TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

Use Of Praise Poetry In Contemporary Nigerian Gospel Music: Case Study Of Funke Akinokun

By John Felix
Listen to article

ABSTRACT
Music is a cross- cultural universal activity found in every known human culture. Individuals demonstrate manifestly different preferences in music. The originality of this paper stems from its substantive focus on the use of praise poetry in contemporary Nigerian gospel music, using the music of Funke Akinokun as its focal point. It thus attempts to address a gap in research in Nigerian music which has so far being largely confined to comparative studies of both Nigerian hip hop artiste and their western counterparts. My main concern has been first, to explore the importance of oral traditional poetry to Nigerians as a whole, second, to analyze the effects of the use of praise poetry by Funke Akinokun on gospel music in particular and the wider Nigerian music scene and also to examine the use of oral traditions as a means of addressing contemporary issues.

INTRODUCTION
Music is an important aspect of every society. Music can tell stories, release emotions, above all music is entertaining. There are various forms of music but not many have as rich a history as gospel music. The importance of gospel music has been relevant in the contemporary Nigerian society for decades and its importance to society is still relevant to this day. Contemporary gospel music has been able to help foster love amongst tribes; it has been used to preach peace and unity in the society, it has helped to promote a spirit of hope and provided an avenue to worship God amongst others.

AFRICAN ORAL TRADITION: ITS EVOLUTION AND MANIFESTATION

According to Dike (1976), oral tradition as a term applies to a process of transmission of facts from one individual to the other through oral messages which are based on previous information. Eye witness accounts are supposedly the basic component of oral tradition; eye witness accounts are always a direct and personal experience as well and involve not only perception but also emotions (Vansina J: 1935).

Oral traditions are messages that are transmitted orally from one generation to another. These messages are passed across through speech or song which takes the form of folktales and fables, epic histories and narrations, proverbs or saying, and songs. Oral Traditions make it possible for a society to pass knowledge across generations without writing. They help people make sense of the world and also know more about important aspects of their culture. Oral traditions guide social and human morals, giving people a sense of place and purpose.

Ruth Finnegan, defined oral literature as “an ‘unwritten literature and that it depends on the performer who formulates it in words on a specific location and helps it to be actualized”. Finnegan further argues that there are two types of literature; orature and literature. She views them as two distinct art forms with each having its own independence. Another scholar, Muigai wa Gachanja (1987:157) belongs to the school of thought on performance of folklore. He argues that “performance or interaction between the performer and an expectant audience is one of the basic ecstatic traits of folktale. From the foregoing, oral literature can be said to be the oral narratives, songs, proverbs, sayings and riddles found in our communities. They are usually in oral form and are not stored away in some books or archives”.

Nandwa and Bukenya (1983) defined oral literature as those utterances “whether spoken, recited or sung whose composition and performance exhibits to an appreciable degree the artistic characteristics of accurate observation, vivid imagination, and ingenious expression. Okpewho (1992) has also suggested that since literature can be referred to as creative works that appeal to our imagination, oral literature is therefore literature that is delivered by word of mouth. He goes further to say that there are certain techniques which may be used in oral literature but which may not necessarily work in written literature.

Bassey Andah (1984:16) defined oral literature as any form of verbal art which is transmitted orally or delivered by word of mouth. Orature is more recent and less widely used term which emphasizes the oral character and nature of literary works.

FOLKLORE
Folklore is an aspect of oral literature. Oral tradition is a significant element in almost every culture of existence. Oral traditions are stories, poems or songs of any given culture. Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories and customs that are the tradition of a culture or people. Although there are divergent views on the functions of folklore, but many agree that folklore is educative. Folklore plays a vital role in the history of a people as well as its cultural norms, diligence, respect, perseverance etc. It also points out dangers and how to avoid them.

PROVERBS
Another aspect of oral literature is proverb. Proverbs have their origin in oral tradition. They existed before written culture. Because of this, they are generally worded or couched in such a way as to be remembered easily. Proverbs deals with all aspect of life. They are used to emphasize the words of the wise and are stock in trade of old people, who use them to convey precise moral lessons, warnings and advice since they make a greater impact on the mind than ordinary discourse.

Simpson and Speake (1998:2) have defined proverbs as traditional sayings which offer advice or present a moral in a short and pithy manner. O.Olatunji (1984:167) corroborates this view when he opines proverb as an inheritance from elders that might have experienced various things; it explores the depth of meaning that teaches wisdom and warns people on various different things they are likely to encounter.

B J Whiting (1932:27) expantiate more on the consciousness and cleverness of proverbs by describing proverbs as “a short saying of philosophical nature, of great antiquity , the product of the masses rather than the classes, constantly applicable and appealing because it bears resemblance of the universal truth”.

PRAISE POETRY
Praise poem is a piece of literature written to honour something or somebody. Praise poems are mainly used in sacrilegious or state gathering .A country’s national anthem is an example of praise poem. Praise poetry is a common feature in Yoruba oral poetry and it is common among them as oriki. It is mostly used by court poets and it is used to praise the subject of the chant poetry mostly the creator and wealthy members of the society. The praise-poem, takes many different forms. Above all, it is concerned with character, with the huge variety of human beings and with the place of the individual in society and in history. Ruth Finnegan (1970:111) says that praise poetry goes with “a stress on aristocratic power”; she implies herein that praise poetry is the preserve of the high and mighty of the society. This does not limit oriki to some selected few, as it is for all. Praise poem can be concerned with almost anything-animals, divining bones, beer, birds and clans.

