Friday, August 20, 2010

African Symbolism in Kanye West's Power Video

Kanye West's interest in the Illuminati and it's symbolism is no big mystery, at least not anymore. His latest video, Power, is his personal take on the abuse of Power and how those who have it keep the secrets very closely guarded. Since Medieval times historians have revealed many instances of secret societies. Most famous of all are the Illuminati, the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. The roots of Freemasonry can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. Even with all his references to Masonic symbolism and images of beautiful half naked seductive women in this video, it's the presence of particular African symbols that stand out the most for me when I look at Kanye's 21st century Bacchanal.

West treats us to depictions of ancient Egyptian deities like Horus, god of the sky and Hathor the cow horned love goddess. Even more interesting is what Hathor does with the staff. This particular staff is very similar to those used in Bantu or Ki-Kongo traditions, also similar to the iton, (Ékpé staff) used by Ékpé title holders. B.E. Bassey (2001:19-28) mentions a correlation between the Nile river valley and the semi-Bantu Ekoi (Ejagham) one the many inhabitants of southwestern Cameroon and southeast Nigeria who practice Ékpé, their own secret society, known as the Leopard Society .Ékpé societies are the forebears of the Cuban secret society known as Abakuá.

The action of pounding the staff against the earth symbolizes communication with the spirits or ancestors. This form of communication is practiced throughout the African diaspora. Examples include but are not limited to; Umbanda traditions in Brazil, Vodou in Haiti, New Orleans and the Mayomberos of Palo traditions in Cuba, and the U.S.. A steady beat accompanies the mambo, a prayer or incantation used to communicate with N'fumbe(spirits) or summon the N'kisi(spirit or deity of the paleros charm or pot). The combination of the rythmic pulse of the sorcerers staff and the chanting of the mambo gets the message where it needs to go.

For more information about Ékpé and Abakuá check out these two books.

Ékpé Efik: A Theosophical Perspective.By B.E. Bassey Victoria. B.C.: Trafford Publishing 2001

Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba (Carribean Studies) by Ivor Miller (Hardcover - Jan 16, 2009)

For information on Africa in the diaspora see Pierre Fatumbi Verger

For more information about freemasonry, the Illuminati and its symbols see United Symbols of America Robert R. Hieronimous Ph.D.

Onel Mulet for N'dibo Yeve N'go

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blow Ékpè: Conjuring the voice of the leopard.

"In Calabar history, Ékpè say they 'blow Ékpé' (as translated from Efik). In his
book Efik Ékpè, Eng (Chief) Bassey equates the Voice sound with a trumpet,
metaphorically." Dr. (Chief) Ivor Miller

Click Here for M.H. Masts 1989 article on The larynx of roaring and non-roaring cats.

The larynges of the four 'roaring' cats, the lion, tiger, leopard, and jaguar,
can be distinguished from larynges of 'non-roaring' cats by a large pad of
fibro-elastic tissue which constitutes the rostral portion
of the proportionately very large vocal fold.

This paper presents a more detailed anatomical study of the larynx of all
species of the big cats and a representative number of small cats. The
structure of the vocal folds of the family Felidae are discussed in terms of
functional morphology, with 'roaring' versus 'non-roaring' vocalisation
described in principles of musical acoustics.

It was found that all species of genus Panthera ('roaring cats'), with the
exception of P. uncia, can be distinguished from 'non-roaring' cats by a large
pad of fibro-elastic tissue which constitutes the rostal portion of each of the
proportionately very large undivided vocal folds (Fig. 1 a). p. 118

Because of their large mass, the Panthera vocal folds - the sound generating
element - have a low natural frequency and, when vibrating, will produce a high
acoustical energy. p. 119

As in other species of the cat family, sexual differences are quantitative, with
the male larynx, on the average, larger than the female. P. 119

The entire vocal mechanism of the roaring Panthera, i.e. subglottic larynx,
vocal folds, supraglottic larynx, pharynx and open mouth, is analogous to the
brass trumpet. The Panthera vocal folds simulate the form of a trumpet
mouthpiece. The mouthpiece, when added to one end of the tube (supraglottic
larynx and pharynx), adjusts frequencies of the harmonics. The result is to
increase slightly the effective length of the tube and to cause the instrument
to behave acoustically like an open tube with a new length; the instrument
(vocal mechanism) will then produce a set of resonances which includes all the
notes of the overtone series (Berg & Stork, 1982).

The wide open mouth of the cat is analogous to the bell of the trumpet. Adding a
bell or wide open mouth to the cat's trumpet-like vocal apparatus provides the
correct match between instrument and outside air to transfer the sound most
efficiently; a bell also modifies the frequency and stability of the harmonics,
increasing their production and radiation (Bachus, 1977; Berg & Stork, 1982).

The configuration of an instrument employing a mouthpiece at one end of a
straight tube and a bell at the other end will produce a sound that is louder,
and a tone that is brighter and more 'trumpet-like' than any instrument that
lacks either a mouthpiece or a bell (Holmes, 1985). Finally, the replacement of
the epihyal by an elastic ligament in genus Panthera allows the larynx to be moved a greater distance from the tympanic bulla and is analogous to the modem valve brass trumpet or slide trombone, where every lengthening of the instrument by 6% will result in a decrease in pitch of one semitone i.e. about 6% in frequency (Bachus, 1977).P.120

Visit Dr. (Chief) Ivor Miller on Facebook and view his photographs of Calabar, its people, and surrounding areas of Cross River State. Dr. (Chief) Ivor Miller is a visiting Fulbright scholar from the African Studies center Boston University, conducting research in Cross River state, southeast Nigeria and many of the surrounding regions.

CRBC Radio Calabar Radio Programs with Ene Ita and Dr. (Chief) Ivor Miller

This weeks blog features one of many podcasts first broadcast by CRBC Calabar Radio. Dr. (Chief)Ivor Miller of the African Studies Center in Boston is a Fulbright scholar conducting research in the Cross river region of southeast Nigeria and Cameroon.
To listen to the podcast please click the Cuba Calabar Radio logo to the right.

His interviews with Ene Ita focus on Cuban Abakuá culture and its relationship to Ékpè societies in the Cross river region.