By Prisca Sam-Duru
The stage performance by the National Troupe of Nigeria, NTN, held on Thursday October 29, in the spirit of Nigeria’s 62 independence anniversary, was as entrancing as it was instructive.
Owing to how much the diverse peoples that make up the country’s population have been divided by activities of the political elite, the play titled, ‘Echoes of the Drums’, is timeous as it is embedded with themes of unity in diversity, love and brotherliness.
Staged at the Agip Hall of MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, ‘Echoes of the Drums’, is written by Ola Awakan and masterfully directed by no other than a pioneer artiste of NTN (1989), Dr Mike Anyanwu. The play utilizes drums instrumentation and dance in storytelling to foster relevant and timely messages at this dire moment in Nigeria’s political, cultural and ethno-centric landscapes. In every theatrical sense, the performance reverberates, so much as a metaphoric call for national unity amongst the diverse peoples of Nigeria as it marks the 62nd anniversary of her independence.
The directorial concept of “Echoes of the Drums”, explores the “festive and met-aesthetic totality of the African theatre”, while celebrating the communality and seamless admixture of drumming, singing, dancing, chanting, masks and re-enactments as fundamental aspects of the traditional African intra-cultural and inter-cultural experience and social wellbeing.
The play witnessed a large turnout of dignitaries from government institutions; envoys from Ghana and Spain, as well as other eminent Nigerians.
The production opens with a deafening and sharp thunder-like clap probably from a metallic instrument that jacked audience members back to the moment. It is followed by a group of dancers clad in white costumes and then, a narrator. The plot revolves around the birth of the first set of triplets; Awogbola, Onlude and Ayanlade in Ilu Ayan, the Clan of Drummers. They are presented to the King in his palace amidst a very flamboyant celebration showcasing traditional singing, dancing and chanting. The celebration is short-lived as the mother of the triplets dies, leaving the children in the care of their father, Abayan who is the Head of the clan of drummers. He trains them up in the best way he can; the way of the drums. They grow up, imbibing all the rudiments of traditional drumming and the secrets of the sacred drums, especially the invocative and therapeutic potency of drumming and music.
The desire to explore other cultures and nature, sets the triplets on an adventure which is beset by series of encounters with the monstrous and awesome aesthetics of the forest beings and spirits.
While they scale through hurdles as triplets for some time, disagreements soon set in and they part ways. They find it difficult to survive as separate beings and almost lose their lives until Sango (Ajibode Ajibola), the dance and music loving god comes to their rescue. Featured artistes include; Julius Obende as Awobola, Ajide Adeyemi as Onlude, Charles Coker (Ayanlade), Ayodeji Adewale (Abayan), Mgborogwu Uche as dancer, singer and bush baby; Jesulayomi Oluwatobiloba who was a drummer/tree; and many others. Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who was represented by the DG of Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, CBAAC, Hon Oluwabunmi Ayobami Amao commended the Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Mr. Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed, for the good job he is doing at the National Troupe of Nigeria.
According to him, “The title of the play and the concept of using storytelling, drumming and other traditional mediums to promote peace and unity are very important and germane in our nation’s quest for social integration and development”.
He added that “Drumming and storytelling are two very important components of the African culture which have been employed overtime not only for entertainment but as vital means of communication. “I am particularly pleased with the fact that we are witnessing the synergy and the use of two traditional mediums of communication; drumming and storytelling to convey the message of peace, brotherliness and togetherness to the Nigerian people as we look forward to celebrating the 62nd Independence celebration of our dear nation. “I find this quite critical at this time of our national life. Hence, we must deploy these mediums inherent in our culture as veritable tools to foster social interaction, peace, unity and progress among the peoples of Nigeria”.
The CEO of NTN, Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed, reiterated that by staging ‘Echoes of the Drum’, the National Troupe of Nigeria will be lending a voice of contribution to peace, brotherliness and love within the diverse cultures and ethnicity in Nigeria.