The Roles of Yoruba Songs among the Pregnant Women
Attending Antenatal Clinics in
Olusegun Stephen Titus
Department of Music
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Citation: Titus, Olusegun S. 2020. "The Roles of Yoruba Songs among the Pregnant Women Attending Antenatal Clinics in Southwestern Nigeria." Accelerando: Belgrade Journal of Music and Dance 5:5.
Scholarly works have shown that maternal mortality reduction is based on biomedical attention, while the place of religion and motherhood in pregnancy and birth has been grossly neglected. This paper examines the place of Yoruba songs among the pregnant women attending antenatal clinic in Southwestern Nigeria. Cultural history, textual and musical analysis of the songs used during such training were sourced and analyzed. Based on health belief and transformative musicology theories the paper suggests that Yoruba songs is very functional, been rooted in religious and socio-cultural life of Yoruba people. The paper argues that more than biomedical factors, the Yoruba concept of religion and motherhood is vital to motherhood and birth. The songs serve as education, caution, entertainment, encouragements psychological and therapeutic, release of fears, panic and stress among the pregnant women.
Keywords: Yoruba Songs, Antenatal Clinic, Motherhood, Birth, Religion, Functions, Pregnant Women
Studies have attested to the place of prenatal care during pregnancy. Most of the studies alluded to the place and importance of biomedical care in reducing maternal and infant mortality rate during pregnancy and delivery. However, very little attention is paid to the role of Yoruba religious and socio-cultural laden songs used during antenatal literacy classes in Southwestern Nigeria. This paper therefore examines the function of Yoruba songs used during antenatal literacy classes. I argue that there is a strong relationship between religion, and motherhood, faith and birth among the Yoruba worldview. Also, the Yoruba people have ideas, assumptions, belief, and values about motherhood, pregnancy and delivery which we can encounter in the form of indigenous knowledge in their popular cultural expressions such as music. Effectively, music may become "the bridge by which the physical and spiritual are connected and can be the most vital component of a healing ceremony or practice" (Koen 2009, 4). This is true with the use of songs during antenatal literary classes. The songs centered on spirituality, religion and motherhood. The objectives of this paper are to identify the various religious laden Yoruba songs used in antenatal clinic, enumerates the functions of the songs on the pregnant women attending the literacy classes.
The method employed for this research work includes participant observation. The researcher with other research assistants attended the literacy sessions in University College Hospital, Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Ile-Ife, and Seventh Day Adventist Hospital Ile-Ife. Several antenatal literacy sessions were observed. Songs used during the literacy sessions were collated and selections were made on them based on the themes on faith, motherhood, pregnancy, labour and delivery. Observations were made during the visits, on the participants as they dance and sing during each of the classes. 20 pregnant women were randomly interviewed on the effects of the songs on them. The cultural history and background of some of the songs were sourced and the songs textual meanings were analyzed. More so, the songs been in Yoruba language were recorded and translated to English language and some of the songs were also transcribe to musical notation.
The antenatal class holds every Monday to Friday except during official holidays. According to an informant (Darasimi 2017) "we are expected to come here once a month if the pregnancy is at the first and second trimester stages. But from the third trimester we are expected to be at the literacy classes twice a month, this is for our own good and the coming baby". The participants see themselves as learners and waiting mothers that needed all the learning, knowledge and instruction for safe delivery. Another participant expresses her feeling that: "I am full of joy that God has blessed me with this baby in my womb. I want to do all I can to care for the baby and myself." Yet another participant notes that "the knowledge gained during the classes if applied and obeyed with faith and prayers you can be sure of divine safety". Commenting on the place of faith, prayers and songs during the classes other informants note that "modern medicine is very important but limited without prayers and faith in God for safe delivery". The participants summarily recognize the place of spirituality, faith and God in their pregnant stage and delivery more than the biomedical care.The age range of participants is from 16 years to early 50s. 10% of the participants are up to 20 years, 60% are within 21 to 40 years old while 25% are above 40 years old. The participants in antenatal classes are pregnant women who are mostly semi-literate. In each of the classes there were about 30 to 40 pregnant women and from the interview conducted 50% of the women were semi-literate, only 10 % had a degree, 40% were illiterate could neither read nor write. The educational level warranted the use of literacy class which includes the use of Yoruba culturally imbued songs, before consultation with their doctors. From the participant observation carried out by the researcher the participants are mostly from Yoruba ethnic group which dominate the southwestern Nigeria. 80% of the participants are Yoruba speakers while the remaining 20% are from different ethnic groups of Nigeria. Like Igbo, Hausa/Fulani, Efik, Tiv, Idoma, Igala, Ebira among others. Also, the interview conducted show that most of the participants have religious background, 95% of the participants are either Muslims or Christians, while about 5% are irreligious or belong to traditional religion.
The literacy class is guided by Senior Nursing Officer. Generally, an antenatal class begins with a opening prayers, that could be a Muslim or Christian form of prayers. The prayer could be led by the senior nursing officer who is also the instructor or one of the pregnant women nominated by the instructor. After this, the entire class generally are then led to singing various songs. Most of the times, the first two songs could relate to physical exercise which the instructor encouraged the pregnant women to participate. After that religious songs mostly Christian songs on praises and thanksgiving to God for the gift of pregnancy could be rendered. According to informant they do this "to praise God for preserving and keeping them alive". Other songs during the literary class are about domestic hygiene, nutrition, breast-feeding, immunization and so forth. Most of the songs are composed choosing the tunes of existing songs, while the lyrics are specifically chosen to reflect the thematic peculiarities of the lesson being taught. The idea of choosing tunes of existing songs is to make the learning of the songs easy for the women. In order to make a typical class lively, the women are enjoined to accompany their songs with clapping and dancing.
