Every two years since 1997, the Forum for the Inculturation of Liturgical Music (FILM) has given a platform for many of Nigeria’s cultures to contribute to the future direction of the Roman Catholic liturgy in Nigeria. This case study focuses on the 2013 Biennial Choral Competition, specifically 13 settings of the Ave Maria text in seven of Nigeria’s hundreds of languages. Prior to that year, FILM had already introduced music with lyrics in minority languages including Bini, “Osolobruvwe Do”, and Efik, “Yak Ikom Abasi”, into the Nigerian canon of choral music, including both concert and church performance. In 2013, the majority of participants knew these polyphonic compositions from memory and sang them in an impromptu mass choir. Also in 2013, the year we observed the competition, the Motet I award (for a setting of the “Ave Maria” in an indigenous language) went to a composition in Igala by Abel Obaje of Kogi State University. The setting competed against four Yoruba-language settings and three Igbo-language. The consistent success of music in minority languages at FILM is a hopeful indicator of the future direction of Nigerian society. In a nation marred by ethnic conflict soon after independence (the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70), with complex ethnic and religious tensions to this day, FILM offers an opportunity for Nigeria’s many cultures to be celebrated on a level playing field, distinct from most environments where one ethnicity or language is favored over another, or alternatively, uniformly displaced by English. The conflict between cultural continuity and preservation of Nigeria’s many ethnolinguistic cultures and national identity formation is persistent and hard to reconcile, both theoretically and practically. The ideal of unity in diversity is much emphasized (and the concept paraded around by the federal government), but it is rarely realized. Many choral competitions hosted by church bodies in Nigeria (Anglican, Catholic or Pentecostal organizations) often center around one ethnolinguistic culture. Thus, FILM seems to be a unique multi-ethnic contribution to sacred music in Nigeria. Although Catholic in practice and the direct influence is limited to Christian practice, because of cross-fertilization of Muslim and Christian practices, the model will hopefully impact other sectors of Nigerian society.

Author Biography

Quintina Carter-Enyi is a graduate student at the University of Georgia.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.