Victor Manfredi — research materials
Here are posted a few audio files in low‑fi QuickTime (.mov) format, with related snapshots (.jpg)-in some cases no foto of the actual speaker is available. More files will be added as server quota increases. Transcriptions and analyses, available at the links given, are in various states of inaccuracy/incompleteness, please write for clarifications and/or for access to higher‑fi versions.
Philological boilerplate plus Unicode crib sheetÀjàyí Crowther's orthographic subdot, adopted in 1851 to signify the systematic phonetic feature [+ narrow pharynx] — better known after Chomsky & Halle (1968) as [‑ATR] — is an essential piece of tech for tens of millions of 9ja literates. In principle, it can be digitally rendered as the Unicode glyph U+0329 ("combining vertical line below" = HTML "& # 8 0 9 ;" (without the wordspaces), or alternatively as U+0323 ("combining dot below") = HTML "& # 8 0 3 ;" (without the wordspaces), but in practice this patch leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, not all browsers display the subdot, so some readers of this page will see nothing under the first two vowels of É̩hu̩gbò. For another, the kerning (horizontal alignment) of this kludge is chaotic, especially in book‑quality faces in sizes above 8 pt. Even in certain typefaces wishfully called "Unicode compliant", legibility is woeful as can be verified by inspection of the enclosed test page, which was prepared at random. Real published examples can be much worse. This train wreck should matter even to Unicode apologists who hide behind the race-to-the-bottom rampart of "bare legibility in plain text". Third and most devastating for an aspiring information commons — an admittedly quaintly utopian notion in the present day of privatized Orwellian-corporate internet — is the effective kneecapping of unambiguous searchability, a function that currently depends on an unuseable hack called "Unicode normalization". Such defects of the combining subdot notwithstanding, "[p]recomposed [and simultaneously subdotted] accented characters for Yorùbá were rejected from Unicode" (Filip Blažek), but why exactly? By which calculus and with what legitimacy was it decided to deprecate the goal of mass literacy in tropical Africa below, say, the frantic minting of infinite emoji code points for the brave new mass distraction autosurveillance economy more aptly termed "antisocial media"? (Maybe when the complete crosscultural inventory of gestures is exhausted — in all possible skintones, of course — perhaps Unicode then will find the time and bandwidth to address basic African spelling?) Polite inquiries to The Unicode Consortium about this unsatisfactory status quo were replied (email of M.D., 25 September 2008, available on request) with a smooth blend of bureaucratic indifference ("The disclaimer you mentionned [sic] in your email *is* absolute, and these combinations will not be encoded, so you should not waste your time making a proposal for them") and lazy palming off of the problem to apocalyptic and politically radioactive SIL/WBT missionaries, who are presumed to 'own' subdotted roman scripts, maybe based on an implied metaphysical 'ownership' of the speakers of the respective languages: "Those look fine with a font like Doulos SIL that can handle them". Funny enough, δοῦλος/doulos is New Testament Greek for 'slave'—the script kiddies at Camp Wisdom must have been dreaming of Doktor Freud when they named their Africanist digital type. Such self-outing nightmares aside, anyone who thinks that pentacostal interventions are harmless has not observed the condition of civil society in evangelized West Africa of recent decades. This typographic nicety nicely illustrates how priorities are set, who benefits and so on, under globalized neoliberalism. Not to excuse the Abuja ruling elite, who could have taken a benevolent interest in the problem, whereas the opposite has been the case. For example, in late 2006 while preoccupied with funding the PDP's 2007 auto‑succession campaign, the ò̩gá‑at‑the‑top General Káńkpé experienced a fit of pique at the second executive director of the National Institute for Nigerian Languages, who had failed to parse the plain meaning of the expression o̩mo̩lúwàbí percentage, so the general "ordered its scrap and stoppage of its budgetary allocations" (Wakili 2012, cf. Aziza 2011 and emails of A.A. and O.E., 19 January and 3 September 2007; note that the euphemism for ministerial kickbacks (sc. kickfronts) continues to evolve, e.g. "Chúkwu said because he was not carried along, he would not release the money under his ministry" (Oyèébádé & Gyamfi 2014, emphasis added).
Aziza, R. . Nigerian languages teaching and usage; problems and prospects. Ms., Department of Languages & Linguistics, Delta State University, Abraka.
Oyèbádé, 'W. & C. Gyamfi. . My battle with prostate cancer, by 'Wo̩lé S̩óyín̄ká; Nobel laureate, others urge govt to release N400m for centre. Guardian (Lagos), 25 November.
Wakili, I. . Senate Opposes Scrap of Languages Institute. Daily Trust (Abuja), 5 July.
