The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Master Gelede dancers in performance, Ketu-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1971. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.


The preliminary performances heighten the crowd's excitement and anticipation, for they herald the impending appearance of the master dancers attired in full costumes and elaborately carved headdresses.  They enter the dance space at one end and move toward the drummers, echoing the intricate rhythms with their iron leg-rattles.  Then in a final flourish in front of the drums, they perform virtuoso solos, responding to the drummed challenges of the musicians—verbal-rhythmic phrases known as eka.