Preserving The African Culture And Tradition: Oja (Flute) description and functions


As posted on Facebook by the pengician, Onyekachi Ujebe 

The Oja, an Igbo Musical Instrument.
The Oja, known as Igbo Flute in English Language is a cylindrical aerophone musical instrument that is locally carved out of a wood, or simply a woodwind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. The instrument is normally between 17 to 30 cm in length, and 3 to 5 cm in diameter. It can come in different wood colours and weight, and in different body carvings which enhances its aesthetic quality.
Usually, the instrument is made up of two faces – the front and the back faces. The front face can sometimes be marked X depending on the creativeness of the carver while the back face may necessarily not. It also has two ends- the top and the bottom. From the top which is often carved in a V shape and with a wide opening to fit the shape of the human lower lip,
the instrument is holed down to the bottom making it have a thorough cavity from the top to the bottom. The bottom is often round in shape in such that it can be covered by the index finger. There are also two other smaller holes perforated close to the top on the both sides of the instrument.
To produce sound, the flutist traditionally known as ogbu oja places his thumb and index finger of the left hand at the side holes simultaneously, while the index finger of the right hand is placed at the bottom hole of the oja. The instrument will then rest on the thumb and index finger of the right hand. To ensure that the instrument is properly held and to enable a clear sound articulation, the instrument is held lightly as to enable the flexibility of the fingers on the pitch holes. When it is properly held, the ogbu oja then places it on his lower lip and blows in air into it while at rapid intervals changes his fingers to produce different pitches of various notes durations at different tempos. The ogbu oja can create a new song with it or intone a known song

The instrument can be played along with other musical ensembles such as igba (cylinder drum), Ekwe (slit drum), Ogene (gong), Udu (pottery drum), etc. it can as well as be played alone during traditional festivals, marriage ceremonies, funerals, and nowadays even in churches.
The Oja is to the Igbos as what the Talking drum is to the Yorubas in function in a contemporary traditional Igbo festival or ceremony as the ogbu oja can use it for veneration or for condemnation purposes. The ogbu oja which may be an itinerant player can use it as a means of livelihood, by composing songs with it in concerts and in ceremonies. The instrument can also be used for personal entertainment, as a source of inspiration and as a way pain relieve.

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