MUSICAL POETRY
This is poetry in form of chant performed to the accompaniment of music. This includes various types of lyrical performances. The lyric is a short emotional poem in an expression of emotion which is composed to follow a particular rhythm. Here the word lyric is referred to in the modern sense as poetry which expresses intense emotion. There are two types of such of emotional expressions which are emotions of joy (rhapsody) and emotions of grief (elegy).

DIDACTIC
This form of poetry teaches moral, spiritual and philosophical lessons. It offers advice or provides moral instruction on the moral codes of the society. It teaches mainly the young ones on how to comport themselves and how to be responsible citizens of the society.

HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF GOSPEL MUSIC IN NIGERIA

The formation of gospel music in Nigeria could be attributed to the ministrations rendered by invited talented individuals, choirs and independent church musical groups on Radio ELWA, Igbaja, which was broadcast from Monrovia, Liberia as from the 1950s.The history of gospel music in Nigeria could be associated to The choir of Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) who have featured prominently till date in this development Adedeji (1990).

Major developments have arisen in contemporary times which have led to various turn around in the Nigerian gospel scene. Gospel music which today has not been restricted to just a particular region, has gone cross cultural boundaries. With this, the professionalizing of gospel music which has created various singing groups in the country has helped in the growth.

In the course of development, improved musical instruments were invented which has given better clarity to lyrical tunes. In the wake of this development, gospel-fuji, and gospel –waka came into existence as time and season change. More so, prominent secular artistes such as Sonny Okosun and Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi shifted to gospel music as a result of their conversion and divine call. In recent times, development has witnessed the visit of foreign gospel music artistes to Nigeria which has since added more glamour to the gospel musical world.

The rise of Pentecostalism and technology today has had more impact on its development (Perry Brandon: 2006). There has been transformation in the mode of recording from what we use to have before now to an improved mode with the introduction of CDs, VCDs and Digital Audio and Video Networks which have become prominent. Today, Nigerian gospel music has about Five Hundred well-established artistes and groups that practice diverse styles and they include the likes of Funke Akinokun, Sola Allyson, Ibitayo Jeje, Mike Aremu, Freke Umoh, Nathaniel Bassey, Tim Godfrey, Sinach, Eben, Nikki Laoye, Sammie Okposo, Foluke Umosen, Lara George, Femi Micah, Tope Alabi, Yinka Ayefele, Toun Soetan e.t.c

ELEMENTS OF AFRICAN ORAL LITERATURE IN THE WORKS OF FUNKE AKINOKUN

Funke Akinokun is a gospel artiste and a successful beauty consultant. Funke obtained a National Diploma in Business Administration and Management from the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti. More than anything, Funke has always had a strong passion for singing since she was 10 years old. Her first album ‘His Praise’ was released in 2009, her second album, “who you are” was released in 2013. Includes a compilation of her chants of praise to God in various languages, as well as uplifting songs. Funke loves God and craves any opportunity to minister the word through her music. She is happily married to Tayo Akinokun, and their union is blessed with four lovely boys. (Facebook.com/funkeakinokun).

The track titled who you are clearly expresses God’s benevolence, grace and faithfulness amongst others .The praise chants ascribe great adoration to God the Father for His undying love towards his own, and reminds listeners for whom He is, was, and is to come. Ranging from Him being The Great Father, Lion of the tribe of Judah, Great Physician, Everlasting God, Saviour of Mankind , Miraculous God , Mighty God , Big God, King of glory , Merciful God, Rock of ages, Unbreakable God , amongst others. This together by Funke Akinokun varying from different ethnic groups of Nigeria and other part of West Africa.

Each ethnic group in Nigeria has rich oral poetry heritage comprising such forms as musical instruments, dance songs, names and naming systems, greetings and oratory, folk songs, work and occupational songs, praise songs, proverbs, symbols and symbolism, divination poetry and myths. Strikingly, these forms enjoy ample similarities in function, subject matter, shapes, origin, the worldview they project, the values they emphasize, the vices they condemn, the philosophies they propagate, and the manners in which they are performed”.

There is a defining relationship between culture and music, which makes our kind of music unique. Funke Akinokun opines that “first, African culture is very rich so if you put it in your music you will find out that it is very rich and it is in African culture. You Find out that one key thing is that we love to give respect to our music”.

There is a defining relationship between culture and music, which makes our kind of music unique. Funke Akinokun opines that “first, African culture is very rich so if you put it in your music you will find out that it is very rich and it is in African culture. You Find out that one key thing is that we love to give respect to our music”.

Emenyonu (1978) has testified to the strong social values which Igbo praise and occupational songs propagate. In an interview with Funke Akinokun, drawing from the Igbo language, she calls God: Eze onye lu ogodo nya la punyala which when loosely translated means “He sits in Heaven and His garment covers the whole earth”. This is trying to say that God is the Omniscient, that is, the all knowing and all seeing God.

She begins the track Who you are in the Efik language of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, saying God is the Obong mme Mbong, edidem mme Ndidem, Andiyanga, Andikong nkan, Andikara, Andikpeme, Andikara Ekondo, Andikara Uwem, Ono Uwem, You are the okposong Abasi, The Ibaha se iba nte Afo, Uko ke ekong, Akwoko mbon mmong eyet ke mfon which when loosely translated means Lord of Lords, The king of Kings, The Saviour, greater than the Greatest, The Ruler, The protector, The controller of the earth, The controller of life, The giver of life, you are the great God, There is no one like You, Mighty in battle, The one that wipes away people’s tears. This is trying to say that everything in the world, is occupied, controlled by the Father himself.

