Owe Ìlu (Drum Proverb) - Hard Work

Do things, don't just depend on hope/aspiration


From as early as I can remember, drums were "it" for me. I distinctly remember a picture of myself at age 3, masterfully obliterating a DreamWorks Shrek-themed drumset I got for Christmas. Countless "performances" in family talent shows. Scouring the web for solos and researching prices of sets.

It has always been an insatiable curiosity

As I've grown, my music interests have varied. I've explored piano and orchestration, bass guitar and even a lackluster attempt to learn trumpet in 4th grade band.

None of these hold a candle to my love for Yoruba drumming.

I can't explicitly recall my first exposure to the phenomenon, nor my shift from the traditional American drumset, but I haven't looked back.

For me, Yoruba drumming is the most physical, emotional, and intellectually stimulating hobby I have.

It's not just music; it's a form of storytelling, communication, and expression of social and personal values.

How does it work?

The Yoruba language is tonal, meaning the pitch or tone used when pronouncing a syllable can change the meaning of a word. There are three primary tones in Yoruba: high, mid, and low

  • These tones are crucial in determining the meaning of words in Yoruba. For example, the word "ok√≤" can mean "husband," "farm," or "shovel" depending on the tones used.

Yoruba drums are renowned for their ability to closely mimic the tonal language of the Yoruba people. My favorite is omele meta, from the Bata drum family.

Omele meta, through its three fixed pitches corresponding to the high, mid, and low tones of the Yoruba language, enable drummers to emulate speech by skillfully combining hits across these drums to mimic the tonal patterns and rhythms of spoken words.

In Yoruba drumming, drummers use the beats to share proverbs, tapping into rhythms that hint at well-known sayings, allowing those who know the culture to catch the deeper meanings and life lessons hidden in the music. I have spent years scouring, collecting, and decoding drum proverbs via research documents, multimedia, and most importantly, listening to artistes.

Training my ear to make out drum proverbs from songs has been a difficult, but incredibly rewarding challenge

There is a particular proverb I will highlight in this entry

Bi a ko ba reni fehin ti

Bi ole la ri

Bi a ko ba reni gbekele

A te ra mo se ni

Proverb of unknown origin

This is a classic proverb/poem about the importance of working hard/doing, not just believing. With the nature of proverbs, their origins are veiled in mystery

But as time progresses they are never forgotten ~

In some sense, I believe we are all proverbs.

Proverbs, who impart our knowledge in others, even if it is about ourselves

You may not be able to remember every proverb, while there are some you can never forget

You can "hear" a proverb once, and rarely ever again in your entire life

But as long as they have existed in this world

Someone remembered them




Strive to remember the proverbs in your life, who made you who you are today