[Update 6 April 2017] Stray signs from 2015 suggest that generalissimo O̩básanjó̩'s 2006 revenge gambit to dash NINLAN to Ǹsú̩ká eventually collapsed — an outcome that did not need a díbi̩à áfá to foretell, given the condition of the 200 km. of federal roads separating Wáàwa Land from Ńgh̩wà Land in the Oriental Province of 9ja! Apparently in the less longthroated (post-PDP) era, Prof. Elugbe was recalled to resume his occupātus interruptus and resurrect the àbíkú/ògbáńje institute as "an Inter-University Centre for Nigerian Language Studies" (references below, archived here). No hint of this yet at Nigerian Universities Commission but è̩gbó̩n professor, maybe NINLAN can haz website soon?A project to accommodate the subdot and other Nigeriana in typewriters, letterpress and desktop publishing took shape in 1983 with support from the Federal Ministry of Education in Lagos and from Hermann Zapf (cf. Hermann Zapf, ein Arbeitsbericht. Maximilian‑Gesellschaft Hamburg 1984, p. 82. ISBN 3921743281). Like other nationalist efforts, PanNigerian vanished into "the chaotic complex" when the appropriation vortex shifted to Babangidan Abuja (cf. O. Láwúyì, "Understanding the Nigerian state; popular culture and the struggle for meaning", The Transformation of Nigeria; essays in Honour of 'Tóyìn Fálọ́lá, edited by A. Oyèbádé, 511‑30. Africa World Press, Trenton New Jersey, ISBN 0865439982). Current hopes rest on civil society efforts like Lagos Analysis Corporation Technologies and African Languages Technology Initiative (Ìbàdàn).
Adbot. . National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) Recruitment 2015. Automated job listing.
Ùmé[h], K. . NINLAN to award degrees. NINLAN to award degreesGuardian (Lagos), 2 July.[NOTE: Technically savvier discussion of these points, plus more doctrinal pushback from Unicode defenders, appeared on Language Log shortly after my own hapless collision with the planet's typographic authorities. See also this forthright critique, cited as an undated update by Language Log:"After the intervention of the Greek national authorities, the Unicode organization abandoned the composite approach for Greek and replaced it with the precomposite approach that had long before been universally adopted for Latin-alphabet varieties such as French, Spanish or Czech. …[C]omposite characters are aesthetically unacceptable and lead to technically unpredictable data. They are therefore in direct conflict with the aims of the International Standards Organization."Maybe we need to update Max Weinreich's immortal wisecrack about glossopolitics to something like "A language is a dialect with precomposed/precomposite diacritics."]
Mueller, G. . Why Nanos uses precomposite Greek characters in preference over composite ones.
www.e-ternals.com/nanos/data.htmThanks to the clout of Vietnamese and romanized Indic languages in corporate software's higher echelons, an integrated (precomposed), therefore correctly aligned and (we can hope) unambiguously searchable subdot has been made available for upper and lower roman vowels and s. This resource accidentally represents real progress for any users of 9ja orthographies who choose not to mark tone, or even for those who are prepared to play the lottery of combining tonemark alignment. Here are the Unicode and HTML (remove wordspaces) bit addresses for the subdotted letters most commonly used in 9ja orthographies, and for the nonintegrated but nonspacing (i.e. possibly "combining") acute and grave accents as well as the less important macron, plus a more fully descriptive link for each:U + 1 E A 1 = & # 7 8 4 1 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E B 9 = & # 7 8 6 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E C B = & # 7 8 8 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E C D = & # 7 8 8 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E E 5 = & # 7 9 0 9 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E 6 3 = & # 7 7 7 9 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER S WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E A 0 = & # 7 8 4 0 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E B 8 = & # 7 8 6 4 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E C A = & # 7 8 8 2 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER I WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E C C = & # 7 8 8 4 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E E 4 = & # 7 9 0 8 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E 6 2 = & # 7 7 7 8 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER S WITH DOT BELOW
U + 0 3 0 1 = & # 7 6 9 ; = COMBINING ACUTE ACCENT
U + 0 3 0 0 = & # 7 6 8 ; = COMBINING GRAVE ACCENT
U + 0 3 0 4 = & # 7 7 2 ; = COMBINING MACRON
Unfortunately the "combining" superscript accents are just as blunt an instrument as the "combining" subdot, so it would still be more reasonable for the wise bosses of Unicode to kindly provide precomposed subdots for all of the five roman vowels upper and lower case EVEN WHEN THESE VOWELS ALSO BEAR PRECOMPOSED ACUTE AND GRAVE ACCENTS. But until that glory day arrives, southern 9ja literates will be forced to choose their poison: either to tweak the alignment of the combining subdot, or that of the acute and grave accents. At least, thank goddisses, there's no need to drink both poisons at the same time; instead, the prudent 9ja typist will ensure that either the subdot or the accent is used in the composed or integrated (not the "combining") form. A fortiori, the "combining" superscript accents should emphatically not be used with plain (non‑subdotted) vowels or tonebearing nasals for which composed/integrated tonemarks exist (see complete list below). Some text editors are programmed to automatically substitute the respective composed/integrated character for the sequence of letter plus combining diacritic, but it would be naive to trust this to