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African Drums Festival unveils world’s tallest drum in Abeokuta

By Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta
23 April 2017   |   4:33 am
During Thursday’s event, Governor Ibikunle Amosun unveiled an 18-feet high drum, an improvement over the 17-feet high drum unveiled last year. The 18-feet drum is acclaimed to be the world tallest drum.

• Ooni, Alake, Alafin, Soyinka Applaud Gesture, Commend Amosun
• USA, Haiti, Cuba, Ghana, Bukina Faso, Others Participate

The second edition of the African Drums Festival kicked off in Abeokuta, the Ogun State on Thursday evening with pomp and pageantry. The glamour that marked the event was exciting to watch. The first edition was held on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, and referred to as “Nigerian Drums Festival.”

During Thursday’s event, Governor Ibikunle Amosun unveiled an 18-feet high drum, an improvement over the 17-feet high drum unveiled last year. The 18-feet drum is acclaimed to be the world tallest drum.

The aim of the event, according to the state government, organisers of the programme, is to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Africans through drums. Among the dignitaries that graced the occassion, held at the premises of the June 12 Cultural Centre were,  the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo; Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed and Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson.

Other dignitaries include, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Olu of Ilaro, paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle and the Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu.

The representative of the Mayor of the city of Dallas, USA, Regina Hill, Lady Bernard Suarres from Cuba, Prof. Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi and representatives of Imo, Oyo and Kastina State governors, Kaddi Obinna, Toye Adesola Arologun and Mammud Borodo, respectively also graced the event.

The three-day event witnessed performances from over 50 cultural troupes. But as at Thursday, troupes from five African countries as well as Cuba, Haiti and the United States of America (USA) had arrived.

The Thursday’s event witnessed beautiful performances from Ara, the female drummer, the Atilogwu troupe from Anambra State, the Wagnilo group and Oliworo ko kou of Benin Republic, among other performances.

The Ekemini Cultural Troupe made up of children from Akwa Ibom State warmed the hearts of the audience with their beautiful performance on the xylophone. Other local troupes from Nigeria were, Association of Kano State Troupes, Hubert Ogunde Cultural Troupe from Ogun State, Duro Ladipo Troupe, Shehu Troupe, Niger State, Oyo State Cultural Troupe and Ensemble Drums, Maliki Troupe of Borno State, Dawa Troupe from Plateau State, as well as troupes from Bayelsa, Osun, Katsina, Ondo, Edo, Lagos, Imo and Benue States.

The foreign troupes were, the Association of intersection Haiti, Association Toffondji of Togo, Leydis Bernal Suarez of Cuba, Faso Djarabi of Burkina Faso, La Campagnie N’tsamini, Afro Media, USA, Gwari troupe, Ghana, Nikki Spooner from the city of Dallas, USA.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi in his goodwill message noted that the festival would rejuvenate and sustain the traditional culture of the participating countries, adding that the festival would continue to create opportunities for the youths to showcase their talents and dexterity on different drums.

The Monarch who spoke in Yoruba, said: “The African Drums Festival is a tourism haven and a boost to our unity as a people in Yorubaland and Nigeria in particular. Drums have continued to unite and add glamour to our lifestyle from time immemorial.

“I am glad at what I am seeing here today. Yoruba people are unique creatures because God created us first. God created us as humble beings and He gave us rich cultural heritage in which drum is derived from.

“But what is giving us great challenge is how to turn our (Yoruba) rich cultural heritage into money and we can only achieve this when we continue to promote our culture and tradition. Whatever we do, we must always strive to promote our culture and prevent it from going into extinction.

“I was speaking with the Alaafin where we were seated and we both commended Governor Ibikunle Amosun for putting this together. He is taking a good step in preserving and promoting our culture,” he said.

The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, who also spoke in Yoruba, said: “What we are doing here today is very important in Yorubaland. Drum is a very important item in Yoruba culture. I read a lot of books and I have travelled far and wide and in all the places I have been to, I have never seen a talking drum except in Yorubaland.”

