Ayantunde Oyinbo: The German who speaks with Bata drums

NàìjáTreks: What is your original English name?

Ayantunde: I am not English. I am German. My German name is Anselm Ramacher. I was born in Remscheid, Northwestern Germany, I grew up in the south Germany small town of Wangen im Allgäu and I am living in the big city of Munich in Bavaria, South Germany.

When asked about his first encounter with the talking drum and what his experience was like, he suddenly replies in smooth Yoruba:

Ayantunde: Mo ti rí interest nínú ìlù Yoruba bi mo ti ndán African music wò ní orísirísi. Nítorí kòsí irú méjì bí ti ìlù Yoruba ní gbogbo Afrika (I stumbled on Yoruba drums while exploring African music, and I picked interest because I discovered there is no other like Yoruba drums in the whole of Africa).

I know about the Mandingo music of Guinea and Mali, as well as Ghanian Music and all the drums indigenous to Ghana; I am also aware of the Simbabwean drums and many other fascinating music and drum beats indigenous to different parts of Africa.

Nevertheless, a lot of white men have learnt the Djembe drums of Guinea, Senegal and Mali. I also know the Djembe, but it’s the Yoruba drums I love most. It is so fascinating to talk with drums., and the Yoruba people have developed great skills of talking with drums. I have fallen in deep love with the Bata drum. I also love some popular Nigerian music like Fuji, Juju and Apala.

NàìjáTreks: How did you learn the Yoruba language? How long did it take you to learn it and what were the major challenges you faced?

Ayantunde: Àkókó mo ti bèrèsí kó Yoruba fúnra mi (I learned it first by myself); and after some time I could refine it with speaking to the Yorubas in Nigeria and Germany. I had no particular teacher. Gbogbo Yoruba ni tísà mi (all Yorubas I meet are my teachers). Apart from the Yoruba people I met, different materials also helped me, such as learning books, Yoruba news papers, the Eléèrì Jìófà magazine (lol) and Yoruba-language movies.

I could relatively soon master some basic daily conversations in that language; it was initially difficult to understand the language and some Yoruba people joked with me. But I can say that I became more secure in Yoruba conversation in the year 2005, after 8 years of learning and experiencing the language.

Then I could answer very well and I am still good at it, although I keep learning more everyday. For example when I am on phone with my Master teacher of Drumming, Lamidi Ayankunle from Erin Osun, we have a lot of important things to discuss but our language is Yoruba and only 10% English. We understand each other very well.

Talking drum: Mo ngbádun ìlù Bàtá, Dùndún àti Gángan pèlu Sákárà gaan (I always enjoy Bata, Dundun, Gangan and Sakara drums). I just started 2 years before my first trip to Nigeria to learn from a German friend who has little basic knowledge and I also learned from a book, “YORUBA DUNDUN” by Muraina Oyelami , our friend who is a remarkable painter, musician and was till 1991, a lecturer of Drumming at University of Ife. It was with these I could get familiar with the first basic rhythms and musical pieces and talks.

I got familiar with the basic tone-system of the Dundun, Talking Drum (gangan) and of the Bata drums. It even helped me to learn Yoruba language on my own, because the drum is same as the human voice. I also realized how then Fuji-Juju musicians develop their great sounds.

NàìjáTreks: Why do you call yourself “Ayantunde Oyinbo”?

To clearify that, I did not choose the name Ayantunde. It was given to me when I had my Ayan-naming ceremony. The elders of Ile-Ayan prayed for me while I was kneeling in front of them and the spoke my Ayan-name out: “AYANTUNDE”. Then to announce myself on a business card or like in Facebook, it is a very simple logic that I call my self AYANTUNDE OYINBO ONILU, or just AYANTUNDE OYINBO.

NàìjáTreks: What do you think about the Yoruba culture and the encroachment of westernization?

It is not totally true that Westernization of Yoruba Culture only happens in the hands of Oyinbos. The first time I heard Yoruba music, I noticed a form of Westernization in Yoruba music itself. For example, King Sunny Ade plays the guitar. Also, to most Europeans, the most obvious African music are the modern popular musical forms of African music. Many bands are orchestrated like standard Rock/Jazz bands using Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, etc, or some Africans singing in English or French.

Nevertheless, I am not talking negative about it. Musicians like King Sunny Ade or Wasiu Ayinde creates their own unique rich styles of Modern Comtemporary African Music. I have no problem at all viewing how Africans use western items, technology etc. and Europeans too are partly trying to learn and get inspired by traditional African customs or musical instruments from Africa and mix it with their own ideas.

The world should be free. But apart from all that, I find it very important that authentic traditional forms of music should be preserved, like it is in the case of classical traditional Bata Drumming like I learnt it from Erin-Osun in Osun State, Nigeria, which is also very much intact in the neighbouring towns of Ede, Ode-Omu, Ikirun, Iragbiji as well as in Ibadan, Oyo and Iseyin (of Oyo State).

I will also like to say that I highly regard the Yoruba Culture as a noble Culture. It has even spread to the whole American Continent in form of the Ifa/Orisa-Religion and the musical items also are being adopted again in the Diaspora. I believe that ssome Yorubas are still aware of where they are coming from, even when they live in overseas. They are proud about their cultural heritage. They are also deeply religious and have deep moral, social and ethical values. Yorubas are generous and warm-hearted people, even towards foreign visitors.

NàìjáTreks: What advice will you give Nigerians about their culture and heritage?

My advice is that Yorubas of nowadays should keep a good knowledge of their own culture even if it is difficult for those who might have grown up in western countries. I have no doubt that the Yoruba Culture will be forever Yoruba Culture if old or new.

Although some Nigerians get carried with the Western culture; in music for example, Hip-hop is desired a lot in Nigeria, but good Ìjìnlè-Yoruba music still exists and will endure forever. I can only say: “Èyin Yoruba, E má lo nìsó béèèè. Mo like è béèèè”. That’s my answer, and I hope it is okay like that.

By Folarin Kolawole, www.naijatreks.com