In those days, when there was nothing like the modern stage which we have today. I mean, modern stage with light effects, props and costumes to enhance theatrical performance, the talking drummers were always having their ways at shows putting up shows that were always attracting their audience from everywhere. No modern buildings called theatres today that time. Their shows were always put up on the roads and streets.
They were unique in both drumming and singing at the same time which is lacking in our today's young talking drummers. The talking drummers then had access to oral tradition which they made use of quite a lot during their performance. As a matter of fact, they were very deep rooted in oral tradition hence they would be chanting, singing and drumming at the same time using the three qualities to woo and enhance their performance.
What is known as Rara today started with the talking drummers. What is Rara? It is a Yoruba term used to the describe the 'call and respond style' used most often during their musical shows. The drummer beats something on his drum and he uses his mouth to interpret it. This style is very common in music today and it has become a universal acceptance in music.
Rara was the style used in those days by versatile talking drummers to make their performance magical and thrilling whenever they needed to do it.
Their instruments are namely Gudugudu, Omele Ako, Omele Abo and Iya Ilu. The ensemble perform for kings, chiefs, marriages, namings e.t.c. Sometimes, a man playing the big maracas with the drummers is made to interpret what the talking drummers are saying. He chants, sings and dances to uniquely statue the all attentive audience watching and enjoying their performance with keen interest. But all in all, it still falls within what is known as Rara today.
In one of my musical works, I made use of the 'call and respond style' from the beginning of the song to the end. Rara is depicted in our rendition of the song. This is to show the beauty of Rara in song writing, composing and singing. This video explains it better.
Conclusively, Rara is a musical style which musicians are consciously or unconsciously using today. And homage should be paid to the travelling drummers who started it a long time ago. We pay homage to the first talking drummer! Agalu a gbe wa o!! Ase!!!
By Olalekan Oduntan