This paper discusses the thematic structure of Yoruba
popular music of Southwest Nigeria. It examines the use of themes
and variations in early and contemporary Juju music. The work is an
outcome of a research developed by the author in his doctoral studies
at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, with the aim of analyzing the
thematic and motivic developments in Yoruba popular genres.
Observations, interviews, live recordings and CDs were used as
methods for eliciting information. Field recordings and CDs of
selected musical samples were also transcribed and notated. The
research established the prevalent use of string of themes by Juju
musicians as a compositional technique in moving from one musical
section to another, as they communicate the verbal messages in their
song. These themes consist of the popular ‘call and response’ form
found in most African music, analogous to the western ‘subject and
answer’ style of the fugue or sonata form, although without the tonic–
dominant relations. Due to the short and repetitive form of African
melodies and rhythms, a theme is restated as a variation, where its
rhythmic and melodic motifs are stylistically developed and repeated,
but still retaining its recognizable core musical structure. The
findings of this study showed that Juju musicians generally often
employ a thematic plan where new themes are used to arrange the
songs into sections, and each theme is developed into variations in
order to further expand the music, eliminate monotony, and create
musical aesthetics, serving as hallmark of its musical identity. The
study established the musical and extra-musical attributes of the
genre, while recommending further research towards analyzing the
various compositional techniques employed in African popular
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