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Igbo ubo-aka : its role and music among the NRI people of Nigeria Ezegbe, Clement Chukuemeka


This study attempts a socio-cultural approach to ubo-aka musical phenomena in terms of the role of the instrument as a communication medium with rich and varied tradition of its own among the Nri people in Igbo culture of south eastern Nigeria. The Igbo ubp-aka is a plucked idiophone consisting of eight metal prongs which are linguistically tuned with a bowl-shaped gourd resonator. This study is needed in the light of the important socio-cultural roles of ubp-aka musical tradition which are facing the prospect of extermination in the face of social change. The investigation rests primarily on my extensive field work in the music of Nri people from 1966 to 1975 and on current field recordings by Gwamniru Ezegbe and Levi Oji who are my research assistants from 1976 to 1977, in addition to current information on Nri culture from many Nri people. The first chapter introduces the whole thesis by presenting the method of investigation, the problems, the purpose, the academic reason for this study, literary survey and the scope of the study. Chapter 2 describes the Nri people and their culture as they relate to ubo-aka musical tradition. Chapter 3 is an organological study of the instrument based on the systems of Draeger and Hood. The determinants and the socio-cultural roles of ubq-aka music are discussed in ethnographic context which concludes the socio-cultural background to ubo-aka music. Chapter 5 discusses the transcriptions and the analyses using Professor Liang's "graphic space notation" specially designed for ubo-aka music. In the analyses, 30 musical examples that best typify ubo-aka musical tradition in Nri were selected and analyzed in terms of the musical parameters, linguistic content and social functions covering the characteristic scale-modes, the melodic contour typology, the intervalic structures, the correlation between the melodic contour and the speech tones and the rhythms of melody and speech. Chapter 6 concludes the study with recommendations and shows that (1) the melodic contours are linguistically determined by the Igbo tonal language, (2) the rhythms of melody and words do not always agree and (3) that the musical parameters can change but not the socio-cultural roles as defined by the society.

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