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Yorùbá Bàtá Goes Global

Artists, Culture Brokers, and Fans

Responding to growing international interest in the Yorùbá culture of southwestern Nigeria, practitioners of bàtá—a centuries-old drumming, dancing, and singing tradition—have recast themselves as traditional performers in a global market. As the Nigerian market for ritual bàtá has been declining, international opportunities for performance have grown. Debra L. Klein’s lively ethnography explores this disjunction, revealing the world of bàtá artists and the global culture market that helps to sustain their art.

Yorùbá Bàtá Goes Global describes the dramatic changes and reinventions of traditional bàtá performance in recent years, showing how they are continually recreated, performed, and sold. Klein delves into the lives of Yorùbá musicians, focusing on their strategic collaborations with artists, culture brokers, researchers, and entrepreneurs worldwide. And she explores how reinvigorated performing ensembles are beginning to parlay success on the world stage into increased power and status within Nigeria. Klein’s study of the interwoven roles of innovation and tradition will interest scholars of African, global, and cultural studies, anthropology, and ethnomusicology alike.

240 pages | 23 halftones, 3 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2007

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

History: African History

Music: Ethnomusicology


“Klein’s writing is fresh and clear and she has a deft eye for detail. What makes her approach so compelling is the developing focus on the concrete relationships, performance genres, transactions, and elements of cultural style which bring together the global dimensions of the study. There is an ethnographic grounding here through which the theoretical debates are addressed and illustrated that is both rare and refreshing. This is a highly commendable book.”

Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles

“Notably, this work revitalizes the importance of anthropological research through careful attention to the quandaries surrounding anthropological collaborations. Rather than surrender under the weight of the most recent critiques of anthropology, Debra Klein perceptively builds from these challenges to offer a thoroughly engaging study of Nigerian Yorùbá performers and the social life of their art form within the grip of late capitalism. Her study is at once accessible to wide ranging audiences while at the same time it tackles many of the urgent concerns of cross-cultural research.”

Paulla Ebron, Stanford University

“Based on profound experiences with Yorùbá drumming and masquerading families begun over a decade ago, Debbie Klein deftly presents stories of fathers and sons following and breaking with tradition, of brothers fighting over status and funding joint enterprises, and of women as daughters and wives standing their ground with grace or fierceness. From an exquisitely-realized close ethnography of the lives of traveling performers, Klein pulls back to theorize global connections by expertly examining the discourses and politics of collaboration, placing Africa in the world in a way that no other ethnography does. Her work is rigorous and imaginative, critical and reflective.”

Carolyn Martin Shaw, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Klein’s prose is readable, while her analysis is penetrating and refreshing. Her narrative is spiced with ethnographic testimonies that take the reader right into the heart of Yoruba life and culture."

Bode Omojola | African Studies Review

Table of Contents

List of Figures 
Introduction: Reality 

1 The Making of a Yorùbá Culture Movement
2 Làmídì àyánkúnlé: Father of Foreign Lands 
3 Sculpting Ò«ogbo: Strategic Collaborations among Yorùbá Artists and Three Germanic Culture Brokers 
4 Managing the Gap between Local and Global Stakes in Yorùbá Tradition 
5 Pop Tradition: I Am Always Me 
6 Antipolitics of Collaboration 

Conclusion: Transgressing Reality 

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