The Untold Story Of Rukpokwu Dance Group

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It is an ageless cultural dance but its members must at least clock 18 years of age before joining the cultural troop. It has what is known as selected members who possess great dancing prowess.

The Federal Iregbu Dancing Group of Rukpokwu Community in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State has been a centre of attraction for the entire Ikwerre ethnic group of Rivers State. The Dance according to history, originated from the Epkeye in Rivers State and was adopted by the Rumuekini people and transferred to the Rukpokwu people.

Rukpokwu people, our correspondent learnt modernised the Iregbu Dance and popularised it to become a household name in the East of the Niger. It was one of those cultural dances that gave both the indigene and non-indigene equal right in the area of membership.

It is an ageless cultural dance but its members must at least clock 18 years of age before joining the cultural troop. It has what is known as selected members who possess great dancing prowess.

Our correspondent further learnt that the Federal iregbu dancing group of Rukpokwu admits both male and female dancers. Masquerades are not allowed in the dance, but dancers must appear in uniform in order to send the expected message and entertain properly.

Its measuring scale was good dancing and singing skills to enable any of its members fit well into any act, (that is: if the person is called to sing or dance, the person in question will do it well).

The Chief drummer (Osugbuala), of Federal Iregbu Dancing Group of Rukpokwu Elder Sunday O Worlu, told Culture and Tourism last week that the advent of churches destroyed many cultural activities.

Elder Worlu noted that cultural event was the main source of entertainment and joy for the locals as it brings them together during full moon periods.

The “Osugbuala” explained that during each Iregbu period, everyone will graciously embrace each other regardless of their previous misunderstanding.

He narrated how spectators were unconsciously responding to the tempting rhythm of the Iregbu Dance without proper coaching of its dance-steps.

In Festac festival in 1974 in Lagos State, the Iregbu Chief drummer hinted that the dance among the top dancing troop, that was invited by the then Lagos State Government to perform.

He admitted that though, the dancing troop did not win an outright prize then in Lagos State, but revealed that it has earlier won the overall prize  at Rumuogba in 1973 at a dancing competition organized by the Obio/Akpor Local Government.

The most beautiful thing about the Iregbu dance was that it has about 12 xelophones, 2 drums and 2 bambo instrument (Ekere) which distinguished it from other cultural troops.

He said then that Paul Worika was in charge of the cultural centre and also helped in his little way to make the dance (Iregbu) a household name.

According to him, the only recorded achievement is that Iregbu leads the local music played in RSTV before its news in languages is cast uptil date.

The Iregbu Chief drummer, told Culture and Tourism how his drumming skills made him popular within and outside the state.

He pointed out that the drums and other instruments were difficult to play, saying that all instrument must have an extra strength for their chosen job.

Elder Worlu, also admitted that the dance is a natural game that does not require much training, hinting that all its instrumentalists manifest at a very early age.

The “Osugbuala” hinted that Iregbu was last played in 2004 at Rukpokwu adding that since age is not longer on his side, no much attention has been paid to it since then.

About revenue, he said that the Iregbu was a major source of income for all its members as they were hired between N15,000 and N30,000  as at then.

Just like the wrestling drum, he said, the Iregbu dance does not forbid anything. He informed The Tide On Sunday that the dance was predominantly patronised by all sectors of life then including churches.

He recalled how late Bishop of the Niger Delta North, Bishop Samuel Elenwo would not attend any invitation unless he was convinced that the Iregbu dance would be present.

He maintained that the dance has no form of ritual or diabolic thing, but a natural dance which its sole aim is to entertain and mimic some societal ills with a view to correcting them.

He regretted that the younger generation are no longer indicating interest in cultural activities.

He argued that cultural events remain  the best way to entertain the local people.

The Iregbu arrow head, also called on government and other concerned authorities to pay more attention to the area of cultural activities.

He maintained that if all cultural centres in the state were revived, that it will among other things, create employment opportunities for the young graduates who may be willing to work in such centres.

Earlier, he has lauded the Rivers State Government over its determination to organise the CANIRIV annually, adding that, it is a welcomed development.