In my last post, I spoke about my ancestral warrior blood. This part of my african lineage is a common trait in the Egba people who were known as fierce warriors. The capital of Egbaland was and still remains the city of Abeokuta in Nigeria. Amongst the distinguished Nigerians whose origins can be traced back to Abeokuta city is former president of Nigeria General Olusegun Obasanjo who happens to be celebrating his 75th birthday this week. The late Fela Kuti musician extraordinaire and loads more distinguished Nigerians come from Egbaland.
The traditional ruler of this part of the country is the Alake of Egbaland and he is highly respected by all. He is in effect the custodian of the cultural heritage of his people. Up till the present day, certain ceremonies are still performed in the same way as in ancient times,.Certain elements within jazz music were taken from the talking drum patterns of this area and the west african region as a whole.
Drummers are an integral part of royal ceremonies. The drummers announce the Alake's proclamations and decrees. Drummers assemble prior to a royal court of chiefs and while each chief arrives at court, the Alake is informed via the unique gan gan sound (Talking drum) which will be exclusive to each chief arriving while the Alake (King) sits in his second storey throne room.
The ironic yet fascinating fact is that the first recognised sounds of jazz evolved from the secret supernatural cults of West africa. Olumo rock, a monolithic landmark of Egbaland with it's foreboding crevices and dark caves became a shrine after the Yoruba - Dahomey wars of the 19th century which had been going on for centuries.
The Dahomey wars raged for hundreds of years. This empire was surrounded by the Ashanti, Egba, Benin, Ayo and Ewe empires. As the yoruba and dahomey wars raged in 1727, Agadja and his elite army of female virgin warriors tried to invade the Egba city of Abeokuta. Olumo rock, a symbol of Egba power protected the egba people and was an ideal sanctuary from attack. Those who pursued the Egba to the rock fell under it's curse and their skin and orifices would ooze blood and pus. As this happened, the Dahomey troops would turn and flee.
Even today, many africans from other tribal groups refuse to venture up Olumo rock for fear of their lives. Even foreign missionaries acknowledged these powers but would usually put it down to satanic and evil spirits. An american baptist missionary in the Cameroons claimed to have driven out devils which had possessed some Africans (i.e. Exorcism). When asked to reconcile this belief in african rituals and demon possession, he said, the bible says "Satan and his evil spirits shall prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls". The witchdoctors have satanical powers was all he could say.
The land of my fathers is probably no worse or better than other lands where people live out their lives with the best expectations for themselves and their families. Communities where there is joy, laughter, sadness and tears. The drummers from our lands are similar to south american shamans who use sounds to acknowledge their ancestors. There is nothing evil in the sound of these drums from Egbaland, they are used to announce births, deaths and everything in between. Hearing these drums, you will have no doubt you are hearing the sound of joy and celebration. It is the unique sounds from the land of my father's father and their fathers.
(First published on 6/03/2012)