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The Abanyole Dirge: “Escorting” the Dead with Song and Dance

Author(s): Ezekiel Alembi

Journal: Folklore : electronic journal of folklore : [printed version] / Institute of the Estonian Language & Estonian Folklore Archives
ISSN 1406-0957

Volume: 38;
Start page: 7;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: Abanyole | African folklore | dirge | Infracultural Model in Folklore Analysis | funerary rituals

Song and dance pervades the life and the world of the Abanyole.When they are sad, they sing; when they are happy, they sing; when a child is born, they sing and dance and when one dies, they also sing and dance. So strong is the singing and dancing tradition in this community that it can be described as lubricating oil that the Abanyole use on their wheel of life as they transact different facets of their being. In this article, I examine the role of song and dance in a funeral context among the Abanyole of the Western Province of Kenya. The discussion is focused on traditional Abanyole songs. I make this distinction because Christian songs are also sung at funerals in Bunyore. Specifically, performances by individual mourners and night performances at funerals will be discussed, guided by the following questions: Who performs? When do the performances take place? What is the structure of the performance? What is the meaning of the performances within the funeral context? I have utilized the Infracultural Model in Folklore Analysis as the conceptual-analytical framework for this article. This model emphasises the interpretation of words and actions within specific cultural contexts. This essentially means that the meanings of the words and actions can only be located within the perceptions of the studied community. Underlying this model is a key concern that researchers should participate in the life of the communities, being a sound basis for learning, experiencing and documenting the beliefs, expectations, fears and perceptions of the communities studied.
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