On the first of October 1960, Nigeria finally gained her independence and freedom from British Rule and embraced the uniqueness and diversity in her culture, language, beliefs and customs which makes her stand out among other countries of the world.
In celebration of the Nation’s 62nd Independence Anniversary, The National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) staged a colourful and culturally intrinsic play, titled, “Echoes of the Drums”.
This play was declared the first of its kind in the country as it utilized the use of drums instrumentation in its plot.
This theatrical masterpiece was performed at the Muson Centre Onikan, Lagos with several dignitaries and important personalities both locally and internationally in attendance.
The play was directed by Mike Anyanwu and written by award-winning Broadcast Journalist and Playwright, Ola Awakan.
“Echoes of the Drum” is a play set in the Southwestern part of Nigeria and it reveals the life and adventures of the first set of triplets there, namely Awogbola, Onlude and Ayanlade in the Clan of Ayan (Drummers).
After losing their mother during birth, their father, Abayan being the head of a clan of drummers tries his best in bringing them up through the ways of the drums.
The play borders on their adventure with family, nature, the supernatural and their journey to self-discovery.
During an Interview on TVC’s Breakfast Show, the playwright, Ola Awakan revealed that he wrote the play as an undergraduate in 2005 and his vision was to create a reflection of society in a unique way and he chose the use of drums.
He disclosed that he coined this unique approach “Drumunication” meaning Communication through drums.
“In the play, you’ll see how drums can be used together to form unity and development because when drums are played without rhythm, there is disunity.”
“The three major characters in the play use the three major drums from the South-West namely Gangan, Bata and Omele and this serves as their instruments in exploring the themes of unity, harmony and brotherliness in the society. The characters also symbolize the three major ethnic groups in the country”
Ola Awakan revealed that he was inspired to write this play after reading several scripts by veteran playwrights such as Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, Ahmed Yerima and other theatrical geniuses.
“When you read plays and understand the cultural implications of using plays to tell impactful stories, you’ll want to think of how you can do things differently and I decided to use drums to tell my story”
According to him, “Echoes of the Drums” serves as an instrument of cultural awakening, appraisal and bringing back the nation’s value system which is currently fading away due to westernization.
“The powers of drums cannot be overemphasized. Drums are used for Cultural appraisal, Entertainment, Spiritual reasons as well as passing important messages”
The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed was represented by Mrs Oluwabunmi Amao, Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC).
According to an earlier statement by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, “the concept of using storytelling, drumming and other traditional mediums to promote peace and unity is very important in the nation’s quest for social integration and development.”
“I am particularly pleased with the fact that we are witnessing the synergy and the use of two traditional mediums of communication, which is drumming and storytelling to convey the message of peace, brotherliness and togetherness to the Nigerian people.”
“I find this quite critical at this time of our national life, we must deploy these mediums inherent in our culture as veritable tools to foster social interaction, peace, unity and progress among the people of Nigeria,” he started.
The Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed was also in attendance and during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) praised the enactment of the play.
He stated that the play explored and passed meaningful messages of love, brotherliness, unity, co-habitation and hope.
He also applauded the creativity of the play for using “creatively twined and knitted drums and music rhythms” in passing such important and timely messages.
According to Dr Mohammed, such messages are invaluable for the nation in its current state as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country.
“NTN is strongly committed to encouraging creativity, discovery and development of talents in the performing arts through artistic productions geared toward national aspirations.”
The Director of the play, Mr Mike Anyanwu during the premiere also disclosed that he was attracted to the play because it centred on the need for unity and gave a spotlight to African drums and their hidden beauty and importance.
Similarly, the Executive Director of the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, applauded for their efforts of encouraging national unity and oneness through the theatre.
“This is a good one, NTN has my total support on this because this is an avenue through which more understanding can be effected among Nigerians and unity can be achieved,” he said