Project Type: Artistic Research,

Format: Text, VR & AR output

Funding: Goethe Institut Lagos (Cosmology of the South)

Following Oláwọlé Fámúlẹ̀ submission in his essay titled “Èdè Àyàn: The Language of Àyàn in Yorùbá Art and Ritual of Egúngún” scholars and artists in their research over the years often neglect ìlù (drum) and the Àyàn (drummer), their roles and importance in the Yoruba culture and knowledge transmission in an oral society. One will be right to suggest that perhaps, after the Ifa oracle, the next orisa that one can resolve to get acquainted with the history, beliefs, philosophy, and literature of the Yoruba is Orisa Àyàn (the gods of the drummers). 

The drum occupies a very essential spot in the culture of the Yoruba as it is a prerequisite at most religious affairs as well as festivities. The drum in Yoruba culture is used to communicate with the masquerade, in which one can relate to setting a frequency for the ancestor to connect with the vessel. John F. Carrington, in his 1949 book “The Talking Drums of Africa” also writes about how the drum is used for long-distance communication by the Yoruba people. While the tonic solfa notes “do, re, and mi” are the only range the drums can mimic that does not limit the skilled drummer to communicate perfectly by working with tones. 

The aforementioned paragraphs are to illuminate the capability of drums in Yoruba culture as it is not the same as other cultures. The drum and its drummers are so special in the Yoruba culture that they are not allowed to work except for learning to drum, an equal sect in the society that enjoys these benefits are the Orisa priest/priestess. The drummer’s needs are the responsibility of the whole society, including the king. This work-free culture enables the young drummer time to learn from elders the skills needed to make, repair, design, and play the drums. 

The oral capability of the drums and the skills of the drummer makes older drummers custodian of literature, history and philosophy of the drum. However, in recent times, following the decline in the understanding of the Yoruba system even by Yoruba people, the drummers are often referred to as beggars. This misconception of drummers as beggars has caused this sect of custodians to shrivel in their sharing of their knowledge with people, except with their children, or a few outsiders. 

The direction of this project is to position the talking drum and the drummer as an archive, and through them explore the Yoruba philosophy on words, sound, care, coexistence, and balance.

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