The spring in President Muhammadu Buhari’s steps when he arrives the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja from major official trips may have to do with the sonorous rendition of the pipe band music by the Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army.
Pipe Major Chukwu Oba Kalu is the pipe instructor responsible for the incursion of this unique brand of Scottish music, bagpipe, into Nigeria.
Major Kalu set up the first indigenous bagpipe music band; Scottish Power Nigeria Limited, in 2011.
Kalu is excited that after long discussions and a bidding process which he won to train or supply the band’s equipment, the music has now been accepted in the Nigerian Armed Forces: the army, the air force and the police.
He believes that the prestige is good for the image of the country.
Presidents Donald Trump of USA, Emmanuel Macron of France, among others, love to be ushered in at events with bagpipe music, and Kalu is happy the Nigerian president is following suit.
He said, “Of all the past governments in Nigeria, President Buhari has used the bagpipe more. It has enhanced his outings; if not, I don’t think the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will also want to have this pipe.
“There is virtually no powerful country in the world today; whether America or Britain, that doesn’t have the pipe band existing in any of their regimental forces.
“In the case of Nigeria, what we are witnessing is the same thing in other countries where they have the bagpipe unit attached to their regimental forces and civilian organisations.
“So, on that note, the president should be able to feel the same way that other presidents of the world do when they are ushered in at functions using the pipe band.”
Kalu further said the bagpipe was a royal music and one of the oldest type of music in the world, and added that it had a calming effect to the soul and thus was therapeutic for the stressful activities of life.
He said it had a lot of prestige and instrumentation with the complex nature of its play.
“This is the only music you can learn how to play outside the instrument. What we call the Practice Chanter is the instrument you can use to learn how to play,” he said.
“In the case of NAF, we trained for more than two months with the Practice Chanter before we moved to the use of the Great Highlife Bagpipe (GHB) itself. So, it is a unique instrument that requires almost the same intelligence of a surgeon. It is also mathematical; it is so complex that except you follow the rules, you cannot play. It does not matter your physical size; it requires technique and discipline,” he said.
Since the music is traditionally Scottish, kilt is the major costume, which Kalu said the government should encourage its local production.
“The equipment is imported until such a time we are able to get a machine that can knead the fabrics up to six, seven-layer coatings. But we intend to do most of these things in Nigeria if we can get the support of the government and organisations that want to see this kind of music in Nigeria,” he said.
Kalu added that the music had potential to create jobs for the youths because of its uniqueness.
To achieve that, he has set up a music school in Karu area of Abuja for the youths.
“A bagpiper attracts people in any function. I am sure there are not up to three or four civilians playing this music in Nigeria. And because the instruments are very expensive, so also it is to contract a bagpiper to your ceremony. And I am not sure any bagpiper would not be able to make a living in Nigeria,” he said.