All dances in Akwa Ibom are generally in harmony with the body and in response to
the rhythmic beat of the player(s). They are either ritualistic or non- ritualistic.
There is the Leap Dance, the Stride Dance and the Close Dance which is the most
outstanding feature of the Akwa Ibom dance. A typical feature of the Close Dance
is free movement of the hips only as opposed to the Stride Dance and Leap Dance
where there is a lot of arm and leg movement with occasional somersault example
is the Akombo dance.
The musical instruments used in the state are the same with the ones
found in other
parts of the country but differ from its functions and social context.
Akwa Ibom festivals are frequent and offer opportunities for custodians of culture
and customs to showcase their dexterity in supporting the tradition and culture
of the people. These festivals are held all year round and in different parts of
Festivals of Akwa Ibom people can be classified into four, namely the Agrarian/food-related
festivals, vocational/occupational festivals, ancestral/deistic/ceremonial festivals
Akwa Ibom State uniquely is rich in folk music and dance; symbols play very important roles as they relate to the process of adjusting the individual to the traditional
social order in which one is born.
Melodies are most commonly used, but one unique thing about the melodies of Akwa
Ibom music is that it is the only part of Nigeria that makes use of three- note-melody
(Tritonic scale). The melodies are either ritualistic or non- ritualistic. The ritualistic
type consists of praises to a particular ancestral god. While the non-ritualistic
music is purely for entertainment, here the melodies become more improvisatory and
It is normally played in social celebrations such as a marriage feasts, birth of
a new baby or elevation in social status. Folk songs are also used as a means of
communication through a masquerade. For instance, in the Mboppo, after a girl has
been confined for some weeks in Ufok Mboppo (a place where virgins are cared for)
up to a period of two months, and taught the rudiments of being a good housewife
and mother among other things, a masquerade visits the girl. If she has not grown
fat he robs a charcoal on her. But if she has grown fat, the masquerade rubs her
with Ndom Otong (white chalk) and rallies forth to the village square to sing her
praises and pour invectives on the unfortunate virgin that did not respond to the
Mboppo (fattening) treatment. A masquerade is used for this purpose because no one
attacks a masquerade and moreover whatever he is saying in the song he would not
say in spoken language.
The type of music indigenous to the people is assembled in form of orchestra. Like
the folk songs they are both ritualistic and non-ritualistic. There are orchestras
strictly made for masquerades like Ekpo, Ekpe and Obon; as well as those performed
at special non- ritualistic social cultural functions.
These orchestras are symbolic in nature. For example the orchestra that accompanies
the Oko men’s dance group, played at the burial of a prominent old man in the village.
The Uta (gourd horn) orchestra is made up of four gourds (Uta horns) named after
a mother and three sons- Eka Uta, Akpan Uta, Udo Uta and Etukudo Uta. Among these
orchestras the ones that are distinctive to the state are the Uta orchestra played
to show belief in a strong family system; the Nyama or Uso orchestra a functional
orchestra played in loud tone when necessary to prevent a girl on whom clitoridectomy
was being performed without any anesthetic from screaming or making noise, as she
is expected to endure the pains in silence as a mark of her readiness to enter the
Mboppo fattening room; and the Ekpri Akata performed by young men in the night in
a village informing members of the misdeeds in the society. They act as community
news vendors, exposing fornicators, murderers and other undesirable behaviors in
From the pre-colonial era, Akwa Ibom people used traditional cultural institutions
such as Ekpo and Ekpe to maintain order in the society. These institutions stood
out as government of the time. Ekpo is founded on the belief in life after death,
and is regarded as the soul or ghosts of ancestors that return to the land of the
living in masquerade form to participate with their kinsmen in communal festivals
such as farming and rite of passage.
As a male secret society, membership is strictly by initiations; hence, every aspect
of Ekpo is designed to strike awe, fear and caution among women and non-initiates.
The music is mortal by rhythms, the varying tones and pitches of drums arranged
closely together could be mistaken by an unfamiliar ear for the sound of a battle.
In the pre-colonial era, Ekpe served as the government of the people, performing
such functions as judicial, administrative and religious duties. Based on the concept
of the leopard being the king, Ekpe therefore performs the roles of government.
Visitors and researchers will be amazed at the stories of the powers and exploits
of these masquerades in the enforcement of social norms and discipline. Today, although
the functions of Ekpo and Ekpe masquerades as instrument of government have been
overtaken by modernity, the ritualistic and to a large extent, the entertainment
function is still very relevant to the people. Other masquerades whose stories will
equally amaze and confound visitors are Obon, Atat, Utue-ekpe (spider) Ubom Isong
(land canoe), Ntok Odio-Odio, Obio Okpo etc. These sets of masquerades make Akwa
Ibom State proud during canivals and festivals both within and outside the state.