…African drums, dance should be made part of early years’ school curriculum
By Godwin Okondo
AS part of celebrating Africa Day 2022, the Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA) held a conference on indigenous African music, dance, instruments and performance, with a focus on African drumming culture, and its future sustainability through teaching it to young ones. The programme had as theme ‘Drumming to Feed Africa,’ with a view to using music and dance to impact African culture through deploying it to build better African economies.
While remarking on the reasons for the conference, Secretary- General of PAWA, Dr. Wale Okediran, said it was important to pay attention to the various drumming instruments in Africa, as they were beginning to be integrated into mainstream musical performances. He said the continent’s young music stars were beginning to incorporate Africa’s rich repertoire of folk songs and narratives into their performances to stand them out.
“Music artistes in Africa are falling back on folk songs to embellish some of their works,” Okediran said. “Some of them interject oral literature and folk songs in hip-hop, and they also use African folk stories. In the Yoruba culture where I come from, the bata drum is a very interesting piece which many of our young teachers use in teaching, as well as the ‘talking drum.’ Many of these drums convey messages.”
“Many of our musicians are getting global attention,” Okediran continued. “I’m sure we are aware that at the last musical jamboree in the U.S., some African musicians won awards. So, I believe that with proper coordination, we can find ways to encourage future musicians to create and do more with our drums, and also find ways to mentor musicians in the use of our indigenous, traditional music.”
Okediran expressed excitement that foreign universities were beginning to find Africa’s musical instruments useful and integrating them into their teaching curriculum in universities. He enjoined African curriculum planners to do the same, so indigenous music instruments do not die out.
According to him, “We also discovered that many American universities now are taking serious interest in African indigenous music. They are coming here to study our music and also incorporate it into their entertainment industry. A lot of attention has been drawn to our indigenous music and drums. So, with proper coordination and attention, I’m sure we will be able to make all these indigenous music and sounds to be commercially viable, to the extent that they will be a very good source of income-generation for our continent.”
The Director, Community Youth Cultural Centre (CYCC): Creative Art Council, based in Ghana, Dr. Akosua Abdallah said Africa’s musical instruments were a cultural force of identity which could be deployed to achieve its delayed destiny.
According to him, “Drumming invokes our music and dance, and also preserves our identity and national heritage. The drums of the African continent continue to rumble, and in their wake, have revved pride in our African psyche. It is now very imperative for all of us to look at how African economies can further consolidate on African development. Perhaps AfCTA could facilitate investment, and probably grow the food the continent needs and offer same in feeding the world.
“Another way could be to facilitate and expand the creative arts sectors of our respective countries and trade in the intangibles that will build our shared socials and financial security. Our cultural interactions have become commodities as well, especially when it comes to our dance, music and living culture.”
For Abdallah, the continent’s drums were calling for the unity and oneness of the diverse peoples of a vast continent to rise up to the challenges of a shared history and destiny and economic prosperity.
“The drums of the continent are calling on all Africans to unite, as we commemorate the spirit of Pan-Africanism on AU Day,” he said. “Our shared histories must be amplified, so that we identity ourselves as a unified force, using the technological advancement that is available in our present era.”
Another panel member to the discourse, Mr. John Edmuson Sam, suggested the need to build our children’s knowledge on our rich culture using drumming and music. According to him, “African children are brought up watching foreign cartoons; we don’t have ours. For drumming, if you have kids, before you realize, they’ve started drumming on the table. It’s in us, but when they start school, that interest begins to dwindle, and they start to learn things the white are doing.
“We have to put drumming in our curriculum, so that from early they start playing with drums. If anyone is going to attend our universities, they should be asked to do something from their culture. There is drumming in everyone’s ethnicity; we need to make it important that every child learns a tune from his ethnicity, and it must continue to be a part of the curriculum.”
However, Mrs. Misonu Amu argued that culture was deeper than merely drumming and dancing, when she said, “Culture goes beyond drumming and dancing. We have a whole lot of things — our food, our way of life, the things we eat, storytelling, and so many others, and I think the space allotted in the curriculum for cultural studies only focuses on drumming and dancing, which I think should go beyond that.
“So, if there is a slot for cultural studies, we must think about the things that we need to put in there that will teach us about our African culture and cut across African countries. We have different cultures, but then we are united in a way. I think the way forward is incorporating all these aspects of culture in the school curriculum.”