Africano from Yorubano

My initial contact with groove was from Yoruba rhythms. I grew up with Yoruba music all around me. Naturally this formed the core of my first interest in drums and grooves. But having since discovered that much of what applies to Yoruba music can also be found in other Nigerian and indeed African languages and cultures I have taken the liberty to be inclusive and base my concept on Africa. Yoruba is also a natural launch pad for me because it comes naturally as it is also my first language. My mother tongue. However, my love for African music and an understanding of the traits that bind them together propel my interest in exploring beyond my Yoruba roots.

Beyond West Africa, this powerful culture, Yoruba, surmounted all odds to survive several hundred years of brutal suppression across the oceans. The language is still spoken and the culture practiced today in Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago amongst others. In West Africa, Nigeria and Benin Republic are the two major homes of the Yoruba culture.

Specifically, in Nigeria, the Yoruba culture has produced many varied contemporary forms and great musicians. Indeed several contemporary music styles, some of which have become world renowned, owe their roots to traditional Yoruba music. Afrobeat pioneered by Fela Anikulapo Kuti; Juju exempified by Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and I.K. Dairo; Afrojuju pioneered by Shina Peters; Fuji by Ayinde Barrister, Kollington Ayinla, Wasiu Ayinde, Abass Akande, Adewale Ayuba, Wasiu Alabi amongst others; Waka championed by Salawa Abeni and Batile Alake; Apala spearheaded by Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura; Sakara exemplified by Yusuf Olatunji; Highlife which is reputed to have emanated from Ghana took a peculiar tinge in the hands of Ambrose Campbell, Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, Chris Ajilo, Roy Chicago, Herbert Ogunde and Adeolu Akinsanya amongst others;

All these great musicians and their musical forms had their roots in Yoruba traditional music. The musicians went in different directions at different times but the results still had enough of the traditional grooves of the Yorubas.

Apala, sakara and fuji were originally performed with voice and traditional percussions only. Totally acoustic, they were completely devoid of western instruments. These styles were dominated by drums of different types and sounds. Over time exponents of fuji, the youngest and currently most popular of the three, have introduced western pop instruments like the drum kit, keyboards, guitar, bass, saxophone etc.

Juju musicians have always used western instruments. Guitars were most prominent, but the groove was still undeniably Yoruba. An introduction of the drum kit into juju polarised the groove at some point when it took over as the groove dictator. But when the trap drum was introduced into fuji it was initially played as just another drum. It was not the groove maker. It sort of blended with all the "senior drums" it met. It coloured the sound and added some spice but the total groove of the fuji musician was still forthrightly Yoruba. Anyhow, when the juju masters had their drum breaks the western drum kit took a back seat. The talking drums once again became the undisputed masters.

Other great Yoruba musicians like Tunji Oyelana, Segun Bucknor, Johnny Haastrup, Orlando Julius, Hakeeb Kareem, Jimi Solanke and Peter King produced other unique hybrids. Steve Rhodes transcended his roots to create different formats including choral and big band. Scholars like Akin Euba and Ayo Bankole have applied Western classical knowledge to create yet other Yoruba rooted music. And there is the organ music of Fela Sowande from a much earlier era. And it goes without saying that Babatunde Olatunji's drums first awakened the ears of America to our drum heritage.

It is this same rich Yoruba roots that is the major influence on my music. Apart from continually learning a lot of different things from these great masters, I have also chosen to return to the traditional roots where the wealth of knowledge is inexaustible. I grew up with traditional Yoruba music and this is where the inspiration for Africano, came from.

The Drum