Esoma-KE Logo
Change Class  |  Change Subject

Oral Poetry and Songs | English Oral Narratives

  Change Class FORM ONE
Select Subject  |  English


Click to Attempt Form 1 English Questions

Want to enjoy learning? Try reading without Ads!

Say goodbye to distractions and enjoy uninterrupted learning with our new ad-free feature. Dive into our vast collection of educational content without any interruptions.

Explore Ad-Free learning plus lots of other premium benefits for as little as KES 200 per month.

Last Updated: 26th Feb, 2021

Introduction To Oral Poetry

Oral poetry refers to the verbal expression of feelings, ideas and thoughts using words arranged in their best possible order. (If sung, it is a song.)

Features of Oral Poetry

(a) It is composed and delivered by word of mouth.
(b) Linguistic aspects such as tone and pitch are crucial in oral poetry in varying the meaning and the mood .
(c) There is often solo and chorus pattern especially in sung poetry.
(d) Accompanied with movement and dance.
(e) The performer dresses in costumes in some sung poetry.
(f) Musical instruments such as drums, horn can accompany the performance of poetry.
(g) Rhythm or beat. It is a regular repeated pattern of sounds. It can be slow, fast, moderate, monotonous, or disjointed.
(h) Volume. This refers to whether the song/poetry should be loud or soft. A lullaby should be sung softly while war song should be sung loudly as it engenders courage and aggression.

Read more notes on Oral Literature:
Oral Narratives
Tongue Twisters

Classification of Oral Poetry

Oral poetry can be classified based on the following criteria
(1) The performer of the poetry, for example: children's songs
(2) The theme, example: Love poetry
(3) Context of performance, examples: Dirges, Wedding songs War poetry
(4) Function examples: Praise songs/poetry, Teasing songs, lullabies

(a) Lullabies

They are sung in order to:
- Send the baby to sleep.
- Calm the crying baby.
- Give promise to the crying baby. The promise can be that one of the parents is coming back.

Features of Lullabies

- They are normally sung softly so as to lull the baby.
- If you have to clap, or hum, or whistle to the rhythm, do it softly and slowly.
- In the case where a child cries, rock the baby as you sing.
- You can also gently tap the back of the baby.
- They are normally short.
- They are also repetitive.

(b) Children songs (Play Songs)

They are sung by children during their playtime.

Features of Children Songs

1. Repetition is used. A word, sentence, and even a whole stanza can be repeated.
2. They are often short.

Functions of Children's Songs

1. They help in developing children's language skills as they listen to familiar words in the songs.
2. Help develop children’s listen skills, thus concentrate.
3. Encourage creativity in children. At times you find children adding words that were not initially mentioned in the original versions of the songs.
4. Some teaching counting of numbers.

(c) Teasing Songs

Sung to make fun of someone.

(d) Religious Poetry

- Sung and performed during religious occasions.
- Sung mostly at places considered holy grounds.
- Sung softly and slowly.

(e) Love Poetry/Songs

- They are based on romance.
- Sung by one to the loved one.
- They are sung softly and slowly as they should present romantic elements.
They are sung to:
1. Express romance.
2. Mend the damaged relationship between lovers.

(f) Cradle Songs/Poetry

- Performed to mark the birth of a child.
- In most cases, a child is wished a successful life in future.
- Mostly performed by women and girls.
- During this time, a child or child’s mother is presented with gifts.

(g) War Poetry

- Performed by warriors during war.
- Sung loudly to show bravery.
- During the singing, weapons are held in the hands of the performers.

(h) Hunting Songs

- Hunters perform hunting songs.
- Sung on the way to and from hunting trip.
- Hunting tools carried in the process.
- Just like war songs, they are sung loudly.
- They are on the way to hunt to encourage themselves on the possibility of killing fatter and enough animals.
- Also to pass time on their way.

(i) Satirical Poetry

- One's folly is criticized in this song.
- They are meant to help the wicked in some areas to change.

(j) Epics/Heroic Poetry

- They are elaborate and talk about the lives of heroes and heroins known to the community.
- The heroic deeds of the heroes are mentioned.

(k) Dirges

- Also referred to as funeral songs or funeral poems.
- They are sung after learning about the death of someone.
- Can also be sung during the funeral ceremony.
- Should also be sung softly to show the sadness that result from losing someone’s beloved one.
- In some cases, weapons are held during the performance.
- There is the use of apostrophe. This is style of addressing an object or a death as if it is alive and can respond.
- While women sing, men chant.

(l) Panegyrics

- In its specialized form panegyric is a type of oral poetry and one meant to praise someone.
- The praise song can be sung by someone else or sung by one for self praises. Sometimes these are self-praises
- Formalized praises are directed publicly to kings, chiefs, and leaders, composed and recited by members of a king's official entourage.
- One can be praised in case of a personal achievement in war or an achievement such as hunting.

Stylistic Devices in Oral Poetry

An oral poetry can have textual poetic techniques like:
1. Satire - (Definition. the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices)
2. Irony
3. Sarcasm
4. Figures of speech such as imagery, symbolism, etc.
5. Humour
6. Suspense
7. Allusion (Definition: is a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance without describing in detail the person or thing to which it refers.)
8. Mnemonic features such as rhyme, assonance, alliteration, consonance, etc,

Hello Esoma-KE Member, please help review these notes.    Why review

Your review has been successfully submitted.
Tell us what you think about the notes.

Submit Comment

Students' and Teachers' Reviews

Here's what our users had to say ...

Guest User
Funeral songs are also called elegies

Guest User

Guest User
Well summarized..

Guest User

Guest User
an accumiltation of examples would be fantastic!