She also takes from the Idoma language of Benue State, Nigeria, saying ojooyakpokpayomaokwoku .It means He is the husband of the widow and the Father of the Fatherless. This supports the view of many praise singers that a spiritual force intercedes in the conception of a child and helps to form part of his or her complex soul, character and has an exerting influence on his or her destiny.

She goes further in her appreciation to God from the Ikwere language of Rivers State, Nigeria saying Chi-okike , Chinenye nwo , Chinenye nwo , Omesoro odum ,onu na onunu, Chinero ihe roro ehi, Chibuike, Oka-ome, Chindam , onye nwe uwa, Aka-gbajiri –igwe, Chinwe-ikpe. When translated it means God the creator, God that gives children, God of strength , The God that shuts the mouth of the lion while in a pit, The God that swallows that which swallowed an elephant, He does what He says, God my father, Owner of the earth, The hand the breaks iron, God our judge.

Also, the Benin language of Edo State, Nigeria are not left out saying Oba no so ba , Ogie no so gie, Okute te bi te, O mio ma fan, Osalobua nu dazi, Agbogidi, Osalobua no kpolo, Oba Uyi, Oba Itohan, Osalobua n'udo, Osalobua ne gu'ogo, Osalobua ne dede me de. This when translated means God is King above all kings, literally means Chief above all chiefs ,The everlasting God, Saviour of mankind , miraculous God , Mighty God , Big God, King of glory , Merciful God , Rock of ages , Unbreakable God , Everlasting God

Furthermore, she praised God with the language of the igbo speaking people of Imo State, Nigeria saying Eze no-na-enu ogodo-ya na-akpu -na-ala, Ogbara nkiti okwu juru onu ya, Ogbara nkiti okwu biri na-onu ya, Isi iyi nke ndu nke na adigi ata-ata, Di nwanyi isi-mpke, Oloro ife loro ehi, Odogwu akata-aka, Isi ndu, Uzo ndu, Oma-ka-anyi si bia uwa, Echeta obi esie-ike, Ebube dike, Ebube Isreal, Ebube Elu-igwe, Aka gbajiri -igwe-kpoya -nku, Agbawe-agbawe, This when translating means The king that sits on His throne yet His garment touches the earth, The one that keeps silent yet He has much to say, The quiet one that has the final say, The fountain of life that never runs dry, Husband to the widow , The one that can swallow that which swallowed an elephant, The Great one, Head of life, Way of life, The one that knows how we came into life, At the thought of Him confidence /hope/courage comes, Great in Wonders, Wonderful one of Israel, Wonderful one of heaven, The one that can break an iron as if it were a stick, unchangeable God

The Hausa language of Northern Nigeria are not left out as she praised God saying Sarkin sarakuna, Ubangiji mai ceto duniya, Ubangiji mai abu duka, Ubangiji mai girma, Ubangiji mai biya bukata, Ubangiji mai gafara, Ubangiji mai bude hanya, Ubangiji mai ba da nassara, Yesu Almasihu, Allahn allololi, Mai taimaiko na, Mai Ceto na , Ubangijin Sama da duniya, Hasken Duniya, Farko da Karshe, Begen Duniya, Madokaki, Dutsen ceto, Sarkin Samaniya, Mai kaunar zuchiyata, Wajen buya ta, Ubangiji mai iko, Mai warkaswa. When translated it means King of kings, Saviour of mankind, The Lord who does all things, Big God, God the problem solver, The Lord my redeemer or 'forgiver', The Lord that makes a way, The Lord that gives victory, Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, My Helper ,My Redeemer, God of Heaven and the Earth, Light of the World, The Alfa and Omega, Hope of the World, The God worthy of praise, Rock of ages, King of Heaven, Lover of my soul, My refuge, The omnipotent God, The physician.

She advances further in her praise chant to God by drawing from the Yoruba language of Western Nigeria saying; Apanla to sole aye ro, Alagbede isaalu ode orun, Arinurode, Olumorokan, Ogbamugbamu, Ojuorun, Oseegbamu, Ajipojoikuda fun eda, Asoromatase, Owibe sebee, Olutunnu, Olugbega, Olupese, Oludande, Akoda aye, Aseda orun, Alagbara giga ode orun, Alagbada ina, Alawotele oorun, Okan soso ajanaku ti migbo kiji kiji. This when loosely translated means The mighty hand that holds the world, The only goldsmith in heaven, The one that knows both the inside and the outside, The secret detector, The one who is as wide as the sky, The one who changes the time of death of human, The one that speaks and it is so, The comforter, The up lifter, The provider, The deliverer, The first on earth, The creator of heaven, The only powerful God in heaven, Garment of fire, The one who is brighter than the sun, The terrifying God in the forest.

Who you are by Funke Akinokun is a song that has been able to harmonize tribes of different ethnicity together. It has largely been able to accommodate languages that are quite crucial in the present day Nigeria. It is believed that any song of coronation to the Father is what seeks and draws His attention the most. In as much as prayers, diligent study of the scriptures are important, the place of praise chant cannot be ignored. As you “ki God”, it is like you want to get something from the Father, making Him know He is the giver of all. That is the approach employed by many today. His names are inexhaustible even as He can be reached by various means. There are no restrictions, segregation, barriers even as Funke Akinokun has been able to put the chants in various languages.

