Debbie Klein

Debbie Klein

Gavilan College and the California Community College System

The California Community College System is the largest system of higher education in the United States with 2.1 million students attending 114 colleges. I'm currently serving as a regional governor on the board of the statewide Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) and as a professor of anthropology at Gavilan College in Gilroy, a rural agricultural area of the central California coast, with additional sites in Hollister, Morgan Hill, and Coyote Valley. I've been working with colleagues to develop programs relevant to students' lives, interests, employment, and transfer needs. We have recently developed a new multidisciplinary major in Social Justice Studies. We offer service learning experiences in most social science disciplines, and our department is leading Gavilan's Civic Engagement Program, fostering our commitment to understand, connect, and transform ourselves and our communities. As director of Gavilan's Anthropology Program, I am excited about our new anthropology degree. Gavilan College welcomes Dreamers, AB540, and DACA students.


I've been conducting ethnographic research with performing artists in southwestern Nigeria for over twenty years. Recently honored with a chieftaincy title, Iyalode Aare of Erin-Osun (Honorary Mother Chief of Erin-Osun), I'm looking forward to participating in new and ongoing projects with family, friends, and colleagues in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Based on my fieldwork throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, my ethnography, Yorùbá Bàtá Goes Global: Artists, Culture Brokers, and Fans, tracks the living tradition of Yorùbá bàtá performance and its significance in the making of a Yorùbá culture movement. Focusing on collaborations between Yorùbá performers and overseas culture brokers and artists, I describe changes and reinventions of bàtá performance during a time of Christian and Muslim religious intolerance, neoliberal reform, political corruption, and economic collapse. I document the reinvigoration of local musical ensembles as they perform in Europe and the United States and return to establish centers of cultural production in Nigeria. Devalued in Nigeria, bàtá performance has found lucrative markets overseas, elevating the power and status of its practitioners as important brokers in acquiring visas, foreign exchange, as well as symbolic and cultural capital. Such expansive markets for this culture movement do not break from the tradition but build upon it, drawing on mechanisms of innovation and reflexivity that characterize Yorùbá performance and culture. As an anthropologist, I am interested in a variety of topics: the relationship between culture and power, globalization, political economy, popular culture, social justice, performance, aesthetics, decolonization, social theory, diaspora studies, human rights, gender studies, Yorùbá studies, and Africa.

My recent research investigates the aesthetics and politics (gender, class, and morality) of Yorùbá Islamic culture within Nigerian popular culture. Specifically, I am examining the Nigerian popular music genre called fújì. In southwestern Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s, fújì music was everywhere. Fújì recordings blasted from speakers, enlivening markets, public transportation, food canteens, beer parlors, barbershops, storefronts, parties, and people’s homes. By 1968, Síkírù Àyìndé Barrister pioneered and branded fújì by turning wéré music, songs performed by and for Muslims during the Ramadan fast, into a popular dance music characterized by its Islamic vocal style, Yorùbá lyrics, and drums with the eventual addition of saxophone, guitar, keyboard, and a driving rhythm section.


B.A. in Anthropology from Brown University
M.A. & Ph.D. in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz


Select Publications



Yorùbá Bàtá Goes Global: Artists, Culture Brokers, and Fans


Yoruba Bata Goes Global jacket image

Articles, Book Chapters, and Reviews

"Tundé Kelani, Èsù of Nigerian Cinema: Yorùbá Aesthetic Formation, Tradition, and Morality." Across Time and Era and the Other Nollywood: Tunde Kelani and the Development of African Cinema. Journal of Communication and Media Research, vol 10, no. 1, forthcoming.


"Fújì." Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11, Bloomsbury Academic, in press.


"Being Àyàn in a Modernizing Nigeria: A Multi-Generational Perspective." The Yorùbá God of Drumming: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Wood That Talks, edited by Amanda Villepastour, University Press of Mississippi, 2015, pp. 192-215.


Review of Yorùbá Music in the Twentieth Century: Identity, Agency, and Performance Practice, by Bode Omojola. Leeds African Studies Bulletin, vol. 75, Winter 2013/14, 2013, pp.114-116.