happen on any given day. Apple's tablet‑like OS10.8 (enervatingly named after yet another cat species — can Civettictis civetta be next?) is the worst of both worlds: all the illegibility of combining characters, wrapped in a pseudo‑composed display format so that diacritics can't be tweaked.U + 0 0 E 1 = & # 2 2 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 E 0 = & # 2 2 4 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 E 9 = & # 2 3 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 E 8 = & # 2 3 2 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 E D = & # 2 3 7 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 E C = & # 2 3 6 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 F 3 = & # 2 4 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 F 2 = & # 2 4 2 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 F A = & # 2 5 0 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 F 9 = & # 2 4 9 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 C 1 = & # 1 9 3 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 C 0 = & # 1 9 2 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 C 9 = & # 2 0 1 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 C 8 = & # 2 0 0 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 C D = & # 2 0 5 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER I WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 C C = & # 2 0 4 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER I WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 D 3 = & # 2 1 1 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 D 2 = & # 2 1 0 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 D A = & # 2 1 8 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 D 9 = & # 2 1 7 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U WITH GRAVE
U + 1 E 3 F = & # 7 7 4 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER M WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 4 4 = & # 3 2 4 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 F 9 = & # 5 0 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH GRAVE
U + 0 E 3 E = & # 7 7 4 2 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER M WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 4 3 = & # 3 2 3 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 F 8 = & # 5 0 4 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH GRAVEBy whatever means tones manage to be typed, the tonemarks given here for any of the Benue‑Kwa (BK) languages follow a dual convention, consistent with best practice known to me although not necessarily matching current popular or official usage — fully explicit tonemarking being rare outside of Yorùbá. Throughout BK, [ ́ ] = high, [ ̀ ] = low, but marking differs in a principled way between the BK1 and BK2 subgroups correlated to prosodic type as discussed in Manfredi (2009a). For clarity, the pitch labels H, M, L and ! (downstep juncture) are added parenthetically. In BK2 (comprising the Gbè, Yorùbá, Nupe and Ìdọmà macro‑clusters) with 3 lexical tones, marking economy is paradigmatic i.e. syllable‑by‑syllable, thus no mark = mid, but in BK1 (the historic remnant including Àkan, Ẹ̀dó, Ìgbo, Tiv, "Bantu" &c.) with only 2 lexical tones, marking economy is syntagmatic, thus no mark = same as preceding and a sequence of two high marks = downstep starting on the second (Welmers & Welmers 1968, cf. Christaller 1875, Nwáchukwu 1995), e.g. Ẹ̀dó Ólokún (HH!H) '[tutelary supernatural, from Yorùbá]'. Furthermore, following Bám̄gbóṣé (1966) and Ámayo (1976), downstep preceding nonhigh is marked by a word‑internal period, e.g. Yorùbá Oló.kun (MH!M) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of òkun (LM) [the ocean]' vs. Olókun (MHM) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of okun (MM) [energy]' and the same expedient conveniently generalizes to a non‑spreading juncture between high and a following low, e.g. Yorùbá oló.dù (MH!L) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of an òdù (LL) [clay cauldron]' vs. olódù (MHL) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of an odù (ML) [8‑bit oracle sign]', cf. also Ẹ̀dó nó.dè̩ (H!L) 'yesterday'.
[Update 4 November 2021] After further indignant complaints directed by email to "higher" instances, a Unicode mafioso/ológbòóni sent a detailed reply (available on request) which though unofficial is undeniably informed with deep technical knowledge, whatever it may still lack in selfawareness of the sociology of knowledge and the political economy of digital capital. On the plus side, our correspondent does supply a few missing fragments of the broken Unicode story which I take the liberty to share below, adding obvious objections which like all sceptical responses to religious dogmata will remain substantively unanswered per saecula saeculōrum:
(i) "Unicode has a concept of 'Combining Character Class'… Diacritics below a base character should always precede diacritics above, regardless of how they are input. Normalization Form C, which is also defined by Unicode and should be done by any database system, provides that" in the Nigerian case, either the precomposed (Vietnamese) subdot or at worst the wretchedly "combining" subdot should precede a superscript tonemark. Translation: if the alphabetic planet is condemned to coding hell, there's an approved way to get there. But who even knew this? I've been hacking away at the problem alongside other civic-minded amateurs for decades and this is the first time any Uni-maven ever clued me to this rule. What are the chances that street-level users will guess the mystic combination, far less apply it consistently in practice across ever-changing proprietary platforms? And WITHOUT magically conforming to Normalization C, what hope of treating coded characters as clean data. This failure seems to defeat the datamining business model, unless of course they've already written off Niger-Congo or handed it off to the "SIL" (see below).