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  • Talking Drum


    THE DAWN OF THE "TALKING-DRUM"

    The "Talking Drum, as indicated by its name, actually 'talks.' It is called "Gongon"
    by its originators, the Yoruba people of Western Region of Nigeria. Its sounds can be
    heard as far as 20-100 miles away, especially when it is intended to relay messages
    to speakers of the Yoruba language who can decipher the codes that the messages
    embody. It has been seen in use by the Hausa of Northern Nigeria, the Ashanti of Ghana,
    East-Africans, Mel-Asians, and South-East Asians; but not on the same scale as
    enjoyed by the Yoruba.

    It would be an understatement to say that it is an embodiment of pride, among
    other noble things, for them (The Yoruba). This pride in their "talking-drum"
    explains why they have come to know themselves as the "owner of the drums, songs,
    and dances ever to be imagined in the whole wide world."

    No hyperbole is intended here, as this attestation is very evident in the various
    facets of their lives-even in wars (as demonstrated by their war songs, chants, and
    symbolic 'war dances,' typical of which is the 'fire dance' by the Orisha Sango priests,
    and priestesses.

    The Yoruba have always won their wars for as long as they have these phenomenal
    characteristics intact. No wonder a Yoruba talking-drummer would wish himself
    any other mishap in life, but the severance from his "gongon" ("talking-drum").
    He would give his life for it. Such an experience would constitute an abomination
    should it happen to a Yoruba talking-drummer. "May it, therefore," as in the prayers
    of a Yoruba talking-drummer, "be forbidden by Olorun-Olodumare (Almighty-God),
    and all Oris(h)a in the Yoruba pantheon of Divinities!"

    The most grandeur unit of "Gongon" ("talking-drum") is the "Iya-ilu" ("Mother of drums"), which is
    accompanied by a varying smaller degree of "gongon" ("talking-drums"). It is a
    combination of "talking-drums" ranging in musical notes of alto, soprano,
    treble and bass (as produced by "Iya-ilu"). The rhythmical tempo for which the
    "talking-drum" is uniquely ventriloquial is facilitated by its expert handling
    by the Yoruba talking-drummer to produce and reproduce Yoruba voice-sounds ('talk').

    It is amazing to watch and listen to the way the drumming ('talking') notes are
    measured by means of the arms-length (fore and rear), arm-pit, upper rib-cage,
    the talking-drum's accoutrement of strings (longitudinal thongs) that are connected
    to the skins at either end, and the careful expert tapping of one of the skin
    ends by an hammer-shaped stick, called "kongo," or "Gongo" to regulate its tempo
    and crescendo.

    The call-and-response style between the "talking-drum" and
    "talking-drummers," singers, and dancers is a catalyst for a pattern of behaviors
    by all the Yoruba participants in their various forms of entertainment.It attests
    to the wording of songs and chants that are not minced, and are somewhat 'ungagable'
    (uncensored) in the pronouncements of the entertainers and entertained. They are
    entertainment forms that are, undoubtedly, the fore-runners of the "rap" culture
    and "hip-hop" culture of today's African-American youth.

    It is, therefore, necessary to identify the Yoruba fore-runners of "rap-music,
    and "hip-hop" music as: Juju music, Gelede's Oro-efe, Egungun Festival (amusement)
    songs, Oke-'badan/Ibadan (amusement) songs, Eka-Aro Eyo, Apala, Sakara,
    Were (way-ray), Fuji, Ewi, Ogede, and the 60's to the present Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's
    brand of "High-life" African beat. There is a sprinkling of wordings in them,
    which are comparable to those in the entertainment form of "rap-music," and
    "hip-hop" music where the use of vulgar and non-vulgar parodies address the
    many problems of the young and old alike. In both cultures, musical expressions
    address varying subjects, ranging from: Love, hate, anger, fear, rage, terror,
    jealousy, bitterness, broken-heart, alcohol, drugs, sex, money, crime,
    police-brutality, and seeming mean-spiritedness, "the-good-and-the-bad,"
    prudence, imprudence, greatness, mediocrity,, disappointments, enterprises,
    heroism, "sell-out," ostracism, taboos, morality, immorality, guilt, justice,
    injustice, law, order, rule-of-law, checks-and-balances, agreement, disagreement,
    hard-work, joblessness, laziness, success, failure, compassion, kindness, thrift,
    charity, alms, family-values, self-esteem, prayers-even "name-calling" (good or bad)
    for praising, cursing, insulting, shame, shamelessness, bragging, chastisement,
    reproach, teasing, condemnation, rebuke, wooing, abstinence, chastity, infidelity,
    adultery, incest, venereal diseases, teen-age pregnancy, sexuality, respect,
    disrespect, regard, disregard, and other societal norms, values, and vices.

    There is a correlation between the so-called western-civilization codified law
    and non-codified African oral tradition in their depiction, regulation, and
    condemnation of human behavior. In the English speaking world, people usually
    look for the meaning of a word in a dictionary. But in the Yoruba Kingdom,
    Yoruba people usually search for the meaning of a word by the use of expressive
    proverbs and idioms. There is a particular Yoruba proverb: "Owe l'esin oro,
    bi oro ba sonu, owe la fi nwa," which if both literally and metaphorically
    interpreted into English, would appear something like: "Proverbs and idioms
    are the search-horse for a word, which if lost, could necessarily be found by
    means of proverbs and idioms.".

  • To be continued

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