Traditional music instruments in Nigeria

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BY APPOLLOS IBEABUCHI OZIOGU

Music is described as a combination of vocal or instrumental sounds or tones in varying melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre to form structurally complete and emotionally expressive compositions.

It is the art of producing tones or sounds in harmonious succession. Music is a part of the Nigerian culture and that of Africa as a whole. Music has always had its place in the lives of the peoples of various ethnic groups of Nigeria. It is the food of the soul that provides a sort of tolerated tonic that soothes the heart – aching and troubled mind. What reason did David the son of Jesse have in playing music for King Saul of Israel? The Bible elucidates that “The next day, an evil spirit from God suddenly took control of Saul and he raged in his house like a mad man. David was playing the harp as he did everyday” (1 Samuel 18:10, GNB). That means, whenever King Saul fell into a frenzy, David the son of Jesse was always there to play some soul-lifting and spirit-rejuvenating melodious music to ward off the evil spirit. Music is a refresher tonic to the troubled mind and the hurting; a spiritual appetizer, and an antidote to melancholic condition. Music drives away anger, discouragement and frustration, and replaces same with happiness, joy and encouragement. That is the reason Elder Sunny Obi once said,” Run away from anybody who doesn’t like music. Don’t associate with such one”.

Drummers

Indeed, music rather serves to alleviate suffering and drudgery. It energizes the warriors for action in the battle fields. Even in the sporting activities, music plays a significant role as well as traditional ceremonies of historically notable events in the country. Take for example, the Argugun festival. During this colourful festival, drummers are usually employed to beat drums, as the professional fisher men and women engage themselves in the competitive catch. Music also helps to dramatise vast human experiences such as joy: birth, naming, and marriage, and sadness: death, social conflicts and trials of life. In fact, it promotes social entertainment and plays an important function in ceremonial occasions like the installation ceremony of a local chief.

Dances always go together with music, played from the musical instruments while the musicians are energetically but rhythmly and sonorously playing their harps, rattles and flutes the dancers, gaily dressed in their special colourful dresses or scanty costumes are at the same time vigorously and flexibly dancing in total unison. Even the spectators are not exempted. They enjoy the pulsating musical beat, and dance steps. To all and sundry, it is a dance galore!!!

Oh, “music is a spirit, you do not have to get anybody’s consent to go into it”, said Felix Liberty.

In Nigeria, like any other African countries, drums and the art of drumming represent a vivid aspect of the people’s cultural heritage.People drum at different occasions, during peace or war times.

All drums have names. Each ethnic group of Nigeria has certain drums that are peculiar and unique to each of them. However, in Nigeria’s multi-ethnic country, there are a few drums that are common to the large number of ethnic groups. Talking drum is typical of such. It is common among the various ethnic groups of Nigeria.

The Ibo call it “Ekpete”

The Yoruba call it “Gangan”

The Hausa call it, “Kalengu”.

The country’s forebears have talking drums which speak the language of their communities, express their feelings, circumstances, situations and events of life among the people of the communities. The talking drum speaks without tongue and its audience hears and understand the message content without any hearing impairment. It communicates speedily and it spreads news and delivers messages to individual members of the community with utmost dispatch. It also praises important dignitaries in the community as well as invokes the gods by diviners.

The forms of talking drum might vary from one ethnic group to another, but the purpose remains the same. The drum ranges from the huge talking drum used on ceremonial occasions to the tiny neck-tambour. Some drums are cylindrical while others are conical. Some are carved out of wood and may be made out of calabash. Some also may be made of clay pots or rings may be used. The membranes, usually made of animal skin can be glued down like those used on calabash, or nailed or suspended by pegs or tension thongs.

In fact, among the various musical instruments in Nigeria, the “gangan” is unique in Yoruba land, both in structure and application.

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