THE ancient city of Abeokuta came alive as the International Festival of Drums rolled with a thunderous bang waking the usual quiet city with a thousand music. The feet of dancers, drummers and a litany of musicians, culture experts, artistes, curators, exhibitionists, and lovers of the arts came from all over Nigeria, Africa, and the world for this sonorous festival-the fourth edition of the African Drum Festival 2019. Drums serve different purposes in African communities.
It acts as a communication tool rallying the people to parley, meetings, ceremonies, and the like. It predates wireless technology as a purveyor of information. That has become the core objective of the festival: to rally people to celebrate the beauty and productive capacity of African cultural heritage
This year’s festival is an improvement and larger in terms of ambition than the previous three past editions. The festival was staged in the newly constructed 10,000 capacity amphitheatre just a stone’s throw from the Hubert Ogunde Cultural Centre. The new edifice was built especially to house the festival for the years ahead. Themed DRUMming the Future, the festival saw over 14 troupes from the continent and other parts of the world, as well as over 70 troupes from across Nigeria that thrilled the audiences that filled the 10,000 capacity audience to overflow with a diversity of music and drumming of their peculiar ethnicities. Troupes from Africa, namely Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya Uganda, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Senegal, among other countries were the first to take the stage on the opening night, mesmerizing the audience with a rich aesthetic music and drumming. For three days, the festival featured art exhibition, workshops from masters in the art of drumming and the unveiling of the Adire patent.
The deputy governor, and festival chairman, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, in her address stated that the festival aims to revive and preserve African culture with its uniqueness, as well as promote drums as a unique communication art. She said the ultimate goal of the production committee was to break the bar of the previous editions as a world class events in all ramification. The governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, remarked that he would use his position in the ninth Assembly to ensure the festival is included in the national calendar as NAFEST, Abuja Carnival, The Carnival Calabar for sustainability.
Nobel Laureate and festival consultant, Professor Wole Soyinka noted that there is a nexus between poetry and the drums \festival as they both deal with tonality, rhythm, metre. In his words: “There is a strong connection between rhythm and productivity which awakens deep things in us as humans. The drums help our sense of rhythm and immerse us into our culture.” He equally enjoined contemporary African artistes to infuse the rich traditional rhythms into their music, saying that modern contemporary has become stereotypical as they heavily lean on western music tradition. The monarchs present at the event, including the Ooni of ife and Alake appreciated the governor for his infrastructural transformation of the state.
This year’s event saw an increase in participation from the continent. Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Burkina Faso were some of the newest participants. Haiti had two different troupes in attendance at the festival. One has to praise Zmirage for living to its name in terms of the production design, as well as taut technical finesse. Several artistes of Ogun State origin were honoured at the festival, including Ebenezer Obe, who recently celebrated his 77th birthday. Legendary Afrobeat Maestro ,Fela Anikulapo Kuti had a museum created in his honour.
Gombe State emerged the best national troupe, followed by last year’s winners, Kwara. Ghana emerged the best in the continent. The governor-elect promised to host the festival going into the future. The festival ended with Seun Kuti thrilling the audience with some of Fela’s hit music and some of his Granny chasing notes into the night.
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