"A Political Economy of Lifestyle and Aesthetics: Yorùbá Artists Produce and Transform Popular Culture." Measuring Time: Karin Barber and the Study of Everyday Africa. Research in African Literatures, vol 43, no. 4, 2012, pp. 128-146.


"Strategic Collaborations Between Nigerians and Germans: The Making of a Yorùbá Culture Movement." Development, Modernism and Modernity in Africa, edited by Augustine Agwuele, Routledge, 2012, pp. 131-145.


"Lamidi Ayankunle." Dictionary of African Biography edited by Emmanuel K. Akyeampong and Henry Lewis Gates, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 307-309.


"Performing Pop Tradition in Nigeria: From Yorùbá Bàtá to Bàtá Fúji." Africans and the Politics of Popular Culture, edited by Toyin Falola and Augustine Agwuele, University of Rochester Press, 2009, pp. 133-164.


"Building Status and Overseas Networks: Erin-Osun Artists Manage Devaluation." Money Struggles and City Life: Devaluation in Ibadan and Other Urban Centers in Southern Nigeria, 1986-1996, edited by Jane I. Guyer, LaRay Denzer, and Adigun Agbaje, Heinemann, 2002, pp. 221-237.


Chieftaincy Ceremony (part 1) (2017)

In March of 2017, Èrìn-Òsun celebrated the installation of five new chiefs. Here's part 1 of our ceremony. Ire oo!
Alhaja Seidat Fatimah Aljafariyah generously granted me and my research team an interview in August of 2012. Here she sings an excerpt, unplugged, from her famous CD, Kádàrá (Destiny). She also asked her daughter, Subúólá, to sing.

Ìlorin Fieldwork 2012

Delving into my new research with wéré, fújì, and Islamic artists in Ìlorin during the summer of 2012. Emir Gambari offers some reflections about the recent violence in Nigeria.

Sng Opening Ceremony

A small slice of the opening ceremony for the celebration of òrìsà Sàngó in Èrìn-Òsun, Nigeria. Behold the beautifully clear dancing and bàtá drumming, which inspired possession.

Yorùbá Alrnj Group with Bàtá

The Lébe Alárìnjó group plays for a funeral in Ifón. They are training the young children to dance by encouraging them to improvise for their audience. Túndé Ayangoke plays the omele méta drum to inspire the dancers.

Yorùbá Neotraditional Praise Singing

The Èrìn-Òsun alárìnjó troupe, Lébe, performs for a local funeral in Ògbàagbàá. They are singing in the neotraditional style called ewì, praise poetry sung by masquerade performers. Songs include: oríkì, prayers, incantations, proverbs, moral stories, etc.

Yorùbá Alárìnjó Acrobatics

A wonderful clip of acrobatic tricks performed by alárìnjó troupes in Yorùbá culture. Alárìnjó performers are entertainment masqueraders born into masquerade families. They worship and bear the sacred masks for the Egúngún (òrìsà of the ancestors).
A depiction of reconnection, long-term anthropological study and a preliminary exploration of the intersections between òrìsà, Islam and popular culture in Òsun, Ondó and Kwara States, Nigeria. Egúngún make an appearance.

Yorùbá Masquerade Dancers Sing Oríkì & Dance Bàtá

Yorùbá masquerade dancers, Fúnké and Wusilat Òjéyemí, sing praise songs and dance bàtá in Èrìn-Òsun.
The late Alhaji Durolu, master drummer from Èrìn-Òsun, leads this ensemble. Alhaji asked me to record these Òrìsà songs.
ÀyànÀgalú of Èrìn-Òsun drum for Òrìsà Èsù, Sàngó, Obàtálá, and Òsun. Featuring Làmídì Àyánkúnlé on ìyáàlù. This is a straight-up drumming archive so that we don't forget the rhythms.
Introduction to Yorùbá Bàtá performance as practiced in Èrìn-Òsun, Nigeria. Featuring Làmídì Àyánkúnlé, master bàtá drummer from Èrìn-Òsun.
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open...No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
— Martha Graham (1894-1991)
Copyright © 2018 Debra L. Klein. All rights reserved.