By Japhet Alakam
THE drum has always played supporting roles in major festivals as it has never had its own festival,but last week, the cultural instrument took the centre stage in what was tagged, First Nigerian drums festival. And as it turned out to be, for the very first time drummers from over 19 states of the federation and beyond gathered at the ancient city of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital for the maiden edition of the Nigerian drums festival now renamed African drums festival.
The festival which was described as a force that binds Africans together lived up to its bidding as from the first day, 19th of April when the festival was declared open by the Executive governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Right from the time of the unveiling of the tallest drum till 22nd when the festival ended, there was no dull moment as the participants demonstrated some of those things that made Africa great before civilization wiped them away.
It was a rich display of the cultural heritage of Africans and discovery of talents as cultural troupes from various parts of the country dressed in colourful costumes took their turns to perform to the admiration of the audience.
The drummers really shook the entire city and Africans living and even the dead woke up to the reverberating sounds from the drums. Organised by Ogun State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the festival which was attended by about 20 countries including 10 from Africa and 19 states across Nigeria was according the Ogun state commissioner for Culture and Tourism, “to revive our dying culture”.
It was a well attended event as dignitaries from far and wide identified with the festival. Among the audience were the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi and his wife, Oba Adetona Gbadebo, Alake of Egbaland, Senator Momora, representative of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, DG, National Council of Art and Culture, Mrs. Dayo Keshi and D G, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo. Others were the Ambassadors of Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal and Ghana.
Those who performed with their various drums included, Ogun State cultural troop, Anu cultural troupe, Unique Fingers, Hubert Ogunde Cultural Troop, Ara – the female talking drummer, and Kano State Cultural Troop, Lisa cultural troupe and others.
It was commendations galore for the good people of Ogun State for taking the bold initiative to revive the fading culture and boost the tourism potentials of the state and country.
One special thing about the festival was that all the drums were locally made and that goes far to show what has gone into the coffers of the people. Apart from the entertainment and cultural aspect, it was a major boost to the economy of the state as many artisans, weavers, businessmen/women and even petty traders smiled to the banks after the four days event.
Another discovery of the festival was the women drummers, ordinarily, in some communities, drumming was an exclusive reserve for men, but the festival proved otherwise considering the way women handled the drums. They really demonstrated that what a man can do, women can do better.
In his remarks, Minister of Information and Culture who stated that the festival was in line with the Federal Government’s vision to showcase the cultural heritage of the country, described it as unique. In line with that Gov. Amosun assured that the name of the festival, which he said would now be held yearly would be known as ‘African Drums Festival.’
Also, Ooni Enitan who acknowledged the wind of change that is blowing around the country, harped on the need to rejuvenate the dead culture, heritage and tradition said “our culture and heritage are strong, binding forces for our unity. We should not forget our source and heritage and I strongly believe that what we are doing here today will dovetail into other states and even other African countries.”
The Alake of Egba, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo said it was regrettable that “since FESTAC ‘77, we have never gone back to our roots; we must never abrogate our culture as we can use culture to generate a lot of income because oil is gone and gone for good.” Everyone was in agreement that the time had come for Nigeria to use its culture to generate income by promoting it through tourism.
An elated DG of NCAC, Mrs Dayo Keshi who pointed out that festivals are one of the best ways to stimulate economic growth said “there is an increasing recognition of the enormous potentials for festivals such as the Nigerian Drums Festivals holding here in the ancient city of Abeokuta, Ogun State.
What the Drum festival has demonstrated is the fact that every state in Nigeria has cultural products around which cultural industries could be built in such a way that it becomes a win- win situation for everybody especially in terms of income generation for the grassroots.
It is also for these reasons that under my leadership of the National Council of Arts and Culture, we are determined to launch between now and next year, specialized national festivals to ensure the preservation and sustainability of our cultural heritage. What was bequeathed to us, we must preserve and pass on to our children.”