(ii) "SIL's font makers and IT specialists are not missionaries (except by accident). Doulos SIL (new name) does indeed handle ẹ́ correctly as far as kerning is concerned, given a proper underlying OS." If the SIL is not a missionary enterprise then "der Herrgott" is indeed "boshaft" (in the words of Albert Einstein) and even so, the plain meaning of "doulos" is still slave, so inquiring minds still want to know who decided that African literacy should be pwned by a privately held trollfarm of rightwing "spiritual warfare"? Instead of which, Unicode's omni-scient, -present and -potent deities could just wake up one day and decide to liberate the best part of a continent by creating sixteen measly code points: subdotted u&lc roman e, i, o and u with precomposed acute and grave. Fīat odù mẹ́rìndínlógún!(iii) "[T]he Church is an absolute monarchy (under God), whereas Unicode is determined by a consortium of companies and some governments plus an ISO working group representing governments." A distinction without a difference kimosabe, but thanks for the free theology lesson. As for "governments" and "pre-existing national character sets", this is not a simple matter that can be left to unsupervised googool-ing cubicle geeks (see below).(iv) "XCCS, a Xerox standard that is the direct ancestor of Unicode, had no precombined characters at all. The precombined characters that were added were solely to provide 1:1 conversion between pre-existing national character sets and Unicode 2.0, which is why Vietnamese has a direct mapping between Unicode and national standards and African languages do not." Aha, now we're getting somewhere dottore. So who the dickens was the Xerox drone tasked to survey "pre-existing national character sets"? I put my hand on fire that Nigeria had already established such sets since the 1960's (if not the 1860's when it was just a glint in George Goldie's golden monocle), so if some distracted Silicon Valley flunky managed to miss this, whose fault is that na? No can rectify? I concede to no one in upbraiding dysfunctional federal Nigerian bureaucrats and autocrats for serially failing the cause of national languages (see tragicomical anecdotes above) but it's not as if the universities of the Global North lacked a knowledge base of how Nigerian languages are officially written. Libraries, dear chap, and U.S. Title VI-funded area-studies centers. Evidently it was cheaper to hand over the lion's share of African literacy to self-elected saviors who predictably served (saved) themselves, then the rest all'inferno.(v) "Unicode is, as I said above, simply the wrong target for such pressure, and they get a lot of it, so they tend to reply in brief, which is perceived as curtness." And wilful incomprehension is less painful to absorb in small doses.
Ágbọ̀ [colonial "Agbor"]
Macro-Ìgbo (= "Igboid"), Benue‑Kwa (= Greenberg's Kwa plus Benue‑Congo, Williamson's East Volta‑Congo), Niger‑Congo'[What] Òkórò did' (runtime 2:24)
Recorded in March 1977 from È̩bú Èdió̩n, an ògbú èbulu 'herbalist chief' (lit. ram-killer) of Àli ̩‑Írèn, Àli̩‑Ísìmíè̩n.The performance anticipated by these lines reconstructs excerpts of the initiation play (égu ò̩mu̩mu̩) originally composed by È̩bú for his age‑grade circa 1920 — hence his title of ónye ezè égú ('maestro di cappella'). The story's culture‑heroic motif — learning the survival secret of égu (music‑dance) from a circled troupe of frolicking, bulletproof antelopes — occurs elsewhere in the Ìgbo‑speaking area, for example in 1981 or '82, I glimpsed a thematically similar show broadcast Ímò State television, a few hundred kilometers away on the other side of the Òhimi ("Niger") river. È̩bú's spoken and sung words, transcribed as exx. (5)‑(10) on pp. 43f. of my dissertation, were recorded in his parlor in the evening calm; some months later on two afternoons, he convened a large ensemble in front of his house, including surviving members of the same age grade, to revisit these songs for the microphone. The outdoor occasions were loud and joyous, attracting a boisterous crowd. No costume or choreography was attempted, all focus being on the counterpoint of bells and chorus with È̩bú's lead vocals and his strenuous obbligatos on è̩kpi ̩ri ̩ — the transverse trumpet carved from an antelope horn, visible in his right hand in the foto below. The lead bell was handled by the oldest man in Àli ̩ Írèn, named É̩fnám Ocheì alias Òtí Mpú̩ ('Random hitter [of the musical gong]'). An edited compilation of songs from those sessions (runtime 33:05) is posted on an external page at this URL.PORTRAIT of ògbú èbulu È̩bú Èdió̩n dancing in front of his house during the 1977 revival of Òkóró Mè̩ [foto: A. Birsh](runtime 5:23)
Recorded in June 1977 by Julius Ògbú in his father's house in Ìdumu Úku, Àli̩‑Ísìmíè̩n.
These are the same data transcribed on pp. 110‑12 of this paper. The sentences are unspontaneous, being constructed by Julius and me to isolate prosodic alternations related to downstep. John Ọ̀jọbụ, a neighbor of about the same age, hearing the tape played back that day, commented to the effect that it sounded like the ancestors talking; we took this as a compliment.PORTRAIT of Julius Ògbú in 1977 in front of his father's house. Between us in the background can be seen a miniature set of anvil and tongs, his father's symbol of the òjnéògnú title as a member of the ritual ironsmiths' guild. [foto: A. Birsh]'My little son the oraclist'
Recorded on 1 October 1976 from S.A. Ìgbinédio̩n in his house in Ìdumu‑Írù, Ìgbáńki̩.
An ínu 'folktale' of the epic subtype, with intercalated songs in È̩dó (translated into Ágbọ̀ at the end), transcribed/translated on pp. 321‑29 of my dissertation.'Òjúrùhe̩n and Mèlú' (runtime 10:38)
Recorded on 19 May 1977 from Óbìdáki̩ the mother of Julius Ògbú in their house in Ìdumu‑Úku, Àli̩‑Ísìmíè̩n.