This paper is based on the Health Belief and Transformative Musicology theories. Health Belief Model theory is one of the longest established theoretical models designed to explain health behaviour by better understanding beliefs about health (Harrison 1992, Nutbeam and Harris 2004). At its core, according to Nutbeam and Harris (2004, 10) it suggests that the likelihood of an individual acting related to a given health problem is based on the interaction between four different types of belief. The model predicts that individuals will take action to protect or promote health if
[…] they perceive themselves to be susceptible to a condition or problem. If they believe it will have potentially serious consequences. If they believe a course of action is available that will reduce their susceptibility or minimize the consequences. And finally, if they believe that the benefits of acting will outweigh the costs or barriers. (Ibid.)
This theory is germane to the discourse on Yoruba antenatal songs. The pregnant women participate in the literacy classes, singing the faith songs and with strong religious mind to avert any form of mortality. Their susceptibility made the pregnant women to listen and even sing the songs trusting in God for safe delivery. More so, they also analyse the meaning of the songs with the health instructor during the training. the pregnant women with various health issues relating to the pregnancy do not want further health challenges for themselves nor for their pregnancy and thereby participated in the antenatal health education where songs are part of the training process. The theory is aptly applicable to the women as they acted in singing believing that it is less costs and taking part will increase their chance of safe delivery and becoming motherhood. Still on the model and antenatal health songs the model further explains that refinement have acknowledged the important modifying factors, particularly those associated with personal characteristics and social circumstances as well as the impact or personal experience. Added to this analysis of the model is the concept of self efficacy that is the belief in one’s competency to take appropriate action as a further factor influencing the strength of the model in predicting behavioral change. Also Adequate literacy programmes on maternal care for expectant mothers through singing is very essential, since inadequate information on preparations for pregnancy, labour, delivery may result in medical complications for mothers during pregnancy, childbirth and delivery (Taiwo and Salami 2007). This is applicable to pregnant related songs used during antenatal clinic literacy classes. The song texts help the pregnant women to take daily actions on health issues during pregnancy, labour and delivery believing that it will reduce the complications for during delivery.
Transformative musicology is the musicology that aims at the transformation of individual spiritually and physically. It encompasses all musical activities that focus on transformative purposes (Adedeji 2006a). The ambivalent nature of the power of music was demonstrated in Adedeji (1999), where he enumerated the anabolic and catabolic roles of music. The theory is applicable to pregnant women attending antenatal clinic. This theory is aptly applied to the pregnant women attending antenatal literacy. The classes bring religion and faith through singing that could transform pregnant women mentality, reduce their fears and stress, and increase their faith and assurances for safe delivery.
Health Literacy in Antenatal Clinic
Health literacy is the process of learning about pregnancy, labour and other relevant information that will help keep the mother and baby safe during and after delivery. This is routinely observed in most places as a means of reducing mortality rate. According to Oladapo Et al (2008, 16)
One of the main goals of antenatal care is the provision of adequate information that is essential for maintaining and improving pregnancy outcomes. Antenatal care provides a unique opportunity for health education and information, not only for preparation for childbirth and infant care but also for spacing of births and family planning.
During antenatal health literacy adequate information is giving to pregnant women and one of the means of giving the information is through songs. (Harrison 1985; Ogunniyi and Faleyimu 1985; Walker 1986), which suggests that none use of prenatal care is a strong high-risk factor in maternal mortality. Although this study was not specifically designed to answer the important question regarding the value of prenatal care in reducing maternal mortality, certain inferences can be made, nevertheless. It is possible that the use of prenatal care may reduce the rates of pregnancy-related complications, but it is clear from this study that once complications develop at home, the prior use of prenatal care is unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome. Taiwo (2015) examines the communication in the Baby Care Clinic. She observed that the communication in Child Care Centre is based or segmented into speaking and singing. While her paper examines the discourse the musical part of the discourse is however, not discourse. Nwizu et al (2011, 40) note that
[…] good antenatal care should be made available, accessible and affordable to all pregnant women through partnership between all tiers of government and non-governmental organizations. Due to the self-selection of women who either experienced problems during previous pregnancies or anticipate problems in the present one, health care providers in our centre and similar centers need to be more vigilant during booking visits to identify cases and use it as a platform for health education with respect to the need for good nutrition and compliance with medication.
The place of maternal music exposure was further affirming by Arya et al (2012, 12) in their study on maternal music exposure affirms that "study provides preliminary evidence that maternal music exposure beneficially affects neonatal behavior". Alcalay et al (1993, 361) in their research on communication intervention for prenatal care among pregnant women in Tijuana community, engages the use of music to communicate pregnancy related issues with low socio-economic pregnant women especially the need to seek prenatal care. In their study they assert that:
[...] an audio cassette with two songs using attractive ranchera rhythms was also developed. These songs were aimed at encouraging behavioral change by dramatizing nutritional aspects of the intervention. The songs were recorded on audio cassettes and made available to radio stations in Tijuana. After selecting the media and the messages that needed to be communicated to the target population, drafts of several formats and contents for the calendar, the poster, the brochure, and the songs were designed, pretested in focus groups, and then produced in their final format. (Ibid.)
On antenatal classes in Nigeria Taiwo and Salami (2007, 3) explain that:
The literature reviewed shows different works on health and music, and health literacy in antenatal clinic. However, none of the reviewed works attended to the roles of songs in antenatal clinics in Southwestern Nigeria Hospitals which lacuna this paper attempt to fill.