Variations in the application of the components of the oral performance to Yoruba chants




oral performance, artist, text, audience, music, histrionics, Yoruba modern oral chants


It is common knowledge in oral literature that every oral form is naturally performed. The components of the oral performance are, namely, the text, the oral artist, the audience, music, and histrionics. Though these components apply to the performance of all oral forms, whether narrative or poetic, they are employed in diverse manners in consonance with the nature of the oral form being actualized. This is called the context of performance. The aim of this article is to do an inquiry into the contextual varying of the use of the components of the oral performance among oral traditional forms with emphasis on Yoruba oral traditional chants. My objectives are to verify how the nature of each chant dictates the degree to which the components can be applied to it in context. In other words, the prominence or unimportance of any component of the oral performance in each poetic form is determined by the rules surrounding the actualization of the subgenre. This survey is delimited to the Yoruba oral poetic forms classified as chants. The first is the context-restricted group that limits the use of the components of the oral performance by its own rules, thus making any deviation a taboo. The second group comprises forms that were originally context-bound but have begun to acquire secular features thus deemphasizing their invocatory worth and metamorphosing into entertainment subgenres. The third is the class of poetic forms that were originally secular. They have not only remained so, but have also absorbed the many influences of modernity. The data for analysis constitutes 13 oral forms which have been transcribed and translated from Yoruba to English. (Yoruba is one of the indigenous languages or mother tongues of Nigeria.) The oral performance theory which enumerates the variables listed above and functionalism which reveals the essence of the contextual applications of those components are handy for the theoretical framework and grounding of this article. Further, the oral-formulaic theory will be applied to chants in the first group above because their potency is tied to their formulaic structure.


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Author Biography

Gboyega Kolawole, University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria

Gboyega Kolawole is professor of Folklore and Comparative Literature in the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria.


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How to Cite

Kolawole, G. (2023). Variations in the application of the components of the oral performance to Yoruba chants. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 60(3), 75–89.



Research articles