Thursday 19 July 2012

Talking Drum… Africa’s rhythmic export

Although it’s of West African origin, the Talking Drum - as OYASAF’s research shows - has found its way into other parts of the continent and overseas, exporting the magic of using a single musical instrument to communicate in pitches.
An artisan, making talking drums in, ketu, Lagos, Southwest, Nigeria

Talking drum is hourglass-shaped and two-faced, with a drum on each end. It is also known as 'waist-drum,' since the hourglass shape appears to give the drum a waist-like form. The drum is made from animal hide, and have leather chords, which run along its body attached to the animal hide at the other end. Talking drum varies in sizes; from the smallest called gangan to the largest known as dundun.

The talking drum is held under the left arm and squeezed as the drummer hits each surface with a bent stick. The act of squeezing the chord changes the pitch and gives various notes: the harder the drum is squeezed, the higher the note produced, giving the drum a type of rythym that can be used to communicate in various African languages.

The origin of talking drum can be traced to the ancient old Oyo Empire, from where its popularity spread to other West African cities prior to the Transatlantic slave trade. And with the slave trade, the drum was sub-consciously exported to Central, South America and the Caribbean as a result of the Transatlantic Trade in slaves. Quite interesting, the drum, according to sources, was banned when the slave masters found out that African slaves were using it to communicate.

Talking drum is called by different names across West Africa, some of which include gangan, dundun (Yoruba), Kalangu, Dan darbi (Hausa), dondo (Songhai), igba (Igbo) and donno, lunna (Dagbani Gurunsi).

A Yoruba talking drummer (note how he squeezes the drum's chord with his left hand).
The pitch of the drum can be regulated based on how the player strikes the surface of the drum to change its rhythm. The pitches of the drum can mirror people’s voice, hence the name ‘talking drums.’

Wider strength of the talking drum’s pitch and rhythms is the ability to communicate with the spiritual world, according to the faith of each African tribe. For example, the talking drum produces prayers and blessings for every new day in countless villages across West Africa. It’s one of the oldest instruments used by griots in West Africa, particularly in most part of Yoruba land, till date.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Croyle Ekong is OYASAF's 2012 intern on contemporary art

Strengthening its mission in capacity building for scholarly art disciplines, OYASAF has offered internship opportunity to a U.S-based scholar in contemporary art and curatorial studies.

 Amber Croyle Ekong, a Nigerian-American based in U.S, is currently the Contemporary Art and Curatorial Intern with OYASAF.  
Amber Croyle Ekong
Although she has diverse interest and a mixed education, she has decided to focus her academic and professional disciplines on Visual Arts.

 Ekong hopes to continue her work in the U.S. after the internship with OYASAF.

 Some of her briefs at OYASAF include program planning, documentation, curatorial, management and artists-relation.

Ekong has an eclectic academic background, having majored in Politics and minored in Spanish at Pomona College in Southern California while completing extensive coursework in Visual Arts and History.

After graduating in 2003, Ekong completed a yearlong appointment as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Mexico City where she studied Latin American Literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and launched an independent community education project.

While gaining professional experience in admissions, international marketing, program development, and administration, Ekong studied Apparel Design at Seattle Central Community College in 2007 followed by doing contract fashion design and customised hand embroidery work.

Reflecting the diversity of her commitments, she joined in founding the Umojafest Peace Center in 2008 (a space for community engagement and activism), where she was Campaign Manager for candidate Wyking Garrett in the Seattle mayor’s race and Chair of the Ecojustice and Sustainability Committee.

Throughout her sojourn, Ekong has been a supporter of and participant in the arts: she worked as an Art Specialist and Site Manager at the City of Seattle Bath House Gallery and Event Center as well as a committed volunteer to organizations such as the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas.