…as stakeholders urge it to create an unbeatable identity for itself
By Evelyn Usman
In a bid to elevate its practice to conform to international best practices, the Nigerian Navy has begun moves to infuse technology into its Music School through steel pan production.
As the first step towards achieving this, it gathered academia and other stakeholders at the 2021 Navy Band Conference themed ‘Improving the capacity building of the Nigerian Navy Band through Technology for global recognition, to brainstorm on ways to enhance quality production of Steel Pan in its music department, for global recognition.
By the way, Steelpan is a musical instrument that originated from Trinidad and Tobago and has become an accepted form of art with some international recognition.
Its emergence in Nigeria can be traced to the 2nd World Festival of Black Arts and Culture of January 1977, tagged “Festac’77”, which was held in Lagos.
After the festival, the contingent that came from Trinidad and Tobago presented a complete set of steel band instruments to the then Chief of Army Staff. Thereafter, the Nigeria Army Headquarters sent some of its soldiers to Trinidad and Tobago to learn how to play and produce the steelpan.
Declaring the three-day conference which was held at the Nigerian Navy Music School,Otta , Ogun State, open, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, said the conference would provide participants with a forum to discuss, share musical experiences and proffer ways to exploring technology and skills of the Nigerian Navy Steel Pan production, as well as boost the capacity of personnel for enhanced effectiveness.
The CNS who was represented by Commodore Promise Dappa emphasized that quality production of Steel Pan from the School was a fundamental requirement for global relevance and recognition.
He said, “ Music brings calm where there is anxiety and tension. It would be recalled that during the 2019 Nigerian Navy Band Conference, the communiqué issued suggested the need for the Band to enhance its Steel Pan Technology towards global recognition. In the light of the above, this year’s Band Officers Conference shall be taking a critical look at this communiqué towards improving the performance of the NN Band Steel Pan production and ensuring global recognition.
“ I will like to emphasize here that quality production of Steel Pan from the School is a fundamental requirement for global relevance and recognition”
In his welcome address, Director of Music, Nigerian Navy, Commander Olalekan Abiodun, noted that the Nigerian Navy Band had grown to be a reputable department to reckon with due to the foundation laid during its formative years and had been maintained and improved upon, till date.
He said: ” The Department which started with one musical section that is the Military band, has grown to add three more, namely; the Dance, Steel and the Bagpipers band. The Bagpipers band was introduced into the Nigerian Navy Band in March 2021 and participated in the just concluded Chief of the Naval Staff Annual Conference 2021 held in Kano State.
“Also, It is very important to state that an efficient and Productive Steel Band has been established in the Nigerian Navy School of Music Ota and Steel pans are presently being fabricated locally here at the Nigerian Navy School of Music, Ota”.
He informed that this year’s conference was designed to provide a “dedicated platform for harnessing informed opinions on improving the capacity building of the Nigerian Navy Band through technology in order to achieve global recognition. In the course of this Conference, particular attention would be given to the Steel Pan technology as a medium in projecting the Nigerian Navy Band for global recognition. Its outcome is expected to reflect suggestions and recommendations on measures to further improve the steel pan technology, personnel skill and general production of the instrument”.
The Guest speaker, an associate Lecturer, Department of Music at the Lagos State University, Prof. Isaac Yekini-Ajenifuja in his keynote address titled ‘ Exploring Technology and skills of the Nigerian Navy Steel Pan production for global identity, disclosed that in February 2015, the Nigerian Navy sent six personnel comprising two officers and four Ratings to Trinidad and Tobago, for a one year course on Steel Pan Tuning and Manufacturing Course
He said the personnel returned to Nigeria in February 2016 and started steel pan production in July 2016, at the Nigerian Navy School of Music Ota, Ogun State, adding that it had manufactured sets of steel pan instruments for the Nigerian Navy schools as a test run to become a big giant in steel pan production in the country.
Schools presently using the steel pan are Nigerian Navy Secondary Schools Abeokuta, Ogun State; Imeri, Ondo State; Akpabio, Calabar and Ogbomosho, Oyo State.
Others are: Headquarters, Naval Training Command, Apapa and the Nigerian Navy School of Music, Ota.
Attributing technology to the major force that has changed the world drastically as well as an assured prospect for the future, Ajenifuja, said failure for the Nigerian Navy band to join the trend of the usage of technology in steel pan could plunge the entire school of music into stagnation or extinction.
According to him, “ If technology is the only viable tool for individual, organization and countries to be relevant and be successful, then, the Military is not an exemption. Research has shown that virtually every aspect of the military system has been overhauled to conform to the new trend. I am very sure the Nigerian Navy is not opposed to the new Idea that will elevate its practice to conform to the international best practices.
“The training sponsored by the Nigerian Navy authority was equally the strength of their progress. In the early years of the Nigerian Navy band, the quality of training received by the personnel helped them to conquer the music world. They became the pride of the defence Headquarters due to their performances in local, national and international events.
“Today, adequate training has also been given to officers and bandsmen in steelpan performance and production which need to be explored to give the band more recognition and unparalleled identity.
“Although they have engaged in a series of performances, it is not enough to create the desired goal. The aspect of production they have acquired could go comatose if not used. This is an area the Nigerian Navy Band can scientifically launch into the world of technology and create an unbeatable identity for itself. This will, on the other hand, turn the band into an entrepreneur and also give it access to make money”.
However, to achieve this, he said areas such as a conducive environment for the production of the steel pan instrument was needed and therefore, suggested that the Nigerian Navy School of Music in Ota should be expanded to serve that purpose.
He also highlighted funding and personnel as other constraints that needed to be addressed in this regard, appealing to naval authorities to give the project adequate consideration in order for the Nigerian Navy Band to join the league of entrepreneurs.