Masked Identity: Reinventing Tradition Through Lágbájá’s Musical Performance

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Tullis, David
Yoruba; Lagbaja; masks; ijinlee; Africano; afrobeat; drumming; Nigerian society
artifact description
Nigerian pop-musician Lágbájá stands out from his contemporaries because of his unique use of historically grounded Yorùbá forms and aesthetics—or ijinlee Yorùbá—to articulate a class level critique of Nigerian society. Lágbájá’s music, which he dubs Africano, infuses the jazz-oriented afrobeat style of Fela with an eclectic mix of highlife, juju, hip-hop, R&B, rhumba, and other styles, all arranged within a web of complex drum textures informed by ancient Yorùbá rhythms. His popular image is defined by the use of a fluid and constantly changing mask that obscures his true identity. His anonymity in the public eye allows him to maintain a distinct private persona, and his music reflects his unique perspective as a social insider. This essay will explore how Lágbájá’s uses ijinlee symbolism and values to articulate modern-day social dilemmas.