In a recent post on Twitter I informed us that Yoruba Talking Drums perform four main functions. Following reactions to the post, it appears that many of us assume that talking drum is synonymous with only Gangan and Iya Ilu. This short piece is to clarify issues in this regard.
The generic name for Yoruba talking drums is Dundun. There are six drums that belong to the Dundun family. Gangan is but one of the six, though it is arguably the most popular.
Iya Ilu: In term of size, Iya Ilu is the biggest of the Dundun drums. If it is placed on the shoulder of an adult, it may reach to the waist. It is the only talking drum that is decorated with ‘saworo’ [small bells]. If you have seen Tunde Kelani’s Saworo Ide, Iya Ilu is that big drum that featured prominently in the movie. Iya Ilu as its name implies is the Mother of All Talking Drums. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s drummer, Ayinde Gani Babalola [Professor] from Ila Orangun is one of the most popular drummers with proficiency when it comes to handling Iya Ilu.
Kerikeri: This is next to Iya Ilu in size. Unlike Iya Ilu, it does not have saworo. It however has leather strap that makes contact with its faces. It is this leather strap that is called Igbaju, hence the popular saying: igbaju igbamu ni kerikeri n ba r’ode. By the way, there is a town in New Zealand named Kerikeri. Did they borrow the name from Yorubaland?
Gangan needs no introduction. It is smaller than Iya Ilu and Kerikeri. Like Kerikeri, it does not have saworo. What it lacks in size it however makes up with its versatility. Its compact size makes it the drum of choice. Yekini Aderoju from Ayetoro, also another popular Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s band member, is someone who has deservedly earned his stripe as an expert in this regard. I bet there is none of us who did not dance to his famous: A bi di esin batakun batakun, a bi di esin batakun batakun, nibo ni nko ‘di mi si? Nihin? Lohun? You remember?
Other famous drummers include the late Kamoru Ayansola [Sikiru Ayinde Barrister]; Orikanbody Ayanwale [Kollington Ayinla], Aromasodun [Wasiu Ayinde], Rafiu Ojubanire [Haruna Ishola], Adewole Onilu Ola [Ayinla Omowura], Mutiu Kekere Jimoh [Ebenezer Obey] and Shittu Shitta Alabi, the drummer of Yesufu Kelani who died on stage with his drum in his hands in 1972.
Isaaju is the next to Gangan in term of size. It is named the forerunner because it is the first drum you hear before Gangan and Iya Ilu take to the centre stage. Its voice is high-pitched. It is the drum that will indicate whether Gangan is going to be fast or slow paced.
Kannango is smaller than Isaaju but its pitch is higher than that of Isaaju.
Gudugudu is the baby of the Dundun Family. Unlike its brothers [or sisters] which are carried by the shoulder, Gudugudu is placed on the abdomen with its strap around the neck. It is also different from its siblings because it has only one face unlike others who have two faces [Did Tu Face get his name from Yoruba Talking Drum?]. It is sometimes called Omele Dundun. When you really want to dance, Gudugudu and Gangan are the go to drums. The Yoruba saying: gudugudu koo fi igba Kankan tu ra sile is a tribute to the drum’s capacity to swing into action at the touch of the drummer.
With these few points of mine, I hope Onigegewura has been able to convince you that Yoruba creativity is boundless. The next time you attend Owambe party, I hope you will be able to distinguish between Kannango and Kerikeri.
Have a great week.