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The Beauty of Nigeria musical Heritage

Updated on April 7, 2010


         The Beauty of Nigeria’s Rich Musical Heritage.

As in most Africa, music forms the bedrock of the cultural identity of most Nigerian peoples.

Beyond its consideration as a form of entertainment, music in Nigeria, especially the traditional variety, has a functional role. Music is invariably embedded in virtually all the milestone events of the people and in ceremonies such as weddings chieftaincy, turbaning, durbar, funeral, and festivals.

Music in Nigeria is as rich and diverse as the peoples who make up the country. As Africa’s most populous country, with over 250 ethnic groups, the country’s music forms would easily run into thousands, if an accurate account is taken. Even within the same ethnic group, several forms of musical expression exist.

The country’s types range from traditional to modern folk, popular and contemporary. Much of the music in the country has historical dimensions. The various music forms have evolved alongside the totality of the people’s cultures.

It is generally agreed that one way of preserving a people’s heritage is through the richness of their music. Nigeria’s traditional music uses a number of diverse, indigenous instruments that are original to their localities. Some such as the xylophone are an integral part of music across West Africa, while others are imports from North and East Africa. And given Nigeria’s industrial links with other parts of the world-through trade, diplomacy and other exchanges, the slave trade, colonialism and modern, more positive types of exchanges, it is no surprise that other instruments, overtime, arrived from Europe and the America. Brass instruments and woodwinds were early imports that played a vital role in the development of Nigerian music, while the later importation of electric guitars spurred the population of juju music, for example.

Below are the operational explanations of a few of the musical instruments:-



The Agbande drum is used to produce the GBERCHOUCHL dance in Benue state, north central Nigeria. The gberchouch is a dance form celebrating the harvest and it is usually performed after a bumper harvest to celebrate and encourage farming. The Drum ensemble, AGBANDE, is divided into two categories namely NOMGBANDE for the male drums and NGOGBANDE for the female drums. The small long drum for accompaniment is called KPENGE.



The big ALO [metal Gong] is known as the communicator amongst the Atilogwu dance instrument supported by the big IGBANDI EZE which is a round medium sized drum that seems to speak to the dancers. These Instruments are accompanied by the small ALO [small Gong] and a small [IGBA}. Two or three long Kongu percussion drums are used to complete the ensemble. Atilogwu is a vigorous, very entertaining acrobatic dance performed mostly in Anambra state in South eastern Nigeria during the new Yam festival and other special occasions.


c] Gangan [talking drum]

Gangan [talking drum] is double headed large, hourglass shaped tension drums used in most Yoruba communities. The gangan ensemble also includes ‘gudugudu’ a kettle shaped drum and ‘shekere’ which are large beaded rattles made from calabash. Most gangan drummer attaches bells to the lower end of the strings. In the past, the ‘gangan’ drums were used for traditional spiritual worship and praise singing for royals. Today gangan drum is also used to ceremonial outings like naming, wedding, house opening and funerals.


[d]. Kakaaki

This is extra long trumpet like instrument blown to herald the presence of the Emir in the northern parts of Nigeria. It is visible during Durbar. Kakaaki connotes a message of salutation that the Emir is coming out of the palace. The centuries old trumpet takes its name from the meaning of its function”kakaaki”-passing of message to the public.


[e] Kuku

Kuku is the dominant musical instrument among the Kalabari people of Rivers state. Used to produce folk music, kuku produces the sound that brings the best in dancers in that part of the country. Without it, the traditional music is not complete. It features prominently during traditional weddings festivals and other festive occasions. It is made of clay and comes in different sizes. The kuku is also commonly used by the Nembes, Okrika and other riverside communities in Rivers state.


[f] Kundung

The xylophone like is the dominant musical instrument in the Berom culture of Plateau state, North central Nigeria. It is traditionally called ‘Kundung” and has different Keys.

It is mainly used during festivals, especially the Berom communal festival known as ‘Nzem Berom’


[g] Ubo

The Ubo is made from calabash which is cut into two. A flat wood is used to cover the half that is put to use during the musical performance. Small flat metals are attached to the wood to produce the sound when played with the thumb. In the Egi area of Rivers state, the instrument is used in playing different forms of music such as EGWU EWELE, EGWU SAMBA and ANIRIJA. Ubo is played during festive occasions such as weddings, chieftaincy installations etc.



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