Who you are is a worship song approached with the slow tempo, musical instruments such as the keyboard, drum set, saxophone, flute, bass guitar amongst others. These being used is to give the song a unique sound in order for the listeners to appreciate.

It can be seen that the languages employed in this song are the basics for listeners of various tribes to learn easily. Irrespective of the tribe, it can be learnt with frequent listening. Who you are addresses the issues of whom an individual is to place much trust, hope on, despite the gloominess, uncertainty in the country, God, who is multi breasted with diverse names remains the First and the Last resort. In difficulties, the name of God quickens the heart and mouth of many. This signals that He is unchangeable.

In the diversity of languages employed, all the names ascribed to God signals same findings; this shows that God is clothed with many names, He responds to the name that He is addressed with. His names come with power, grace, mercy, joy, love, goodness amongst others and it has been replicated even as people now include some of His attributes to their names. Examples of these can be seen below:

Oluwagbogo
Anuoluwapo
Ifeoluwa
Oluwaseun
Chijindu
One of the major poetic devices inherent in this particular track by Funke Akinokun is repetition. This can be noticed in the way she consistently repeated the names of God. This being explored, tries to crest the names of God and its significance in the heart of many. The names of God are continuously repeated to tell individuals of His benevolence towards mankind. For example

Obong mme Mbong
Chinenye nwo
Banamudo
Tamuno
Oghenerode
Oba no so ba
Another poetic device employed in the track who you are is metaphor. This can be noticed when she endowed animate objects with God in qualities. This can be seen below:

Alawotele Orun
Alagbada Ina
Hasken Duniya
\
Also, metaphor is another poetic device that was employed in the track who you are. This is inherent when she compared two objects together as to qualify the name of God saying The one that can swallow that which swallowed an elephant. This can be seen below:

Oloro ife loro ehi
Funke Akinokun used metaphoric words as to qualify the names of God explicitly; animate objects cannot describe the potency of God but has been used for the sake of emphasis.

CONCLUSION
Praise poetry is central to any discussion of African oral literature since praise is an important part of the people’s political and literary expression. The genre of praise poetry called oriki in Yoruba is a political art form found in the south western part of Nigeria. The term refers to the form of poetic expression that defines and names an individual or a spiritual being and it is characterized by both imagery expressed in carefully selected language. Many gospel music practitioners in Nigeria have imbibed the use of praise poetry in their musical works. This is because they believe that using praise poetry to extol God’s greatness will not only bring them blessings from their creator but also gives another form of appreciation from the listening audience. In this paper, I have shown the important role oral tradition has played and continues to play in contemporary gospel music. I have argued, through a close examination Funke Akinokun that despite the rise of hip hop and other wave making genre of music in Nigeria, praise poetry is still relevant and ever present .Although this paper does not in any way vilify or condemn the vast majority of Nigerian youth who have imbibed western culture, but I have tried to show them that in as much as times have changed, they can still embrace the music and sounds of older generations.

In a way this paper is a response to those who call for Nigerians home and abroad to embrace the culture of their fatherland despite the surrounding influence of globalization in the 21st century by examining Who You Are by Funke Akinokun. I have shown how Funke Akinokun’s position on praise poetry and African culture is not unproblematic. They appear to suggest the possibility of the retrieval of an essential and cultural African identity when it comes to praise singing.

REFRENCES:
PRIMARY TEXT
Akinokun, Funke. Who you are (2013). WOMP, Instinct Production. Lagos.

SECONDARY TEXTS
Adedeji, S.O. (1990). The Role of Music in God’s Work: Ile- Ife: Bolakay Press

Bassey Andah (1984). The Nature of African Oral Tradition. Vol. 8 London. Oxford University Press.

Emenyonu, Ernest (1978). The Rise of the Igbo Novel. London: OUP

Finnegan, R. (1970). Oral Literature in Africa. Oxford University Press.

Finnegan, Ruth (1977). Oral Literature in Africa. Kenya: Oxford University Press.

Jan, Vansina (1935). Oral Tradition as History. London: James Currency Books

Kenneth, Dike (1976). African Historiography. Vol.6.London: Macmillan and Free Press

Muigai-Wa-Gachanja (1987). “The problem Stated,” in his Gikuyu Folk Story: Its structure and aesthetics” (PhD. Diss). Emory University.

Nandwa, J & Bukenya A. (1983), African Oral Literature. Backgrounds, character, and continuity. Indiana University Press .U.S.A.

Oladele, Taiwo (1976). Culture and the Nigerian Novel. Ibadan: Macmillan.

Olatunji. O.O. (1984). Features of Yoruba Oral Poetry. Ibadan: University Press.

Okpewho I, (1992). African Oral Literature: Backgrounds, character, and continuity. Ibadan: University Press.

Perry, Brandon (2006). Gospel Music: A historical summary. Recorder Vol. 111, Iss. 23. 9 June pg. A4. 11 November 2006 <http://proquest.umi.com

Speake and Simpson (1998). Concise Dictionary of Proverbs. New York: Oxford University Press.

