Yoruba language is exceedingly rich; it is laced with witty speeches, strong rhetoric which has qualities of (logo-persuasion) pathos, experience and ethos. Yoruba art (a general term for: skill, artifact, craft, art, mastery of language) which include, but not limited to: drama, dance, song, artifact, comedy, tragedy, trado-comedy. Collectively, they have become preserving agents as well as vehicles for transmission of Yoruba culture for centuries.
Poetry is a metric or literary writing that conveys a specific or multi message to its listening audience. Poetry may be written independently as a Discrete Poem, or synergize with other artistic work such as drama, hymns, lyrics. Yoruba poetry includes: Ewi, Oriki, Ijala and ?kun Iyawo or Rara.
Oriki (Eulogy) – a praise, vocative statement for a person, a family, a group, or even an entire community. It is an organized poetic word in verses and mostly, “nominalized” to expound individual/family attributes, qualities, successes, accomplishments combined with commonly shared community attributes. There is individual/family Oriki, ancestral Oriki, group/community Oriki. Individual oriki is a poetic assemblage of qualities, attributes and successes of prominent individuals dead or alive; family or individual oriki is perpetuated through names and continued narration of such oriki. Every child at birth is given names with link to the family oriki generally traceable to the paternal lineage. Personal/family oriki is learned by every family member by heart, while local drummers and professional praise singers also learn some orikis which are recited in honor of their owners at public functions.
Ijala is hunter’s chants, which is directed at animals in the wild, whenever hunters are out for game. Ijala focuses on animal attributes, only seasoned hunters recite ijala, to praise (animals) or to express happiness or disappointed when in the wild. According to Adeboye Babalola (1963), Ijala poems are many and varied, we have Ijala for different occasions, which may show or reflect the “way of life of the community to whom belongs the heritage of ijala-chanting tradition.” While ijala-chanter or cantor is cognizant of the special occasion of which his poem will focus, he is also at liberty to add, or to compose a new poems in his honor, or for individuals who are alive, and those dead.
?kun Iyawo– is a bridal chant on the wedding night for the bride-to-be, friends of the bride and older women in the family chant ?kun Iyawo to bid the bride goodbye. It contains family pedigree, bride’s good qualities, what the new life will be, and blessing that awaits the bride in her new home. The chant runs all through the night, before the marriage.
Iwi Egungun– according to Karin Berber in African Folklore-An Encyclopedia- Iwi Egungun are “usually long passages addressing the legendary founder of ancestral masquerade cult” iwi expounds the qualities of past ancestors and their achievements.