Rhythmic idioms in Igbo hip hop music: Phyno as exemplar
Contemporary Nigerian pop musicians draw from and build upon a treasure trove of indigenous musical idioms and performance practices, including call-and-response techniques, extemporisation, and specific melodic, rhythmic and harmonic vocabularies. It is necessary to understand how, for example, an Igbo hip hop musician like Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike (popularly known as Phyno) is influenced by aspects of traditional Igbo musical and language practices. This article explores how rhythm is both appropriated and expropriated in Igbo hip hop music. Employing an analytical and interpretative approach, it examines Phyno’s rhythmic permutations and investigates how he weaves indigenous Igbo rhythmic techniques into contemporary hip hop music. The concept of a pervasive presence of the density referent is examined, and it is argued that this rhythmic idiom is not only derived from Igbo speech rhythms, but also and even more so accountable for the polymetric and polyrhythmic patterns that characterise Phyno’s music. The article offers unique insights into the sonic qualities and characteristics of contemporary Igbo hip hop music.