New Wine, Old Wineskins: Authorship and Digitalizing Nigerian Oral Poetry through New Media Technologies

Abstract (in English): 

Much of Nigerian oral poetry, especially the musical genre, has been increasingly reduced to digital formats through the instrumentality of new media technologies. This transformation has, however, not been sufficiently acknowledged in oral literary researches and discourses. This alternative existence acquired by the oral forms manifests itself in digital technological modes like CDs, VCDs, DVDs, digital radio and television and the internet which assure them of longevity. This paper, therefore, engages Nigerian oral poetry and its inscription in digital processes using new media technologies. In particular, it negotiates the trajectory of transforming primary orality to secondary and tertiary orality through which oral performances like songs have acquired new modes of existence and meanings by way of recordings and digitalization using the new media. Many of these poetic forms have travelled through historical time to the postmodern moment as migrant metaphors and have become stored in digital forms thus making them new wine though preserved in the old wineskins of the poets and new media processes. Using an emergent generation of Nigerian popular poets and musical artistes, the paper problematizes the episteme of authorship. It interrogates the very idea of authorship in the contested and interstitial space of communal and individual authorship in the digital age where the term has undergone radical destabilisation. Who owns the oral forms, for instance? Is it the so-called anonymous composer in traditional society, the collector or recorder who mediates the creative process and becomes a surrogate agent, or the contemporary artist who is heir to this timeless tradition of oral intellection through performances that are digitalized and stored in retrieval systems, or is it a virtual community of authors, or a hybrid of all of these? The paper concludes that digital technologies are a means of preserving these oral forms and endowing them with vitality and enduring relevance to meet the immediacy and urgency of postmodern societal needs in Nigeria.

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Daniel Johannes...