Whiting, B.J. (1932). “The Nature of the Proverb,” Harvard Studies and Notes in Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 14, pp.18-27.

www.facebook.com/funkeakinokun
Felix John
[email protected]
Use Of Praise Poetry In Contemporary Nigerian Gospel Music: Case Study Of Funke Akinokun

ABSTRACT
Music is a cross- cultural universal activity found in every known human culture. Individuals demonstrate manifestly different preferences in music. The originality of this paper stems from its substantive focus on the use of praise poetry in contemporary Nigerian gospel music, using the music of Funke Akinokun as its focal point. It thus attempts to address a gap in research in Nigerian music which has so far being largely confined to comparative studies of both Nigerian hip hop artiste and their western counterparts. My main concern has been first, to explore the importance of oral traditional poetry to Nigerians as a whole, second, to analyze the effects of the use of praise poetry by Funke Akinokun on gospel music in particular and the wider Nigerian music scene and also to examine the use of oral traditions as a means of addressing contemporary issues.

INTRODUCTION
Music is an important aspect of every society. Music can tell stories, release emotions, above all music is entertaining. There are various forms of music but not many have as rich a history as gospel music. The importance of gospel music has been relevant in the contemporary Nigerian society for decades and its importance to society is still relevant to this day. Contemporary gospel music has been able to help foster love amongst tribes; it has been used to preach peace and unity in the society, it has helped to promote a spirit of hope and provided an avenue to worship God amongst others.

AFRICAN ORAL TRADITION: ITS EVOLUTION AND MANIFESTATION

According to Dike (1976), oral tradition as a term applies to a process of transmission of facts from one individual to the other through oral messages which are based on previous information. Eye witness accounts are supposedly the basic component of oral tradition; eye witness accounts are always a direct and personal experience as well and involve not only perception but also emotions (Vansina J: 1935).

Oral traditions are messages that are transmitted orally from one generation to another. These messages are passed across through speech or song which takes the form of folktales and fables, epic histories and narrations, proverbs or saying, and songs. Oral Traditions make it possible for a society to pass knowledge across generations without writing. They help people make sense of the world and also know more about important aspects of their culture. Oral traditions guide social and human morals, giving people a sense of place and purpose.

Ruth Finnegan, defined oral literature as “an ‘unwritten literature and that it depends on the performer who formulates it in words on a specific location and helps it to be actualized”. Finnegan further argues that there are two types of literature; orature and literature. She views them as two distinct art forms with each having its own independence. Another scholar, Muigai wa Gachanja (1987:157) belongs to the school of thought on performance of folklore. He argues that “performance or interaction between the performer and an expectant audience is one of the basic ecstatic traits of folktale. From the foregoing, oral literature can be said to be the oral narratives, songs, proverbs, sayings and riddles found in our communities. They are usually in oral form and are not stored away in some books or archives”.

Nandwa and Bukenya (1983) defined oral literature as those utterances “whether spoken, recited or sung whose composition and performance exhibits to an appreciable degree the artistic characteristics of accurate observation, vivid imagination, and ingenious expression. Okpewho (1992) has also suggested that since literature can be referred to as creative works that appeal to our imagination, oral literature is therefore literature that is delivered by word of mouth. He goes further to say that there are certain techniques which may be used in oral literature but which may not necessarily work in written literature.

Bassey Andah (1984:16) defined oral literature as any form of verbal art which is transmitted orally or delivered by word of mouth. Orature is more recent and less widely used term which emphasizes the oral character and nature of literary works.

FOLKLORE
Folklore is an aspect of oral literature. Oral tradition is a significant element in almost every culture of existence. Oral traditions are stories, poems or songs of any given culture. Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories and customs that are the tradition of a culture or people. Although there are divergent views on the functions of folklore, but many agree that folklore is educative. Folklore plays a vital role in the history of a people as well as its cultural norms, diligence, respect, perseverance etc. It also points out dangers and how to avoid them.

PROVERBS
Another aspect of oral literature is proverb. Proverbs have their origin in oral tradition. They existed before written culture. Because of this, they are generally worded or couched in such a way as to be remembered easily. Proverbs deals with all aspect of life. They are used to emphasize the words of the wise and are stock in trade of old people, who use them to convey precise moral lessons, warnings and advice since they make a greater impact on the mind than ordinary discourse.

Simpson and Speake (1998:2) have defined proverbs as traditional sayings which offer advice or present a moral in a short and pithy manner. O.Olatunji (1984:167) corroborates this view when he opines proverb as an inheritance from elders that might have experienced various things; it explores the depth of meaning that teaches wisdom and warns people on various different things they are likely to encounter.

B J Whiting (1932:27) expantiate more on the consciousness and cleverness of proverbs by describing proverbs as “a short saying of philosophical nature, of great antiquity , the product of the masses rather than the classes, constantly applicable and appealing because it bears resemblance of the universal truth”.

PRAISE POETRY
Praise poem is a piece of literature written to honour something or somebody. Praise poems are mainly used in sacrilegious or state gathering .A country’s national anthem is an example of praise poem. Praise poetry is a common feature in Yoruba oral poetry and it is common among them as oriki. It is mostly used by court poets and it is used to praise the subject of the chant poetry mostly the creator and wealthy members of the society. The praise-poem, takes many different forms. Above all, it is concerned with character, with the huge variety of human beings and with the place of the individual in society and in history. Ruth Finnegan (1970:111) says that praise poetry goes with “a stress on aristocratic power”; she implies herein that praise poetry is the preserve of the high and mighty of the society. This does not limit oriki to some selected few, as it is for all. Praise poem can be concerned with almost anything-animals, divining bones, beer, birds and clans.

