Oriki (praise name) is an important genre of Yoruba literature. The Oriki tells where a person originated from, how powerful and wealthy his ancestors were and what noble things they had accomplished. It is important to note that the Yoruba have an Oriki for every object that exists. There are oriki’s for kings and warriors, as well as for the rich and the poor. There are also Oriki’s for animals including birds and inanimate objects like mountains and water.
In order to understand the life style of an Orisa one needs to study his or her Oriki. It is important for an Orisa devotee to learn the Praise Name of that Orisa. The Apossa, those who learn how to invoke the spirits, is trained in the art of chanting Oriki’s for the deities. At the weekly service of Ojo Ose the priest and priestess first pay homage to Olodumare and the ancestors. Then they chant the Oriki’s for the Orisas and petition the deities for things they desire with the hope of having thier prays answered. The Praise Names awaken the deities who will now listen to and assist their devotees.
The Praise Names of the ancestral lineage is known as Oriki Onile. It pertains to each person in the family. The drummer, Onilu and the chanters Akigbe and Akun Mungba are professionally trained to recite the Oriki Onile of kings, the chiefs, and their relatives at ceremonies. In Yoruba land, a mother chants the Oriki Onile to soothe her crying baby. In ancient time the warrior was accompanied by his praise singer into battle to sing his praises and give him more courage.