives from the Yoruba spoken language and is used by the talking drummer to share knowledge on Yoruba culture with the dancers. The second drum language consists of onomatopoeic rhythms, which are used by individuals to verbally direct the dance in educational and performance situations. Both of the drum languages are actualised in the Yoruba context within multiple dancing layers. Although, Yoruba dance is seen a creative and innovative manifestation of the individual, the reoccurrence of proverbs and repetition of rhythms establishes a platform for intergenerational community-making. However, how does the younger generation contribute to this identity, since it is claimed that the Yoruba language is becoming endangered? Going beyond choreomusical relationships, this dissertation aims to introduce the phenomenon of layering in Yoruba dance, which derives from exploring the personal dance experiences of a community of practice in Yorubaland.
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