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Alásàlátù: An Ethnomusicological Appraisal of an Islamic Religio-Musical Association for the Emancipation of Women Among Yorùbá Muslims

Yòmí Dáramólá


Gender studies are now an entrenched interdisciplinary area in the academy. In contemporary times, Women’s Studies have engendered academic discourse and incisive analysis of cultural and social institutions. Much of this is directed to ward women’s freedom and emancipation from chauvinistic social and cultural marginalization. This paper attempts to provide information through a diachronic study of the role of women in the musical traditions of Yorùbá Muslims. The word Alásàlátù is used to describe these women and the musical groups produced by their socio-religious interaction. An ethnomusicological approach, which views music not as a phenomenon for its own sake, but for the sake of the society it extols, was adopted to unravel some fundamental aspects of social relations among the women’s groups. It also analyzes the socio-economic potential of their members through music making and finally, considers the appeal of the music to women’s emancipation. This paper argues that women’s empowerment is an established phenomenon in Islam and that talented Yorùbá Muslim women utilize music as a medium through which they engender their empowerment. They do this by propagating social recognition for themselves. In spite of stiff opposition from some Muslim men and religious leaders, Alásàlátù music is today well entrenched in the socioreligious endeavors of Yoruba Muslims. This paper maintains that the Alásàlátù groups among Yorùbá Muslims are not only religious organizations but have also become exponents of reforms of social and musical ideas for the promotion of women’s emancipation.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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