Ara – Enigma of the Talking Drum

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The talking drum is an hour-glass shaped drum of West African origin.  Called the Talking Drum because of its pitch range that mimics the tone of African languages, the drums were used in the days of old to carry messages across vast land areas. Due to its potency as a means of communication, the talking drum is considered the preserve of men and its art is guarded by myth and superstition.

Not anymore. Nigerian-born Aralola Olumuyiwa popularly known as Ara is the first female to play the talking drum openly. Says Ara: “I happen to be the first woman to break the jinx of the talking drum, being the first female talking drummer of repute. Women might have played it in the corner of their rooms, but they were not allowed to perform it in the public. The talking drum only became a musical instrument in recent times, as originally it was an instrument of communication

Ara first fell in love with the drums at an early age, pursuing her interest with vigor.  Soon her skill was noted and encouraged by school authorities.  Ara eventually dropped out of University to pursue her music career full-time and it was not long before she was discovered by Atunda Records, where her stage persona was created and carefully nurtured.

The talking drummer was self-taught on the instrument that would bring her international fame because she could find no one willing to risk breaking the myth of the art to teach a woman to play. In the end, her dogged pursuit and love for the drums broke through the barriers and with time and practice, followed fame and honor.

Fortuitously, her name Ara means wonder and the artiste has had the rare privilege of performing with her childhood role model and name sake: Stevie Wonder. She has performed all around the world and graced the presence of Monarchs and Presidents: notably former American President Bill Clinton and United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2011 11:23
Written by Lola Balola

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