Street language in Dùndún Drum Language

a musico-lingual perspective on street cultures in Nigeria


  • Olupemi Oludare Utrecht University



Culture, Drum Language, Dùndún, Ethnographic, Melo-rhythm, Nigeria, Street Language, Yoruba


Dùndún drum language is a practice of speech surrogacy employed by dùndún drummers in Yoruba culture. The dùndún drummers play sequences of melo-rhythmic patterns; a form of communication that employs musical and linguistic elements, comprehensible to listeners knowledgeable in the Yoruba language. Although these sequenced patterns are sourced from Yoruba everyday sentences and oral genres (proverbs, poetry, praise-chants, and idiomatic phrases), the drummers also embrace other social narratives. These include the popular linguistic expressions in public spaces referred to as “street language.” This is because the streets serve as spaces for social life, musical and cultural imaginaries, musical and language expressions, and identity. This street language, referred to as “ohùn ìgboro” in Yoruba, include slang (saje), slurs (òtè), neologies (ènà), satire (èfè), dance-drum patterns (àlùjó), and socio-political slogans (àtúnlò-èdè). This article explores the influence of street language on dùndún music. This article follows an ethnographic model, with an analysis of the content of the dùndún music and its associated texts. The article’s findings include the extent to which the two cultures have overlapped, and the various socio-cultural benefits of adopting the language of each other’s cultural practices. In the process, the article contributes to the debate on authenticity and social structure in Yoruba culture. The article emphasises the need for an integrated research approach of music and language and their interrelationship to street cultures in Nigeria.

Author Biography

Olupemi Oludare, Utrecht University

Olupemi Oludare, PhD, specializes in the areas of theory and analysis and African musicology, with research interests in rhythm, language, movement, and cognition. His research interrogates and contributes to the role of music in human and social development. He has published in reputable international journals, book volumes, including the Bloomsbury Encyclopaedia for popular music of the world. Oludare is a Catalyst Fellow of the University of Edinburgh, and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Utrecht University, working in the project “when language has a beat” (NWO 360-89-060), with a focus on African drum language.


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How to Cite

Oludare, Olupemi. 2022. “Street Language in Dùndún Drum Language: A Musico-Lingual Perspective on Street Cultures in Nigeria”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 11 (3):33-54.