An extended ínu 'folktale' of the epic subtype, with intercalated songs in È̩dó, transcribed/translated on pp. 333‑41 of my dissertation.'The dog and the antelope'
Recorded on 7 June 1977 from Ò̩jo̩bu̩ 'chief of the oraclist guild' ( È̩dó ògí ò̩bó) in his house in Ìdumu‑Úku, Àli̩‑Ísìmíè̩n.
A humorous, brief ínu 'folktale' of the anecdotal subtype, transcribed/translated on p. 330 of my dissertation.PORTRAIT of Ò̩jo̩bu̩ in 1977 in his house in Ìdumu‑Úku, Àli̩‑Ísìmíè̩n. [foto: A. Birsh](runtime 0:45)
Recorded in Ògbe Ńmù̩ Déin on 9 January 1982.
Probably the best‑known chant of the "ecstatic oracular dance" style referred to on p. 29 of my dissertation. A sequence of 9 songs (runtime 24:49) of this genre, called è̩ge̩dí dibiè̩̩, is posted on an external page at this URL and includes another rendition of Òrogodó (starting at 5:48). The word Òrogodó itself is the name of the freshwater stream which bisects the present‑day urban center, and which is the focus of the magical devotion also known as íyí (the generic term for 'stream' as well as being the female title corresponding to ògbú èbulu referenced above). Before and after the chant, the bell player shouts gleefully "É̩bú̩ à jo̩ko̩ ali ̩ Ébó!" ('This music is going to [be heard in] the Whiteman's country!') to which, on the first occasion, another participant derisively replies "Ó nwó +ní!" ('There's [no way], i.e. forget about that idea!', where "+" indicates antidownstep). The dance was held in honor of my venerable host, the Òdíì of Ágbò̩ — later, the Íregwài (lineage patriarch) of Ògbe Ńmù̩ Déin-Chief Augustin È̩gwabó̩ Ìdúùwe̩, author of the History of Greater Ágbò̩.PORTRAIT of Òdíì A. E̩. Ìdúùwe̩ in 1982 in front of his house in Ògbe Ńmù̩ Déin. [foto: V. Manfredi]
Macro-Ìgbo (= "Igboid"), Benue‑Kwa (= Greenberg's Kwa plus Benue‑Congo, Williamson's East Volta‑Congo), Niger‑CongoSimulated consultation of the 8-bit binary oracle (runtime 11:21)
Recorded August 1977 in company of "Ígwé" B. Àku̩ńné (Ò̩di̩nani̩ Museum, Àgbádaàna Nri) at the request of Prof. M. Ó̩nwu̩ejìó̩gwù̩ (University of Benin, Benin City) and roughly transcribed/translated as the appendix of this manuscript.No image of díbì̩a Chúkwumà is available. Here is a sculpture representing Ágwù̩, the "ambivalent supernatural force [sc. álu̩si̩] associated with medicine, divination and magic" (Ó̩nwu̩ejìó̩gwù̩ 1981, 36) as displayed in Ò̩di̩nani̩ Museum, Ǹri. Grouped with Ágwù̩ is a representation of Ágwù̩'s own ìkéǹga (an icon of the right arm's instrumentality) together with an 8-bit oracle processor, comprising twin strings of 4 half-seeds of the òkwe tree (Ricinodendron africanum, cf. Williamson 1972, 373f., Ígwè 1999, 601)."Every predictor [sc. díbì̩a áfá] has carved images of ágwù̩, its household and pets, and sacrifices are made on these images to persuade and activate ágwù̩. For example, Èzumézù (Plate 1) is a wooden figure in which all images of ágwù̩'s housholds, pets and cult are carved on one piece of wood." (Ó̩nwu̩ejìó̩gwù̩ 1997, 13).
Ígwè, G. . Ìgbo-English Dictionary. University Press Ltd., Ìbàdàn.
Ó̩nwu̩ejìó̩gwù̩ ["Onwuejeogwu"], M. . An Ìgbo Civilization; Ǹri kingdom & hegemony. Ethnographica, London for Ethiope, Benin-City.
———. Áfa Symbolism & Phenomenology in Ǹri Kingdom & Hegemony; an African philosophy of social action. Ethiope, Benin-City.
Williamson, K. . Ìgbo-English Dictionary, based on the Ò̩ni̩cha ["Onitsha"] dialect. Ethiope, Benin-City.
The manuscript of the 1984, 2nd edition (lost by the publisher) has been recovered posthumously and posted online.
