Friday, 16 May 2014

DRUMS- The Voice of Old transcending to the Modern World

Stories of old are replete with how drums are used to convey messages and to celebrate special occasions. From making announcements to declaring war, drums have played significant roles. It is said that every drum has its spiritual connotations.  In our modern world of today, musical instrument are numerous and diverse yet the drum still play a significant role in melody. The drum though an accompaniment in most cases now, has its own sweet melody that appeals to the ears. Recently, I was fortunate to meet a spectacular drummer and dancer extraordinaire. He is Tayo Sam Oluwasogba popularly known in the dance circuit as Ijotayo. He is the owner of the dance troupe, Whitestones Culture Ambassadors. His dexterity on the drums drew my attention to them and raised my curiosity. We delight in the melody produced by these drums but never bother to know the difference in these various drums. He will be our guide in understanding this aspect of culture.

A typical drum is made up of the wooden hollow component which is the body and in some cases; it is made of clay or metal and the skin across the hollow though some may not have a skin covering. It is a general belief that a drum has only three (3) musical notes ‘DO RE MI’ but a typical round drum has Three hundred and sixty (360) notes from the centre to the membrane. Your dexterity determines the production of these notes. Also, the shape of the carved wood determines the tune of the drum and each tribe has its own wood for carving out drums. The art of drumming has to be learned because every tribe and dance has its own sets of drums and mastery of these is important. Another important thing of note is, every drum has its dos and don’ts which must be understood because of said attached spirituality. Like any musical instrument that has to be learned, drumming has its theoretical and practical aspects. It is important to note here, that a good and pure heart is needed to play a drum successfully.

The first set of Drums in most drummers and dance troupes' repertoire is the Badagry Multipurpose Drums consisting of 5 different drums. These drums are so called because they originated from the  Badagry area of Lagos State, Nigeria. These drums are Molo, Gberesin, Paure, Tehun/Sohun and Apesin. They are all carved from the same wood known as the White wood (Igi Omo) except Apesin which is moulded clay. Gberesin is the mother Drum of this set while Molo is the metronome giving the melody. Molo is the smallest in size of this set and is three (3) in number. Each stands for the 3 major Musical notes, “Do, Re, Mi“. Gberesin is never played alone because it only produces one musical note “Re”. It either backs up Tehun or harmonizes the Molo drum.

Tehun and Paure are standing drums. The difference in the two is that Paure has the shape of a fish and has a stand that allows the drum to be over it while playing while Tehun comes in different sizes and heights. They both can be a lead drum during a performance. They carry the three musical notes and can be played using the hand or drum sticks. It’s worthy of note to say that the size of the drum stick, is usually the size of the drummer’s hand from the elbow to the wrist. The last of this set is the Apesin which is made from clay and is gourd like in shape. The drum skin is placed at the mouth of the gourd. Apesin is a mother drum that speaks the deep tone of the Badagry people and has only two notes, “Re and Mi”. A combination of these five drums can be adapted to play most traditional dances. Below is a video link to show these drums being put to use; Sounds of the Badagry Multipurpose Drums





APESIN (in this case made of metal)
In the modern world, the rhythm of the drum is not lost as they still play a vital role in the display of African dances and seen in this Badagry Dance Routine displayed by members of the Whitestones Culture Ambassadors. Enjoy!