Highlighting some of the importance of African drums, the Monarch noted: “Drums are always present in all the palaces of Yoruba Monarchs. Every morning at 5am, drums wake up Yoruba Kings and always remind them of oaths they took to serve the people at all times unlike our politicians who don’t have anything to remind them of their pledges to the people who put them in power.

“African drums are used for making proverbs, to warn people of imminent dangers, to entertain, to mourn or announce the death of an important personality and they are also used during wars.”

The Alaafin who came in company of some of his wives and his personal drummers revealed that research by Yoruba scholars has shown that every family in Yorubaland has pedigree, which drummers can always interprete through their drums. The Monarch then went ahead to sing with his drummers who quickly interpreted his songs with their drums.

“I have learnt a lot from this event and I will go back home and tell my Governor, Senator Abiola Ajumobi to also organise something like this, but I don’t know who we are going to invite since Governor Amosun has already invited the whole of Africa, maybe we will invite the entire world for our own event,” the Monarch joked.

The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo in his remarks stressed the need for the Federal government to diversify the economy by promoting tourism, saying: “The era of cheap oil money is gone for good, we have to show the world that they have to come here with their big money to invest in our rich culture, tradition and tourism. We will get far more money from investing in our culture and tourism than what we will get from oil.

“In Yorubaland we cannot put away the important place of drum, we cannot dance without drum. Drum is important for communication because every drum is a talking drum. Drum is a major part of our culture. We are asking other states to please pick up other aspects of our culture and develop it like this,” he said.

Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed, represented by the Artistic Director of the National Troupe, Comrade Tsar Ukoh, commended the state government for organising the event.

He emphasised that no festival is complete in Africa without drums. “This Festival is particularly important because of its focus on an aspect of our heritage that we have either taken for granted or one that is gradually fading away. In traditional African societies and, perhaps elsewhere in the world, the kind of drums they beat or the beats of such drums are unique to their cultures. In other words, drums and their beats have meaning.

“I implore Ogun State to sustain this festival and urge other states to borrow a leaf from the Gateway State, by also organising their own Drums Festivals, culminating in a National Drums Festival that will bring together all the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.”

Soyinka in his goodwill message said Ogun State is known for recording many firsts in all areas of human endeavour.“Many people tend to under-estimate the value of drum, the thing is just that of a habit. Whereas, it is a very sophisticated rhythm, it is a very sophisticated possession of human beings. We all live in the world of rhythm right from birth; in fact, from the heartbeat to the pulse.”

The Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, who was ushered onto the stage by the performance of his state Cultural Troupe to deliver his goodwill message, described drums as central to all African cultures and urged other governors to promote the best culture of their states.

He said: “Drums mean so much to our people. I want to appreciate the Ogun State Governor for using drums as a point of our unity, wherever we go as Africans drums unite us. This is what all of us must be doing to promote our culture and showcase it to the world.”

The representative of Mayor of the city of Dallas, USA, Regina Hill in her remark, said she was highly delighted at the festival, assuring that the partnership between Ogun State and the city of Dallas would further strengthen the bilateral relationship between her country and Nigeria.

Her words: “We believe partnering Nigeria will be beneficial to both Dallas and Nigeria in this decade and beyond. We trust, this is only the beginning of a mutually beneficial bilateral partnership that enriches us through cultural awareness and economic ties on both continents.”

She disclosed that Dallas would look forward to receiving 300 replicas of the drums in African. The host Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun in his address noted that the festival would further strengthen the bond among states in Nigeria, and Africa in general.

“This festival serves as a veritable platform for drummers, dancers and singers, not only from Nigeria, but from Africa to showcase their cultural heritage to the world. Drum is a strong weapon of communication. It has been described as the first telephone. Even before the advent of modern technology for communication, Africans have been using drums to communicate to one another,” he said.

Amosun disclosed that the state would write to the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to declare April 20 to 22 of every year as the official dates of the festival.

The Ogun State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Chief Muyiwa Oladipo noted that African history is incomplete without drums because the social and entertainment life of Africans is centred on it.