Vignettes of African Drum Festival 2019C


Yinka Olatunbosun reports on the three-day international drum festival initiated by Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, which drew a mammoth of culture buffs to Abeokuta, with its performances, workshop, exhibition and a formidable roundtable session

In more ways than one, the annual African Drum Festival (ADF) held in Abeokuta last week has retained its spot as a “mini-FESTAC” for the people of Abeokuta and attendees from other parts of Nigeria, Africa and beyond. The evening performances were major attractions; some women, defying the earsplitting sounds of drums came with young children; young men arrived in company of their dates whilst VIPs were accompanied by their aides.

With the theme, “Drumming the Future”, this year’s edition was received with an even measure of excitement and apprehension. Many wondered if the thrilling festival will continue after Governor Ibikunle Amosun leaves office.

This edition recorded a remarkable increase in registered participants with more enthusiasm from Northern Africa. That region boasts of some of the finest drummers some of whom were seen in performance. Also, its traditional venue was changed this year to a near-complete 10,000-capacity amphi-theatre at the City Centre, Oke-Ilewo.

The festival was kicked-off on the first day with the launch of the seal of authenticity for the state’s signature fabric, Adire Ogun held at Mitros Residencies, Ibara Housing Estate, Abeokuta. The indigenous tie and dye fabric had been a popular element of the people’s cultural life for almost a century and with government intervention through funding and infrastructural development, adire has become a premium brand that is trending at fashion shows with international fashion designers such as MAKI OHpromoting it. At the moment, an ultra-modern market at Itoku is under construction for the producers of adire, strategically located just a few metres from the state’s most sought-after tourist site, Olumo rock.

The Deputy Governor, Yetunde Onanuga described the new shopping malls as “an iconic shop on the way to the iconic Olumo rock. For the unemployed youths, think of what you can do with the adire. You can make throw pillows, window curtains, laptop bags, blouses, skirts, adire on silk for evening wears, adire prints on nails”, she said.

During the opening ceremony of ADF 2019, Governor Ibikunle Amosun unveiled a commemorative N100 postage stamp tagged, “African Drum Festival’’ to document this historical event which according to him has grown from being “a domestic event to an international event; gaining the attention of the intellectual community.’’ The ceremony also featured a fashion show wherein select commissioners and ex-commissioners took to the stage clad in exquisite adire pieces.

The veteran OAP and former commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ogun State, Dayo Adeneye stirred the audience with a six-pack abs flash on the catwalk, right on the stage as others in the audience were distracted by the buzzing sound of drone.

The second day of the festival featured incisive discussions by drummers drawn from the stage and the academia. Convened by the festival consultant, Professor Wole Soyinka and executed by the creative task force, the conference always deepens appreciation for the drum culture, highlights trends in the industry and points out potential dangers to the drum profession. 15 master drummers, 17 professional culture scholars and researchers were sourced as speakers this year.

They are Aziz Belheni (Tunisia), Cheickne Sissoko (Mali), Eddy Mboyo (DR Congo), Dennis Kirimi Ngurwe (Kenya), Frendi Sofiane (Algeria), Kachina Aimad (Morocco), Landry Luoba (Cote D’Ivoire), Jeleel Ojuade (Nigeria), Oladipo Abiala a.k.a Jah Baba (Benin), Othnell Mangoma Moyo (Zimbabwe), Noumoucounda Cissoko (Senegal), Sserwanga Bernard (Uganda), Sylvanus Kwashie Kuwor (Ghana) and Thandi Swaartbooi (South Africa).

Moderated by the bi-lingual founder and director, Le Kolatier Music Market, Luc Yatchokeu, the roundtable was a conflation of ideas on the future of drum. Others at the roundtable include Armel Bokossa (Benin), Gregoire Kabore (Burkina Faso), Vernon Shabaka Thompson (Trinidad & Tobago), Adepo Yapo (Burkina Faso), Sebaggala Jedidiah (Uganda), Dr. Ben Amakye Boateng (Ghana), Enoth Namanya (Uganda). Interventions were made by Olu Adewale Adeniran (Ph.D), Sam Dede (Ph.D) , Femi Odugbemi, Akin Adejuwon (Ph.D), Brenda Uphopho, Adeola Osunkojo, Tunde Awosanmi, Razinat Mohammed (Ph.D) amongst others.

Some of the submissions made during the roundtable was the need for government to strengthen policies on reforestation because the global warming spells danger to tree life and by extension, little or no raw material will be left for drum making. The scholars agreed that it is high time we had African drums in the curriculum for students studying music, indigenous languages and theatre arts at the tertiary institutions. The consummate arts manager, Uphopho encouraged drummers to submit proposals in order to take part in festivals.

The tribute exhibition held at the Olumo rock simultaneously with the talk session was a parade of legendary musicians. Curated by the Founder and Publisher, ASIRI Magazine, Damola Adebowale, it was organised in honour of Chief Ebenezer Obey who turned 77 on April 3, 2019. Other musicians who were honoured alongside him include Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Hubert Ogunde, Fela Sowande, Ayinla Omo-Wura, Salawa Abeni and King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall.

At the finals, Ghana won as the Best African Troupe with the prize of $5000 beating Chad and the Republic of Benin to the second and third places respectively. In the individual category, Kachina Aimad, a master drummer from Morocco won the best drummer while on the national level, Gombe state kicked the defending champions Kwara State to the second place to emerge as the overall winner with a prize of N2million.