Ẹ́hụgbò [colonial "Afikpo"]
Macro-Ìgbo (= "Igboid"), Benue‑Kwa (= Greenberg's Kwa plus Benue‑Congo, Williamson's East Volta‑Congo), Niger‑Congo'Intelligence in water' (runtime 1:34)
A classic version of the widespread West African myth of the fragmentation of pretended omniscience as a result of hubris. Recorded in the yard of the speaker, Éléje Aghá, a díbì̩a 'oraclist' of the Ńdi̩ Uchè Ú̩rò̩ moiety of Kpóghirikpó village, on 19 June 1977. The text appears on p. 342 of my dissertation. "Nwá Aghá" (as he was familiarly known) was a seasoned raconteur, pausing and repeating without losing his rhythm against the background of vocalizing children and shushing adults. Another version of this story appears in Togolese Adzá‑Tádó oracle texts ("La gourde de l'intelligence", B. Kligue[h], Les Mythes Créateurs du Vodu, Anibwe, Paris, 2011, ISBN 9782916121512, p. 80f.) and a further transformation can be seen in the assassination of O̩bàtálá by Ès̩ù as recounted on p. 90 of Susanne Wenger, A Life with the Gods in their Yorùbá Homeland (Perlinger Verlag, Wörgl, Austria, 1983, ISBN 3853990150].
Immediately after performing this text, the same speaker concluded the session with Nwátà‑Nwá‑Mà‑Ńne 'The infant that knows its mother' (runtime 7:32) which can be heard on an external site, which is analyzed here and which is also transcribed on pp. 343‑48 of my dissertation.To my knowledge, no foto of Éléje Aghá exists. Here is a PORTRAIT of his friend Ǹkáma Ò̩kpáni ̩ (center) of the Èzí Ukwu moiety, accompanied by Ǹkáma's first son Hannibal Ò̩kpáni ̩ Ǹkáma popularly known as "M̀kpúmè" (far left, in Ékpè regalia), alongside other titleholders supporting Ǹkáma's 1980 Ìchíè ceremony. Ǹkáma later achieved the status of Ónikàra. He was my host and beloved pàpá throughout my time in É̩hu̩gbò. [foto: De Tomy Bright studio, collection of the family]
Òṣogbo [colonial "Oshogbo"]
Macro‑Yorùbá (= "Yoruboid"), Yorùbá‑Ígálà (= "Defoid"), Benue‑Kwa (= Greenberg's Kwa plus Benue‑Congo, Williamson's East Volta‑Congo), Niger‑CongoCover foto (1965, probably by K. Wittig) from LP jacket of a 1978 recording led by Awótúndé Awórìndé, a famous oracle specialist who was also the source of several Ifá texts published by Abím̄bọ́lá (1975, 178‑207, cf. 463) and Verger (1989, 168f., 186‑88).
Abím̄bọ́lá, 'W. . Sixteen Great Poems of Ifá. Gaskiya, Zaria for UNESCO, Paris.
Awórìndé, A. [1965/1978]. Ìyẹ̀rẹ̀ Ifá [The Deep Chants of Ifá]. Occasional Publication 32, Institute of African Studies, University of Ìbàdàn/Nigerian Cultural Records 16‑17.
Verger, P. . Dílógún; Brazilian tales of Yorùbá divination discovered in Bahia. Centre for Black Arts & Civilization, Lagos.Audio from the monthly ò̩sè̩ (ritual arts salon) at Ilé Abólúbò̩dé, the àgùdà (neobrazilian) stone mansion at Ìbòkun Road 41A which was the residence of the sculptor and painter Susanne Wenger/Àdùnní Olórìs̩à. Recorded by Victor Manfredi except as noted. (Posted on an external site.)Àyàn Kó̩ládé dùndún, 27 December 1980, recorded by Samm Bennett (runtime 20:49)
Note: Kó̩ládé contributed to A. Euba, Yorùbá Drumming, the dùndún tradition (Bayreuth African Studies 21/22, 1990, p. 463).Àyàn Sìpè̩ bàtá, 27 December 1980, recorded by Samm Bennett (runtime 14:12)Àyàn Sìpè̩ bàtá, 21 March 1981 (runtime 4:22)Oríkì chanted by a S̩àngó priest from E̩de̩, 21 March 1981 (runtime 6:58)Àyàn Sìpè̩ bàtá, 26 December 1981 (runtime 19:16)Oríkì chanted by Ìyá S̩àngó E̩de̩ joined by Ìyá Ìkìrun, 26 December 1981 (runtime 17:06)
In the first minute of tape, Susanne Wenger asks the drummers to accompany the singers in moderation.By àwo̩n o̩mo̩ Ò̩s̩un, 26 December 1981 (runtime 9:11)
Note that the first two syllables were truncated from the tape. Transcription.By children in Susanne Wenger's household, 1981, recorded by Samm Bennett (runtime 30:08)Daily predawn prayer, broadcast on loudspeakers near Ilé Abólúbò̩dé, 1981 (runtime 10:34)Associated fotosInterior of Ilé Abólúbò̩dé overlooking Òs̩ogbo iron roofs and showing Baba Aajè̩'s àpótí ìs̩úra O̩bàtálá with ìgbìn drums.
