• Obianuju Akunna Njoku University of Mississippi, USA



Hausa-Fulani, Ilorin, music, orin-kengbe, Qur’anic, senwele, women, Yoruba


Among Muslim women in predominantly Islamic societies, music-making remains a contested subject. At the core of these contestations are questions of boundaries, agency, taboos, resistance, and generalisations of the socio-musical experiences of Muslim women. This article explores the development of senwele music, a socio-religious music form of the Ilorin in northern Nigeria, from its origin as orin-kengbe (calabash music) to its transition into a translocal music form. Given influences of the Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani, and Islam, senwele music is examined as a compendium of history; one that is not only reflective of the Ilorin traditional music scene, but also the north-south dualism in Ilorin, tensions in music-making and Islam, and regio-political remapping in Nigeria. Based on fieldwork with a major exponent of senwele, Alhaja Iya Aladuke, and her music group in Ilorin, the article explores the practice, ambivalences, convivialities and sustainability of senwele music performance within its predominantly Islamic context. I argue that while established societal conventions, such as those in Ilorin, function as a standard for the acceptance of music, a woman musician such as Alhaja Iya Aladuke continues to thrive through a musician-community exchange that takes into cognisance the sensibilities of the people while retaining their patronage and her artistic autonomy. Beyond its sonic, textual, and entertainment prerogatives, the sustained practice of senwele music in Ilorin presents a continuum for interrogating and negotiating cross-cultural encounters, socio-religious binaries, gender boundaries, and the multiplicity in the socio-musical experiences of Muslim women.

Author Biography

Obianuju Akunna Njoku, University of Mississippi, USA

Obianuju Akunna Njoku holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology. Her research draws on multi-disciplinary frameworks to examine music and marginality, and the intersection of music, gender politics and cross-cultural encounters in Nigeria. Njoku was a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Music and Musicology/International Library of African Music (ILAM), Rhodes University, South Africa. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi, USA.


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Interviews by Author

Alhaja Iya Aladuke, Ilorin, Nigeria, March 6, 2013.

Alhaja Iya Aladuke, Ilorin, Nigeria, June 21, 2013.

Alhaja Iya Aladuke, Ilorin, Nigeria, August 18, 2013.

Alhaja Iya Aladuke, Ilorin, Nigeria, March 14, 2014.

Alhaja Iya Aladuke, Ilorin, Nigeria, May 23, 2014.

Musa Aminu (band member, senwele group), Ilorin, Nigeria, May 23, 2014.

Alhaji Olatunji Mohammed (band member and assisting manager), Ilorin, Nigeria, June 20, 2014.

Alhaji Mohammed Bodunde (member of the community), Ilorin, Nigeria, January 10, 2018. Discography

Alhaja Iya Aladuke. 1990. Won l’asewo ni wa, Bomodeku records. n.a (VCD).

Alhaja Iya Aladuke. 2001. Gbokogboko, Blessed peter peace music: Ilorin. n.a (VCD).

Alhaja Iya Aladuke. 2002. Vocabulary, Blessed peter peace music: Ilorin. n.a (VCD).

Alhaja Iya Aladuke. 2013. Talojebi, Blessed peter peace music: Ilorin. n.a (VCD).

Alhaja Alapata Eja. 2005. Abere Alate, Olaegbon, Oloru music: Lagos. n.a (CD).




How to Cite

Njoku, Obianuju Akunna. 2023. “TRANSCENDING THE SONIC AND THE TEXTUAL: SENWELE MUSIC PERFORMANCE IN ILORIN, NORTHERN NIGERIA”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 11 (4):1-24.