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Welcome to Ibusa: the Land of Great Dancers

That Ibusa has produced great achievers in all endeavours of life including music is a fact, it is also truer that the history of the town remains incomplete without the mention of the contributions made by the town towards the growth of the Anioma region music wise. For reasons quite strange, historians and commentators on the affairs of the town have always left-out this aspect of the history of Ibusa. Almost every cultural and ceremonial aspects of the town incorporate singing and dancing, studying the cultural state of the town may principally involve the proper understanding of the dance steps of the people. It is for this reason that a historian once described Omuoha, the sister of Umejei and one of the founders of the town as a beautiful dancer.


Festivals such as Iwu, Ifejioku, Ine, Ulor, Ichu-Ekensu celebrated in the town all entail dancing, not even the typical Okanga running form funeral in which those involved are seen carrying cutlasses and sticks, with the people dressed like an military attack on the town is imminent is spared. Little wonder the likely manner in which an old Ibusa woman may choose express her pleasant surprise is to momentarily move her body in a quick rhythmic manner temporarily lost in frenzy. Such is how music could naturally engage any Ibusa person, the kind of music Ibusa is distinguished, is the Anioma traditional kind of music.


In fact, at a tender age, my father often played the Anioma kind of music and forcefully engages us dancing it even when we were not predisposed to it just because he felt that one day, the need to do a public dancing of the native music would arise and we might be put to indignity and humiliation by our inability to efficiently dance to the music. He often reminded us too that we would be easily identified as people who did not live our lives in the town if we refused to learn the Anioma kind of dance called "Ihu-Egwu" and as we danced on, our parents would pass judgment on the one that has danced better, with our compensation being fairly large sums of money to school. Sometimes too, our parents would sharply vary on which one of us has danced better, and we would imagine that a quarrel has broken out between them until neighbours will be called in to take share their own opinions.


True to my father's words, a day came when we received the news that an uncle had passed on and it was of the essence that and we all attend his funeral, which we did to observe the funeral ceremony. I understood my late uncle to be a traditional chief who took up the "Nkpalor title" and as the Ibusa funeral tradition demanded, the Okanga funeral rites had to perform as the last honour for him. They ornamented the hair of all the ladies in attendance in beads, and dressed in white native attire called the "Otogwu" in the Enuani dialect of the people. They also applied powder to their body, and delightfully looked like Bini women, so I asked my father if we were once Bini, he replied me that though we were not but had borrowed their culture of rites and dressing from them, and it excited me that my mother I had known all my life had suddenly appeared to me like a Bini woman.


We danced round Ibusa very violently as though we were prepared to resurrect my uncle from the dead, but the dancing far surpassed the ability to achieve this great accomplishment, in the evening, we soon assembled again at a time my legs were still ached me, series of canon shots sounded in the air, and we quickly assembled for the next round of action, it was apparent that everyone of us was itching to enjoy the ceremony once again. This time we had every opportunity to display the natural capability to dance in us, as everyone else encircled us. The Diokpas pointed to us one after the other, beckoning us to get into the circle and dance as they performed for us. When it was my turn, I boldly stepped in and displayed the all the beautiful dance steps my father had tutored me to the amazement of the people who wondered where I learnt the art of dance. As the people lifted me in joy and excitement as one who has done so well, I held my father's hand, which suddenly compelled to another round of dance immediately my legs found the ground.


From then on, the name "Ibusa" struck me as a place where people meet to dance, it never departed my mouth to ask my father when Okanga dance would take place, and my father would mute me telling me that Okanga dance was only possible after the death of an uncle. Ironically, my father passed on in 1994, and himself being an "Nkpalor" the Okanga drums were required to roll out once more in honour of my own father, but it created a pathetic state for me that I couldn't move my body to dance as I would have. Relations danced and urged me reminding me that one never has the opportunity to bury his father twice but the sorrow by far overwhelmed my inclination to dance or even sing along with the group. Everything was like a scene in a movie which needed to pass on after a short period of time; people danced and twisted their body as much as I would have done. It was good to see people dance as a passage rite of my late father but I had lost the ability to dance to emotion.


The art of dancing is indeed an Ibusa heritage, and it is common to see the youths of the town dance not only in the time of funeral but also happily to events in the town, the Iwu is one festival that creates an atmosphere for dancing. It is one catchy development that welcomes any visitor to the festival, Ibusa people are great dancers you might expect to do a dance for you sooner. As an adage of the people expresses "he who dances never harbours anger" The people are nice group of people who never harbours anger. The town may be a little one but it has mightily spread the musical and cultural heritage of the entire Anioma people.

By Emeka Esogbue 


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