1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Literature is a field of study that has to do with the study of spoken and written materials. Broadly speaking, literature is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works. But the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination including works of poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction.
According to BBC English Dictionary, Literature is referred to as “Novels, Plays and Poetry, especially when they are considered to have artistic qualities”. This definition means the creative works being composed and especially performed. These compositions could be written or oral documented or kept in the memories of the composers and performers.
Literature represents a language or a people, culture and tradition. But literature is more than just a historical or cultural artifact. It introduces us to new world of experience. We learn about books and enjoy the comedies and the tragedies of poems, stories and plays and even grow. Literature has two main branches which are ‘Oral’ and ‘Written’ literatures.
Oral literature is said to be the source of written form of African literature. It is older than the written form of literature, which gets its raw materials mostly from oral literature. While the written form refered to the documented materials which are sometimes printed.
The African’s amiable living is the aggregate of oral literature since most activities in their various homes are accompanied with oral performances. Emmanuel in his words has it that “songs, music and poems are also used effectively to create the desired atmosphere and evoke the appropriate emotion on the other solemn, happy or sorrowful occasions” (26). He further stresses that, the foregoing instances portray that poetry and music form a part of almost every ceremony or activity in Africa. This proves oral poetry as the mechanism that enhances the Africans’ emotional wellbeing.
Oral literature as earlier mentioned enables one to know the culture of a people out of several cultures prevalent in the society. It helps one to know about the experiences in the society. It also helps one to know about the way of life of his or her ancestors. Oral literature is further divided into; oral narrative, oral drama and oral poetry. Oral narrative is a type of literature that is composed without the aid of writing and is presented orally. It is often considered as a live performed aspect of literature. The Preservation of oral form is important since it is transmitted orally from one person to the other, from one generation to another and has unpredictable loss or damage. Oral drama refers to the oral performances that last in the memories of composers and performers.
According to Amase, “Oral poetry refers to all imaginative verbal compositions in the form of songs, chant, riddles, incantations and other verbal activities sometimes accompanied by music” (25). These verbal compositions are centered on different human experiences and to a large extent, exploit the harmonic and aesthetic potentials of language. Oral poems are performed in various ways to satisfy human basic needs. That is, they are used for praise, to mourn the dead, preserve historical facts, serve as social commentaries, affirm and actualize religious beliefs, embody culture (moral and intellectual) and also to serve inspirational purposes during war and hunting.
Before the advent of western education, traditional Africa was basically an oral society. Our history, science, medicine, technology, philosophy and literary forms were preserved by words of mouth in the form of myths, folk-tales, legends, proverbs, poetry and ritual performances. Human beings generally, sometimes express their feelings or emotions in various forms of oral realizations depending on the occasions that call for such renditions. In Africa particularly, virtually every activity of the African is associated with one form of poetry or the other. Ulli Beier as quoted by Obafemi writes that in Africa, “Nothing at all is done without poetry” (Obafemi 102).
Life in traditional African environment is generally poetic because it is replete with multiple occasions that call for poetic expressions. Poetic expressions issue from happy, sad or solemn event, just as good or bad people or their conduct call for some form of poetry. Oral poetry in African communities is thus occasional. As events happen, be they negative or positive; they provide ample opportunities for oral compositions which reflect the mood and content of such occasions.
Oral poetry which is one of the aspects of oral literature further comprises several parts. They include: Panegyrics, topical and political poetry. The focus of this research work is on topical and political poetry (songs) which is one of the types of oral poetry. Topical and political poetry (songs) deals with “the use of songs to report and comment on current affairs, for political pressure, for propaganda, to reflect and mould public opinion”.(Finnengan 272). This means a situation whereby the masses voice out political matters that disturb them through songs. This could be done by a particular poet or a group of people in the form of chants.
Topical and political poetry perform several functions. Political songs are rendered objectively in order to rouse members of a particular society to acknowledge the potentials embedded in a candidate (s) of a political party and vote for him or her. But sometimes, it is also used to advice candidates of political parties. Elements of other poetic forms such as panegyric, elegiac and satirical poetry are found in political party. This is so because African oral literary forms are often interwoven. But political poetry is singled out for special discussion in this research work.
Ex-stuffy is unique in his composition of songs using various figures of speech in certain instances. Attention has never been given to his poetry despite its richness. Therefore, this work concentrates on his political songs (poetry). Political poetry (songs) usually addresses political issues of governance such as; good or bad management of resources for the benefit of the masses and his poetry is not an exemption. In his poetry, praising and criticizing are dominant and he achieves this by the deployment of copious literary devices which are worth investigating.
The poet under study is Kaha Fater popularly known as Ex-Stuffy (Awambe a Tiv). He hails from Vandeikya Local Government Area, Benue State. He is a graduate of political science fromthe Benue state University Makurdi. He lived in Gboko and worshiped in Nongo U Kristu U I Ser Sha Tar (NKST) denomination where he used to compose Christian songs for the youth wing of the church. He later started composing political songs in 2014 when there was a need for a change in government, a job he still does till date. At present, he lives in Makurdi.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Tiv oral artists have composed several songs. Some discuss and seek solution to family issues among the Tiv people; others promote agriculture since it is the main occupation of the Tiv society. Some others mourn the deaths of their loved ones or prominent people while a host of other poets compose oral pieces for several other purposes such as; for advice, for encouragement, to warn listeners of impending danger and to educate. There are instances that prompt poets to compose songs. For instance, some people have died as a result of greediness, envy, arrogance, etc. such incidents require traditional oral performers to compose songs that bring out the moral implications of these acts.
However, the poet under study composes songs that have features of both satirical and panegyric poetry in order to correct the anomalies in politics in the Tiv society. Therefore, the theme of this study is to reveal the moral content of Ex-Stuffy’s political songs and how he achieves that with the use of literary devices. Through idiomatic expressions, the poet under study uncovers the subject of his songs which tend to criticize the manipulative attitude of the politicians as well as advice and counsel political candidates to take corrective measures.
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is important because it examines the role of Ex-Stuffy’s political poetry (songs). That is, the significance of political songs in Tiv land and the entire society at large. The work will also highlight the inculcation of political morals using Ex-Stuffy’s voice (songs). This work will demonstrate how oral poetry can be used to achieve several things even without formal education in the area of politics especially among the Tiv people.
Tiv people will benefit a lot from this work for the oral poetry of Ex-stuffy will be documented for further reference. It will be read in generations to come as well. This research will greatly contribute to knowledge in terms of new scholars making reference to it especially among the Tiv’s and in the field of literature entirely.
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The study is set to achieve the following specific objectives:
- To draw attention to the songs of Ex-Stuffy (Awambe a Tiv).
- To preserve the poet’s work for posterity.
- To highlight the moral value of the songs.
- To encourage interested scholars to give attention to other Tiv poets especially political singers that has never received attention so as to promote and preserve the Tiv culture.
1.5 SCOPE AND DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The poet under study has performed many songs which vary according to themes and purposes. For the purpose of this research, ten (10) of his recorded songs are analysed as they fairly represent the content and subject matter of the poet.
1.6 METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH DESIGN
This work is the combination of both library and empirical research. This has helped the researcher to come by a poet whose songs take a peculiar dimension out of many other poets. Some of his songs were collected on tape recorder, then transcribed on paper; translated from Tiv to the English language using free translation format. Lastly, an analysis of the poems and its functional values were carried out.All the political songs composed by this poetwere live recorded on plates. This work therefore has selected from the live plate records to tape recorder. The songs were played on a radio tape in the process of analysis.