(From G. Chesi & S. Wenger, A Life with the Gods in their Yorùbá Homeland, Perlinger, Wörgl 1983, p. 31.)Passport images of (left to right) Àyàn Sìpè̩ oníbàtá, Àyàn Kó̩ládé onídùndún and an oníbàtá colleague.Related materialFour master-classes by Àyàn Làmídì Àyánkúnlé and colleagues from Ẹ̀rìn-Ọ̀ṣun in the art and science of e̩nà bàtá coded surrogate speech, hosted in the Department of Performing Arts, University of Ìlọrin, October 1997.
JD 40 (superceding Guthrie D 42), Benue‑Kwa (= Greenberg's Kwa plus Benue‑Congo, Williamson's East Volta‑Congo), Niger‑CongoNotes (.pdf) elicited from Pierre Mumbere Mujomba in the context of MIT 24.942, Spring 2007. These preliminary data sheets are limited to basic transcription and translation plus bare pitch tracks, without interlinear morpheme glosses. As time and space permit, I intend to post the sheets from all twelve sessions, working back to front. The primary audio (.wav) files corresponding to all the individual tracks are available on request.Ẹ̀dó (Benin‑City)
Benue‑Kwa (= Greenberg's Kwa plus Benue‑Congo, Williamson's East Volta‑Congo), Niger‑CongoPartial translation of Egharhevba's Ìha Ominigbo̩n (1965 edition) prepared at my request by Jeff Ò̩mó̩ruyì (Benin-City) with the kind assistance of Alhaji Òsarúyì Muhammed Ìghílè̩ (24pp. 2‑up). The English text covers 73 out of the 80 extended narratives included in the the È̩dó book (pp. 90‑168), out of the complete oracle's 256 8‑bit addresses. Seven narratives of Egharhevba's (1965) text were temporarily omitted:Òdín‑Ète, Òdín‑Òsé, Òdín‑È̩ká (pp. 107‑09)
È̩ká‑Ò̩kan, È̩ká-Ò̩gháe, È̩ká‑Ète, È̩ká‑Ètúre̩ (pp. 165-68)(With Alhaji Ìghílè̩'s help, a first approximation in English of the short glosses for all 256 addresses of the È̩dó oracle (Egharhevba 1965, 10‑39) can be consulted in this comparative chart.)And here is a brief description of the translation project, published in Ùmé̩wàe̩n, Journal of Benin & È̩dó Studies (Oswego New York) 1 (2016), 136-41 at this link.Dancers from Ìgbááki̩ ("Igbanke") from the same festival (21 December 1981, runtime 26:27). Ìgbááki̩ is a town at the northwest edge of Ágbò̩. U. Beier illustrated this vigorous, melodious style in Odù [Ìbàdàn] 7 (1957) p. 41 plus 4 plates. Similar music from Àli̩‑Ísìmíè̩n, Ágbò̩ is posted at this link.Consecrating the Ó̩ba's head (21 December 1981, runtime 2:16). Ìgue̩ is the annual collective sacrifice to the head of the Ó̩ba of the È̩dó ("Benin" or "Bìní") Kingdom. The excerpted chant is described by Bradbury ("Divine kingship in Benin", Nigeria Magazine 62, 1959, p. 202) as follows:Here we have a classical rite of divine kingship. The divine power of the Ó̩ba is renewed and strengthened by a medicine made from a variety of the most important products of the earth. With the Ó̩ba's well‑being is identified the well‑being of the nation and by this rite and the sacrifices that follow, the welfare of the Ó̩ba and his people is ensured for another year.The same ceremony appears in Benin Kingship Rituals (1963), a 20‑minute film by R. Bradbury & F. Speed. So far, the most complete ethnographic study of the È̩dó ritual cycle is a posthumous publication by H.‑J. Melzian (1907‑45), the great morphologist and lexicographer of the È̩dó language: "Zum Festkalender von Benin" (Afrikanistische Studien, edited by J. Lukas, Akademie, Berlin 1955, pp. 87‑107).
The sacrifices on this occasion are directed, not to any disembodied spirit or deity, but to the Head of the Living Ó̩ba, to the seat of his senses, his judgement and his good fortune. He is first rubbed with white 'chalk', the symbol of prosperity and ritual purity, then annointed with the blood of the sacrifices by the Ìhó.gbè priests who intone prayers in archaic ritual language:
"May your head be strong. May your ears hear good news. May your heart beat steadily. May the bones of your arms be powerful, etc."Ó̩ba's dance to the palace gate (23 December 1981, runtime 36:59). Two days after Ìgue̩ proper, the Ó̩ba — wearing èmóbo regalia and tapping silently on an ivory gong — dances to an éwìnní drum, escorted by Chief Ìsekhurhe̩ with the ùkhurhe̩ ancestral staff. The dance proceeds slowly to the palace gate and just beyond it, as the people repeatedly chant Áà yó, áà yó è̩bo̩! 'Don't go forth/depart to the divine plane of existence!' Thus the Ó̩ba is urged not to join his deified ancestors at this moment, but instead to remain in his palace to celebrate yet another Ìgue̩ in the coming year. When the Ó̩ba does indeed turn back to reenter the palace, the people shout Ìyáarè! 'Go forth [and] return [safely]!' — the generic greeting for a roundtrip shamanic journey from àgbo̩n the visible world to è̩rínmwìn the invisible spirit realm, and back.
