Nigeria is known as “the giant of Africa” because it is the continent’s most populated country. It is also extremely diverse, with more than 250 ethnic groups, each with its own cultural traditions. But Nigerians use a common word to demonstrate hospitality: wazobia (wa-zo-bee-a), which means “come” in the language of the three main ethnic groups: “Wa” means come in Yoruba, “zo” means “come” in Hausa, and “bia” means “come” in Igbo.
The Yoruba people make up 21% of the Nigerian population. They live in the southwestern part of the country. Many live in the country’s largest port city, Lagos.
They also live in Benin and Togo. Many people of African descent around the world claim Yoruba heritage. The coast of West Africa was a major slave port, and many Yoruba were forced into slavery.
Between the 11th and 15th centuries, the Yoruba people dominated a part of West Africa in a territory often referred to as Yorubaland. The slave trade and rivalry among different Yoruba groups resulted in a loss of power and influence in the region. Slaves from Yoruba were taken to Brazil, Cuba, and North America. The Yoruba fell under British control in the late 19th century. Nigeria, where most Yoruba people live, gained independence in 1960 from the United Kingdom. The Yoruba people are known for their artistic heritage. Ancient works in copper, brass, bronze, terracotta, and stone are collected and admired. The Yoruba-speaking people are an urban people, forming cities as early as 1000. Oyo was an early city that became a central trading center for a large territory of West Africa.
Drums are played at special events in Nigeria. The Yoruba are famous for their talking drums. Skilled musicians use the rhythm and pitch of the drum to communicate different tones of language. A skilled drummer can make the instrument imitate a traditional proverb or send a message.
Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theatre was founded by Adebola Olowe, who came to the United States in 1989 with an African dance troupe sponsored by his father.