What does Africa have to offer the world musically? A first time visitor to Nigeria might be surprised to hear more western pop and western-influenced music than traditional genres of Nigerian music on the radio. Indeed, the same situation exists in many other African cities. You turn on the radio and you are likely to hear the same sounds that are rocking America at that point in time. Of course if you searched deeper you would always find authentic Africa, on the streets as well as on some radio stations. Though the congregation is diminishing, the gospel according to Africa is still being spread by some faithfuls. It is possible to pretend to ignore the influence of the West. But I am not one of the advocates of cultural isolation. Instead I believe in cultural assimilation. Learn from the best of whatever from wherever. One of the beautiful things about creation is the diversity.
Although our culture has been debilitated by the all-pervading influence of western culture; a cultural colonisation, deliberate or otherwise, perpetuated by their economic power and the global reach of their mass media; it is still our responsibility, in spite of all odds, to ensure the survival of our rich cultural heritage and showcase it for the world at large. Ignorant cynics, some Africans inclusive, might wonder, “But what does Africa have to offer the world?” Those who have experienced true Africa know the unequivocal answer to that rhetoric.
From Bahia to Berlin, New York to Newcastle, I have come across audiences and musicians who are eager to learn about other cultures. Whenever, wherever we have the opportunity of conducting workshops about our music, the response is so enthusiastic that most times the workshops turn into full cultural exchanges. Oftentimes they are more enriching than even the concerts as we are able to provide answers to pertinent questions. Gradually it became clear that most of the time the subject ends up being the drums and rhythms of Africa. These experiences, over time, have reinforced my convictions about the power of African drums and their rhythms. The grooves are compelling. Yet we are ignorantly throwing these away at the expense of cliched drum machine betas. Even in the countryside and hinterlands where, erstwhile, our culture reigned supreme, one now hears traces of western influences as musicians claimed to “modernise”. But the power of the original grooves is undeniable, for wherever we perform, the mood becomes more boisterious as soon as we launch into African grooves.
I need to point out here that I use the term African more geographically than generically, because in pure terms it is almost meaningless to refer to “African” music or drums or grooves. There are too many diverse forms and genres in Africa. In Nigeria alone there are many more traditional styles and forms than there are ethnic groups and languages. Literally hundreds of styles. In fact one could spend his entire career on Yoruba music, for instance, and yet end up scratching only the surface. I simplify matters by using the term “African/Africano” in referring to all these genres of music/drums/grooves in Africa. Although much of the groove and music issues apply to Africa generally, I would use my specific roots, the Yoruba culture to demonstrate and communicate my concept and point of view. Much of the driving force of these twin albums might be the drums of the Yoruba, but in the long term, grooves and musical influences from all over Africa would emerge. Welcome to Africano.