Palmwine Drinkerds Club (subsequently known as "Keggites")
D Ilya, D E̩musphere, Nàìjá, Echo-was, West Africa, D World, D Universe, D Galasi, I No Know […]As described in The Nigerian Field vol. 47 by Chief A. O̩ládòkun, The Palmwine Drinkerds' Club was anything but a "campus cult" in the colloquial sense of those ruthless Lumpen gangs sponsored by university authorities to repress democratic student unions under the Babangida dictatorship. Indeed, as witnessed in this video, our club was a preferred target for the fascist squadrons, as well as for verbal abuse dished out via loudspeaker by religious fundamentalists whose gyrations gave stress relief to neoliberal immiseration.As much as possible in the early 1980's and again in 1997, I recorded my colleagues' composition‑in‑performance of this genre of polyglot oral poetry — known as songisis or ijarasis. Extended excerpts:
Cultural politicsAs Sondheim said in 1962, "A funny thing happened on the way to the forum". This time around, in 1998, the forum in question was that slice of public scholarship privately owned by Oxford University Press, and the funny thing was funny‑peculiar but not a‑laugh‑a‑minute like the Broadway show. Oxford and its venerable Syndics covertly censored its English "translation" by M. Petheram of L.‑J. Calvet's 1987 book La Guerre des langues & les politiques linguistiques (Payot, Paris, 1987, ISBN 222814200X). Bad enough that the kack‑handed translator (or his monolingual editor) rendered the title as "Language Wars & Linguistic Politics [sic]" (ISBN 0198700210/0198235984) in disregard of the gender distinction in French between politics and policy. Far worse for any user of the Oxford edition, Chapter 14 ("Politique linguistique et impérialisme; l'Institut Linguistique d'Été", pp. 205‑14) got disappeared in toto (as the lawyers say), without the intellectual honesty to note the fact of removal, not to mention its cause. S.I.L. obviously prefers to run below the radar. The above link gives the original French text which was so sneakily zapped, as well as the table of contents of the censored OUP edition. (In this case at least, the Rumsfeldian dictum fails, and "absence of evidence" IS indeed "evidence of absence".) I stumbled on this conspiratorial caper while updating the references for my squib Bailey‑bridge to oil doom: Kay Williamson reveals S.I.L.'s official role in the maladministration of the post‑Biafran Niger Delta.UPDATE: Prof. Calvet confirms by email (1 July 2007) that the surreptitious removal of his Chapter 14 from the English "translation" of his 1987 book was an act of "self‑censorship" ("auto‑censure") on the part of Oxford University Press under pressure from "a host of lawyers" (though precisely whose lawyers, it's still necessary to pin down for sake of the public record — OUP whistleblowers please take note).
UPDATE 2: English translation (6 pp. 8.5 x 11 inches) of the surreptitiously disappeared chapter, prepared and posted here at the suggestion of Prof. Calvet, who fortunately retains translation rights (email, 2 July 2007).
UPDATE 3: Petheram is untraceable, while the OUP editorial office pleads inability to access paper‑based archives documenting the affair (email from John Davey, 2 September 2007).
UPDATE 4: SIL/WBT is not the only authoritarian cult that knows how to leverage British libel law, nor is OUP the only British publisher to cower:"This is hardly the first book to cast an unflattering light on the scientologists. But 'Going Clear' will garner attention if only because of the reputation of its author, who, the New York Times says, is "known for his thoroughness" as a reporter. He has, the paper reports, received numerous threatening letters from lawyers for the Church while the UK publisher of the book, Transworld, recently pulled out and scrapped its printing without explanation. It will be published by Knopf in the US with a first run of 150,000 copies." sourceUPDATE 5: Calvet's original article "À l'insitut linguistique d'été: Évangélisation et impérialisme culturel" (Monde diplomatique 324 March 1981, pp. 16f.)
Conference report: José Antonio Aponte & His World; writing, painting & making freedom in the African diasporaCenter for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, King Juan Carlos I Center, New York University, 8-9 May 2015.
29 May 2015, last modified 2 June 2015. (2 pp. A4).
Cross-posted with fotos at Afrocuba Web.Update 19 June 2015: Prof. Grandin, who chaired a session of the NYU Aponte conference six weeks ago, notes in a left-liberal Manhattan magazine a possibly "cunning" historical coincidence: that the premeditated massacre in Emmanuel AME Church of Charleston SC on 17 June 2015 occurred on the precise anniversary of Denmark Vesey's insurrection, planned in 1822 in the same building, which was then razed down by the slavocracy in revenge. The Vesey insurgency was itself a close and possibly conscious homologue to the Cuban events a decade before (as observed by Prof. Gómez and other Apontistas discussing anticolonial politics in the Salón Real Juan Carlos I). Grandin could well have added that Cuban social reality today is—for whichever reasons that critical comparison may reveal—far from lurching into similar spasms of white supremacist terror. This fact in itself strongly justifies the Afrocubanist impulse of Prof. Ferrer's historical project.