Dance of the Òrìṣà
Dance of the Òrìṣà
The Africans associate music with entertainment, joy, socialization, connection, spontaneity, movement, communication, and rituals. Furthermore, for the African peoples, music is inextricably linked to the rites of passage as well. As they see it, music is the expression of one’s desires, thoughts, values, and socialization; it is a source of fun and joy.
For an Òrìṣà worshipper, it is important to understand that the Òrìṣà deities facilitate interconnectivity – the interconnectivity between people and nature as well as between nature, people, and the Òrìṣà themselves.
The water sings, the tree leaves and the treetops sing, the wind and the fire sing, and the Sun and the Moon sing as well. All of the forces of nature sing because each and every one of them possesses its own distinct voice. This musicality is perceivable among all the various messages of nature or, putting it differently, among the songs of deities that may come in the form of plants, animals, or minerals. All of these messages of nature are materialized by people in the form of liturgical songs, which are often referred to as the sacred music of the divine. This sacred divine music serves to illustrate the Àṣẹ, the strengths and powers that the Òrìṣà possess.
The energies that inhabited the Earth in human form in the primeval era of civilization are inclined to inhabit the bodies of the dancers who make themselves available to them when going into a state of trance. It is very clear to the observers when someone is “simply dancing” as opposed to when an Òrìṣà possesses their body. This type of possession amounts to an immediate experience of divinity that yields positive effects on all levels. Many people experience relief from certain forms of physical pain as the negative consequences of stress are eradicated and the emotional tension is released.
In the Òrìṣà philosophy, music is equally important as the initiations since they both bind humans to the divine in a similar way.
Nietzsche once wrote: “Without music, life would be a mistake. I would only believe in a god who could dance.”
And in the world of the Òrìṣà, it is not only the gods who dance – we are all dancing.
Music represents both the rhythm and the communication, meaning that drumming and singing are not merely joyous activities; first and foremost, music is a symbol of the communication between humans and deities as well as between humans themselves (bearing in mind the symbolism of ẹgbé ayé).
The singers invoke deities through their mouths, while the drummers do the same using their hands, thereby creating the rhythm and transmitting divine messages to the dancers. Through the rhythm and the singing, certain qualities, values, and essential features of the Òrìṣà are being awakened in the mind, the body, and the soul of an individual. When dancing, singing, or drumming and thereby using the body, the soul, and the mind, a human being is a living embodiment of nature.
Whenever we are dancing, we are doing so with the virtues of deities. The internal communication between the soul, the mind, and the body is being facilitated, and the dancer is subsequently more in sync with his or her surroundings. The more people dance with the Òrìṣà, the more rhythm they create and the better they prepare their body for life. Dancing is, in essence, a constant revitalization of life. Every time someone dances, they heal a certain existential issue. Drumming and dancing literally open up the channel of laughter, joy, and pleasure. When drumming, this procedure is extremely infectious, and if a person drums and dances frequently, the channel remains open even when keeping still. In other words, the channel of joy and happiness is open constantly. The Yoruba utilise drumming and dancing as therapy for achieving emotional stability. There is no kind of sadness that is immune to the joy unleashed by drumming, singing, and dancing. Dancing, singing, and drumming in honour of the Òrìṣà essentially symbolize joy and happiness, and dancing inevitably awakens the passion for life.
From a secular, social, non-religious, and non-spiritual perspective, the musical expression by the Yoruba people may be perceived as a state of ecstasy facilitating emotional elevation. Generally speaking, the Yoruba and other African peoples are very joyous – and music is the key to unlocking one’s heart to joy.