Ethnography Review




Juju:A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music

The ethnography is about popular music among the Yoruba in Nigeria.

Thework specify examines Juju music as one of the eminent genres ofmusic among the West African people. It can be stated that theethnography is written from the community’s point of view. Foremost, Waterman (1990) despite being a Westerner provides anin-depth insight into the Yoruba culture and the Juju music. He triesto find out from the society the relationship between inequality inmodern Yoruba society and the juju music.

Juju music is a branch of West African urban guitar band tradition. Although the music is today considered modern, nevertheless, the jujugenre has a long history. Waterman (1990) discloses that the genrehas evolved over the years due to adoption of modern technology. This has resulted to the creation of a modern sense of the music.Waterman (1990) further argues that when listening to juju music, aWestern listener can get a feel of rock music, just like the Yorubapeople who consider the music very hypnotizing.

One of the impacts of juju music on the Yoruba people is that itplayed a significant role in the expression of the nationalismessentially after the World War to the present day. For instanceduring the colonial period the Yoruba people used the music as aresponse to European colonialism. The community played their musicduring armed resistance, labour strikes and nationalist movements.

Juju music also created a sense of identity for the Yoruba people. The community would use an astounding efflorescence of creativity intheater, dress and visual arts when performing the music.Additionally, the Yoruba culture is often self- consciouslytraditional in function, form and feeling. The music greatlypromoted this attributes of the Yoruba culture.

Jujumusic also promoted the freedom of expression though music. Most ofthe musicians interviewed disclosed that this genre of music gavethem a chance to display their independence. A juju leader forinstance stated that he invented his own individual style referredto as ‘adawa’ which he used to express his views on inequality.This boosted his public reputation.

Jujumusic is a genre that requires the use changing technology. As aresult, the people of the Yoruba community constantly reinventmusical instruments in order to improve their music. It can thereforebe stated that the Juju music has promoted a culture of innovationamong the Yoruba people. For instance musicians usually gain fame byclaiming to be the first inventers of a new instrument or a style ofplaying the music. A juju band in the 1980s was likely to possessinstruments such as amplification and synthesizers that costthousands of Niara.

I think that the author was not bias in any way. Although he is fromthe Western culture he actually does not present his views using aprejudice perspective. In most cases Western ethnographers havepresented information about African communities using negative andprimitive viewpoints. Waterman (1990) as a lover of all types ofmusic acknowledges the unique cultural attributes of the juju musicwhich to me is very forthright.

MyUnderstanding of the community

I can start that my understanding of the Yoruba society is now moreprofound after reading about their music. One key aspect that Iidentified from the ethnography is that the Yoruba people love theirculture which makes them use the juju music as part of their culturalidentity. I also understood the community as one that valuesinnovation. The community always innovates new instruments in orderupgrade the quality of juju music.


Waterman,C. (1990). Juju:A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music.University of Chicago Press.