MUSICAL POETRY
This is poetry in form of chant performed to the accompaniment of music. This includes various types of lyrical performances. The lyric is a short emotional poem in an expression of emotion which is composed to follow a particular rhythm. Here the word lyric is referred to in the modern sense as poetry which expresses intense emotion. There are two types of such of emotional expressions which are emotions of joy (rhapsody) and emotions of grief (elegy).

DIDACTIC
This form of poetry teaches moral, spiritual and philosophical lessons. It offers advice or provides moral instruction on the moral codes of the society. It teaches mainly the young ones on how to comport themselves and how to be responsible citizens of the society.

HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF GOSPEL MUSIC IN NIGERIA

The formation of gospel music in Nigeria could be attributed to the ministrations rendered by invited talented individuals, choirs and independent church musical groups on Radio ELWA, Igbaja, which was broadcast from Monrovia, Liberia as from the 1950s.The history of gospel music in Nigeria could be associated to The choir of Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) who have featured prominently till date in this development Adedeji (1990).

Major developments have arisen in contemporary times which have led to various turn around in the Nigerian gospel scene. Gospel music which today has not been restricted to just a particular region, has gone cross cultural boundaries. With this, the professionalizing of gospel music which has created various singing groups in the country has helped in the growth.

In the course of development, improved musical instruments were invented which has given better clarity to lyrical tunes. In the wake of this development, gospel-fuji, and gospel –waka came into existence as time and season change. More so, prominent secular artistes such as Sonny Okosun and Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi shifted to gospel music as a result of their conversion and divine call. In recent times, development has witnessed the visit of foreign gospel music artistes to Nigeria which has since added more glamour to the gospel musical world.

The rise of Pentecostalism and technology today has had more impact on its development (Perry Brandon: 2006). There has been transformation in the mode of recording from what we use to have before now to an improved mode with the introduction of CDs, VCDs and Digital Audio and Video Networks which have become prominent. Today, Nigerian gospel music has about Five Hundred well-established artistes and groups that practice diverse styles and they include the likes of Funke Akinokun, Sola Allyson, Ibitayo Jeje, Mike Aremu, Freke Umoh, Nathaniel Bassey, Tim Godfrey, Sinach, Eben, Nikki Laoye, Sammie Okposo, Foluke Umosen, Lara George, Femi Micah, Tope Alabi, Yinka Ayefele, Toun Soetan e.t.c

ELEMENTS OF AFRICAN ORAL LITERATURE IN THE WORKS OF FUNKE AKINOKUN

Funke Akinokun is a gospel artiste and a successful beauty consultant. Funke obtained a National Diploma in Business Administration and Management from the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti. More than anything, Funke has always had a strong passion for singing since she was 10 years old. Her first album ‘His Praise’ was released in 2009, her second album, “who you are” was released in 2013. Includes a compilation of her chants of praise to God in various languages, as well as uplifting songs. Funke loves God and craves any opportunity to minister the word through her music. She is happily married to Tayo Akinokun, and their union is blessed with four lovely boys. (Facebook.com/funkeakinokun).

The track titled who you are clearly expresses God’s benevolence, grace and faithfulness amongst others .The praise chants ascribe great adoration to God the Father for His undying love towards his own, and reminds listeners for whom He is, was, and is to come. Ranging from Him being The Great Father, Lion of the tribe of Judah, Great Physician, Everlasting God, Saviour of Mankind , Miraculous God , Mighty God , Big God, King of glory , Merciful God, Rock of ages, Unbreakable God , amongst others. This together by Funke Akinokun varying from different ethnic groups of Nigeria and other part of West Africa.

Each ethnic group in Nigeria has rich oral poetry heritage comprising such forms as musical instruments, dance songs, names and naming systems, greetings and oratory, folk songs, work and occupational songs, praise songs, proverbs, symbols and symbolism, divination poetry and myths. Strikingly, these forms enjoy ample similarities in function, subject matter, shapes, origin, the worldview they project, the values they emphasize, the vices they condemn, the philosophies they propagate, and the manners in which they are performed”.

There is a defining relationship between culture and music, which makes our kind of music unique. Funke Akinokun opines that “first, African culture is very rich so if you put it in your music you will find out that it is very rich and it is in African culture. You Find out that one key thing is that we love to give respect to our music”.

There is a defining relationship between culture and music, which makes our kind of music unique. Funke Akinokun opines that “first, African culture is very rich so if you put it in your music you will find out that it is very rich and it is in African culture. You Find out that one key thing is that we love to give respect to our music”.

Emenyonu (1978) has testified to the strong social values which Igbo praise and occupational songs propagate. In an interview with Funke Akinokun, drawing from the Igbo language, she calls God: Eze onye lu ogodo nya la punyala which when loosely translated means “He sits in Heaven and His garment covers the whole earth”. This is trying to say that God is the Omniscient, that is, the all knowing and all seeing God.

She begins the track Who you are in the Efik language of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, saying God is the Obong mme Mbong, edidem mme Ndidem, Andiyanga, Andikong nkan, Andikara, Andikpeme, Andikara Ekondo, Andikara Uwem, Ono Uwem, You are the okposong Abasi, The Ibaha se iba nte Afo, Uko ke ekong, Akwoko mbon mmong eyet ke mfon which when loosely translated means Lord of Lords, The king of Kings, The Saviour, greater than the Greatest, The Ruler, The protector, The controller of the earth, The controller of life, The giver of life, you are the great God, There is no one like You, Mighty in battle, The one that wipes away people’s tears. This is trying to say that everything in the world, is occupied, controlled by the Father himself.

