Monday, April 24, 2017 6:38 pm
By Gbenro Adesina/Abeokuta
All roads led to June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta between Thursday April 20 and Saturday 22, 2017, for the second edition of African Drums Festival, tagged “Drums Festival ’17,” which metamorphosed from Nigerian Drums Festival held last year. Over 50 cultural troupes from Nigeria and other African countries participated in the festival, displaying different elegant costumes and drums. The programme, organised by the Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led administration, aimed at showcasing the African rich cultural heritage, coincided with the 5th edition of Egypt Drums Festival tagged, “Drum for Peace”, with 25 countries within and outside Africa participating.
Abeokuta city wore a very colourful look with various banners announcing the festivals and huge bill boards showcasing famous cultural legends, as well as the painting of strategic structures including roundabouts in preparation for the festival.
Business individuals who had registered for stands selling different things like foods and drinks, local fabrics like ‘Adire’, traditional materials and the rest smiled to their banks as they made huge profits selling at twice the regular price.
The colourful festival brought back to life some of Nigeria’s cultural legends including: Herbert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, and Ayinla Omowura, whose troupes performed to the excitement of the crowd, who sang and danced along to their popular songs.
Other cultural troupes that performed at the event were: Ogun Indigene Entertainment Professional Forum, Ogun State Cultural Troupe, Seyi Solagbade, Eniafede, Ogun State Drummer Grand Master Talking Drummer, Oyo State Cultural Troupe, Ayangbola from Oyo State, Kola Onibata, Ekiti State Cultural Troupe, Osun State Cultural Troupe, Konkere Sakara, Ensemble from Lagos State, Unique Fingers from Lagos, Iroko Percussion, Atilogwu from Anambra, Wagnilo Group, Oliwo Ko Kou from the Republic of Benin, Edo State Cultural Troupe, Association Toffondi from Togo, Leydis Bernal Suarez from Cuba, Faso Djarabi from Burkina Faso, Association Intersection from Haiti, Kano State Cultural Troup, Kwara State Cultural Troupe, Jawa Troupe from Plateau, Abdul Sheu Troupe from Niger, Ondo State Cultural Troupe, Orisekesimi Troupe, Ara Oni Gangan, Olo Omidan Bata Atunda Entertainment, Adegboyega, Ara the Drumer, Atunda Entertainment, and La Campaign N Tsamini from Congo Brazzaville.
The dignitaries at the opening ceremony were the foremost Yoruba monarchs: Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, leading other monarchs, the host governor and his wife, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Olufunso, Ogun State Deputy Governor, Yetunde Onanuga, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed represented by the Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Tar Ukor, Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State represented by his Commissioner for Information and Culture, Toye Adesola Arulogun, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State represented by his special assistant, Mammud Borodo, Governor Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha of Imo State represented by Kaddi Obinna, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, a living musical legend, Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, Regina Hill representing the Mayor of the city of Dallas, USA, and Lady Bernard Suarres from Cuba.
Also in attendance were: members of the Ogun State Executive Council, state and federal legislators, and members of the judiciary led by the state Chief Judge, Justice Olatokunbo Olapade.
Unveiling an acclaimed 7ft tall drum, Governor Amosun assured that the event has been slated for April 20 to 22 yearly saying, “This event will further reawaken the interest that attach us to our history and culture. It is about our culture. We believe that it will promote the cultural heritage, broadening the knowledge to the varied drums and dancers. We will in the long run appreciate our culture, drums and drummers. African life is influenced by rhythm. Drums are potent weapons for communication, signal, meeting, and war danger. Drum is the first form of telephone. It performs political and socio-economic function. Any country that does not want to go into extinction, should not forget its culture and language. What we are doing is to add value to what President Muahmmadu Buhari is doing by looking elsewhere from oil”.
“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.
Speaking, Lai Muhammed who described the festival as, “a development worthy of emulation by other states’’ pointed out that the festival is a pointer to the fact that government at all levels should heavily invest in tourism and culture. “The Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is determined to pursue, with relentless vigour, the diversification of our present mono reliance on an oil economy to massive investment in non-oil sectors like agriculture, solid minerals and tourism”, he added.
Stressing that such festivals would promote pan-African unity, increased inter – African economic trade and enhanced local value chain benefits, Muhammed noted, “This festival will also promote inter-African leisure travel and the renaissance of our African cultural milestones in contributing toward civilisation. It will engender cultural reawakening in Africa on shared values and fraternal solidarity within the region”.
Remarking, Oba Ogunwusi pointed out that the strength of Yoruba lies in its humility and rich culture urging the Yoruba to convert its strength to economic viability. “We do not appreciate ourselves. This festival is a tourism haven and a boost to our unity as a people. Drums have continued to unite and add glamour to our lifestyle from time immemorial. I am glad today at what I see. 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”.
Continuing, “But what is giving me concern is how to turn the Yoruba rich cultural heritage into a money making venture 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. Before I was invited to address you, I was discussing with Alaafin over there where are sitting and we both commended Governor Amosun for putting this together. He is taking a good step in preserving and promoting our culture”.
Speaking in the same direction, Alaafin stressed the importance of the festival saying that with his intellectual prowess and wide travel, there is no country in the world that has talking drum except the Yorubas. According to him, the importance of drums could not be over-emphasised saying, “Drums are always present in all the palaces of Yoruba Monarchs. Every morning at 5am, drums wake up Yoruba Kings and remind them of oaths taken that they will 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.”
Commending Governor Amosun for organizing such a festival, he said, “I have learnt a lot from this event. In Oyo State, we usually say that we are number one in everything but as regards a festival like this, I think Ogun State has beaten us to it. For Oyo State to maintain its lead, when I get back home, I will tell Governor Ajimobi to buckle up. The only fear I have now is that Amosun has invited the whole of Africa. I don’t know who we want to invite now maybe we will invite the entire world”.
Oba Olugbenle in his short remark warned whosoever that would succeed Amosun not to think of stopping the festival stressing, “This festival has come to stay and the successor of Amosun should be warned against stopping it. Any governor who wants to stop this festival will have to contend with the traditional institution in this region”.
In his speech, Oba Gbadebo called on the government to put more efforts into the diversification of the nation’s economy stressing, “The era of cheap oil money is over for good. We need to demonstrate it to the world why they must bring their money to Nigeria to invest especially in our rich culture, and tradition and tourism. There is more money in our culture and tourism than we have in oil”.
Calling other states in Nigeria to choose other aspects of the nation’s culture to promote, he said, “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”.
Soyinka noted that contrary to lots of propaganda, Ogun State is noted for taking lead in many things stressing that in many things, Ogun State has come first. “It is in Ogun State that Afro Beat emanated from. Fela started Afro beat and this type of music has now migrated to every part of the world”, Soyinka said.
Governor Dickson whose mother is from Ijebu part of Ogun State stated, “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, Africans drums unite us. This is what all of us must be doing to promote our culture and showcase it to the world”.
Reginal Hill from USA described the event as a wonderful one that should not be allowed to die saying, “We believe partnering Nigeria will be beneficial to both Dallas and Nigeria. We believe that this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial bilateral partnership that enriches us through cultural awareness and economic ties on both continents”.