Harmony between two worlds: Irhobo laments and Communal Development
Songs abound every facet of the activities of Urhobo people. The custom of wailing and singing for the dead is age-old and world-wide. The attendant beliefs and practices are similar in many cultures in Africa. Funeral dirges are performed for a departed loved one. The dirge is not just a formless cry of bereavement. The laments apart from expressing grief are found to be a high order of poetic and musical expression. They are a highly stylistic form of expression that is governed by specific recitative conventions used to express the feelings of the mourners in a determinate form and performance procedure. In addition the performance of the laments serve an effective tool for communal integration, unity and development. Some laments are individualized while others are general comments about diverse subjects especially those related to religio-philosophical matters. The songs under study reveal peculiar formal and structural patterns that reflect the traditional society from which they emanate. We have used the functionalist approach as the conceptual-analytical framework. The paper presents the results of a field study on an aspect of the funeral dirges of the Urhobo people found in the Niger Delta Province of Nigeria. The study regards the Urhobo as a culturally homogenous people in spite of the different dialects of Urhobo spoken in different clans of Urhobo land.