She also takes from the Idoma language of Benue State, Nigeria, saying ojooyakpokpayomaokwoku .It means He is the husband of the widow and the Father of the Fatherless. This supports the view of many praise singers that a spiritual force intercedes in the conception of a child and helps to form part of his or her complex soul, character and has an exerting influence on his or her destiny.

She goes further in her appreciation to God from the Ikwere language of Rivers State, Nigeria saying Chi-okike , Chinenye nwo , Chinenye nwo , Omesoro odum ,onu na onunu, Chinero ihe roro ehi, Chibuike, Oka-ome, Chindam , onye nwe uwa, Aka-gbajiri –igwe, Chinwe-ikpe. When translated it means God the creator, God that gives children, God of strength , The God that shuts the mouth of the lion while in a pit, The God that swallows that which swallowed an elephant, He does what He says, God my father, Owner of the earth, The hand the breaks iron, God our judge.

Also, the Benin language of Edo State, Nigeria are not left out saying Oba no so ba , Ogie no so gie, Okute te bi te, O mio ma fan, Osalobua nu dazi, Agbogidi, Osalobua no kpolo, Oba Uyi, Oba Itohan, Osalobua n'udo, Osalobua ne gu'ogo, Osalobua ne dede me de. This when translated means God is King above all kings, literally means Chief above all chiefs ,The everlasting God, Saviour of mankind , miraculous God , Mighty God , Big God, King of glory , Merciful God , Rock of ages , Unbreakable God , Everlasting God

Furthermore, she praised God with the language of the igbo speaking people of Imo State, Nigeria saying Eze no-na-enu ogodo-ya na-akpu -na-ala, Ogbara nkiti okwu juru onu ya, Ogbara nkiti okwu biri na-onu ya, Isi iyi nke ndu nke na adigi ata-ata, Di nwanyi isi-mpke, Oloro ife loro ehi, Odogwu akata-aka, Isi ndu, Uzo ndu, Oma-ka-anyi si bia uwa, Echeta obi esie-ike, Ebube dike, Ebube Isreal, Ebube Elu-igwe, Aka gbajiri -igwe-kpoya -nku, Agbawe-agbawe, This when translating means The king that sits on His throne yet His garment touches the earth, The one that keeps silent yet He has much to say, The quiet one that has the final say, The fountain of life that never runs dry, Husband to the widow , The one that can swallow that which swallowed an elephant, The Great one, Head of life, Way of life, The one that knows how we came into life, At the thought of Him confidence /hope/courage comes, Great in Wonders, Wonderful one of Israel, Wonderful one of heaven, The one that can break an iron as if it were a stick, unchangeable God

The Hausa language of Northern Nigeria are not left out as she praised God saying Sarkin sarakuna, Ubangiji mai ceto duniya, Ubangiji mai abu duka, Ubangiji mai girma, Ubangiji mai biya bukata, Ubangiji mai gafara, Ubangiji mai bude hanya, Ubangiji mai ba da nassara, Yesu Almasihu, Allahn allololi, Mai taimaiko na, Mai Ceto na , Ubangijin Sama da duniya, Hasken Duniya, Farko da Karshe, Begen Duniya, Madokaki, Dutsen ceto, Sarkin Samaniya, Mai kaunar zuchiyata, Wajen buya ta, Ubangiji mai iko, Mai warkaswa. When translated it means King of kings, Saviour of mankind, The Lord who does all things, Big God, God the problem solver, The Lord my redeemer or 'forgiver', The Lord that makes a way, The Lord that gives victory, Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, My Helper ,My Redeemer, God of Heaven and the Earth, Light of the World, The Alfa and Omega, Hope of the World, The God worthy of praise, Rock of ages, King of Heaven, Lover of my soul, My refuge, The omnipotent God, The physician.

She advances further in her praise chant to God by drawing from the Yoruba language of Western Nigeria saying; Apanla to sole aye ro, Alagbede isaalu ode orun, Arinurode, Olumorokan, Ogbamugbamu, Ojuorun, Oseegbamu, Ajipojoikuda fun eda, Asoromatase, Owibe sebee, Olutunnu, Olugbega, Olupese, Oludande, Akoda aye, Aseda orun, Alagbara giga ode orun, Alagbada ina, Alawotele oorun, Okan soso ajanaku ti migbo kiji kiji. This when loosely translated means The mighty hand that holds the world, The only goldsmith in heaven, The one that knows both the inside and the outside, The secret detector, The one who is as wide as the sky, The one who changes the time of death of human, The one that speaks and it is so, The comforter, The up lifter, The provider, The deliverer, The first on earth, The creator of heaven, The only powerful God in heaven, Garment of fire, The one who is brighter than the sun, The terrifying God in the forest.

Who you are by Funke Akinokun is a song that has been able to harmonize tribes of different ethnicity together. It has largely been able to accommodate languages that are quite crucial in the present day Nigeria. It is believed that any song of coronation to the Father is what seeks and draws His attention the most. In as much as prayers, diligent study of the scriptures are important, the place of praise chant cannot be ignored. As you “ki God”, it is like you want to get something from the Father, making Him know He is the giver of all. That is the approach employed by many today. His names are inexhaustible even as He can be reached by various means. There are no restrictions, segregation, barriers even as Funke Akinokun has been able to put the chants in various languages.

