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Azuonye, Chukwuma (1979) The narrative war songs of the Ohafia Igbo: A critical analysis of their characteristic features in relation to their social function. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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War songs (abu-aha) are by far the most important genre of literature in the oral tradition of the formerly warlike Ohafia Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria. Performed by specialist amateurs on a wide variety of social and ritual occasions, the songs form part of a complex of musical expressions (iri-aha) through which the people's myth of a past heroic age is periodically re-enacted for the purpose of inspiring the young to emulate the commitment of their forbears to the ideal of self-sacrificing service to society in the single-minded pursuit of honour. In this first attempt to analyse the songs as a form of oral traditional poetry, attention is focussed on their most highly developed category, the narrative category. Based on texts and testimonies recorded in the course of field research, the analysis presents the songs as artistic compositions with a distinctive social function which is reflected in the characteristic features of their content, form and performance. It is divided into three parts. Part I (Background and Content) discusses the development of the heroic ideal of which the songs are an expression and its ramifications in the content of the texts. Part II (Language, Structure and the Creative Process) examines the oral formulaic devices used in the presentation of the heroic themes of the songs in traditional poetic and narrative structures which are nevertheless varied by individual singers to suit different audiences in new contexts of situation. Part III (Reception and Evaluation) considers the evaluation of the songs by the Ohafia people themselves and the effect of this on the survival and continuity of the tradition amid social change. The analysis is based on seventy-four texts (Appendix II) and representative examples of these are provided in Appendix I.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:15

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