Who you are is a worship song approached with the slow tempo, musical instruments such as the keyboard, drum set, saxophone, flute, bass guitar amongst others. These being used is to give the song a unique sound in order for the listeners to appreciate.

It can be seen that the languages employed in this song are the basics for listeners of various tribes to learn easily. Irrespective of the tribe, it can be learnt with frequent listening. Who you are addresses the issues of whom an individual is to place much trust, hope on, despite the gloominess, uncertainty in the country, God, who is multi breasted with diverse names remains the First and the Last resort. In difficulties, the name of God quickens the heart and mouth of many. This signals that He is unchangeable.

In the diversity of languages employed, all the names ascribed to God signals same findings; this shows that God is clothed with many names, He responds to the name that He is addressed with. His names come with power, grace, mercy, joy, love, goodness amongst others and it has been replicated even as people now include some of His attributes to their names. Examples of these can be seen below:

Oluwagbogo
Anuoluwapo
Ifeoluwa
Oluwaseun
Chijindu
One of the major poetic devices inherent in this particular track by Funke Akinokun is repetition. This can be noticed in the way she consistently repeated the names of God. This being explored, tries to crest the names of God and its significance in the heart of many. The names of God are continuously repeated to tell individuals of His benevolence towards mankind. For example

Obong mme Mbong
Chinenye nwo
Banamudo
Tamuno
Oghenerode
Oba no so ba
Another poetic device employed in the track who you are is metaphor. This can be noticed when she endowed animate objects with God in qualities. This can be seen below:

Alawotele Orun
Alagbada Ina
Hasken Duniya
\
Also, metaphor is another poetic device that was employed in the track who you are. This is inherent when she compared two objects together as to qualify the name of God saying The one that can swallow that which swallowed an elephant. This can be seen below:

Oloro ife loro ehi
Funke Akinokun used metaphoric words as to qualify the names of God explicitly; animate objects cannot describe the potency of God but has been used for the sake of emphasis.

CONCLUSION
Praise poetry is central to any discussion of African oral literature since praise is an important part of the people’s political and literary expression. The genre of praise poetry called oriki in Yoruba is a political art form found in the south western part of Nigeria. The term refers to the form of poetic expression that defines and names an individual or a spiritual being and it is characterized by both imagery expressed in carefully selected language. Many gospel music practitioners in Nigeria have imbibed the use of praise poetry in their musical works. This is because they believe that using praise poetry to extol God’s greatness will not only bring them blessings from their creator but also gives another form of appreciation from the listening audience. In this paper, I have shown the important role oral tradition has played and continues to play in contemporary gospel music. I have argued, through a close examination Funke Akinokun that despite the rise of hip hop and other wave making genre of music in Nigeria, praise poetry is still relevant and ever present .Although this paper does not in any way vilify or condemn the vast majority of Nigerian youth who have imbibed western culture, but I have tried to show them that in as much as times have changed, they can still embrace the music and sounds of older generations.

In a way this paper is a response to those who call for Nigerians home and abroad to embrace the culture of their fatherland despite the surrounding influence of globalization in the 21st century by examining Who You Are by Funke Akinokun. I have shown how Funke Akinokun’s position on praise poetry and African culture is not unproblematic. They appear to suggest the possibility of the retrieval of an essential and cultural African identity when it comes to praise singing.

REFRENCES:
PRIMARY TEXT
Akinokun, Funke. Who you are (2013). WOMP, Instinct Production. Lagos.

SECONDARY TEXTS
Adedeji, S.O. (1990). The Role of Music in God’s Work: Ile- Ife: Bolakay Press

Bassey Andah (1984). The Nature of African Oral Tradition. Vol. 8 London. Oxford University Press.

Emenyonu, Ernest (1978). The Rise of the Igbo Novel. London: OUP

Finnegan, R. (1970). Oral Literature in Africa. Oxford University Press.

Finnegan, Ruth (1977). Oral Literature in Africa. Kenya: Oxford University Press.

Jan, Vansina (1935). Oral Tradition as History. London: James Currency Books

Kenneth, Dike (1976). African Historiography. Vol.6.London: Macmillan and Free Press

Muigai-Wa-Gachanja (1987). “The problem Stated,” in his Gikuyu Folk Story: Its structure and aesthetics” (PhD. Diss). Emory University.

Nandwa, J & Bukenya A. (1983), African Oral Literature. Backgrounds, character, and continuity. Indiana University Press .U.S.A.

Oladele, Taiwo (1976). Culture and the Nigerian Novel. Ibadan: Macmillan.

Olatunji. O.O. (1984). Features of Yoruba Oral Poetry. Ibadan: University Press.

Okpewho I, (1992). African Oral Literature: Backgrounds, character, and continuity. Ibadan: University Press.

Perry, Brandon (2006). Gospel Music: A historical summary. Recorder Vol. 111, Iss. 23. 9 June pg. A4. 11 November 2006 <http://proquest.umi.com

Speake and Simpson (1998). Concise Dictionary of Proverbs. New York: Oxford University Press.

Whiting, B.J. (1932). “The Nature of the Proverb,” Harvard Studies and Notes in Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 14, pp.18-27.

www.facebook.com/funkeakinokun
Felix John
[email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of John Felix and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."