Halimat Alabi Omotayo, aka Green Arrow, is a 26-year-old female drummer, dancer and singer, whose career part in the male-dominated industry had met stiff resistance from her mother, but the father was indifferent. The mother would later cave in but not without the blessing of the father.
At age 15, Omotayo, hanging on her father’s indifference, joined Theatre centric, an art group in Bariga, Lagos, to push her passion for drumming, singing and dancing.
The budding drummer, alongside her male colleagues, treated audience to an enthralling drum beats and dance performance at the recently concluded African Drum Festival in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
She was not alone, as many female drummers took their turns to entertain audience at the three-day cultural event. A number of females led their troupes from within and outside Nigeria, especially South African and Côte D’Ivoire. Ara (Thunder) and Any Onikoko are some of the top female drummers who performed at the festival.
Particularly, the Gifted Steppers and the Ekemini (from Akwa Ibom State) are groups of teenage boys and girls whose performances arrested the attention of the gathering, while it lasted.
A number of them told Daily Trust Saturday that passion and the need to make a difference keep them going in the industry.
Speaking with our correspondent, Omotayo described drumming as very challenging, saying she had rebuffed a lot of intimidation from male colleagues in the group, in an attempt to make headway.
“Drumming is very challenging. You have to be confident, be ready, smart, energetic and calculative to be part of the theatre world. It is more than being a doctor or lawyer because at every point, you have to be on speed and moving at the right time.
“In our world, there is no male or female; we are all equal. When they ask you to remove your clothes, you should not be shy. However, the perception of the society is different because most people feel that once you join a theatre group, you will become wayward and corrupt. That’s not true. When you get there, it’s a different ball game and it even depends on the kind of people you move with and their orientation,” she said.
Omotayo said she enjoys her career which has taken her to some parts of the world. “I make a lot of money from it. Art feeds me, cloths me, pays my school fees and so many other things.”
“At first, my mother rejected the move but later she told me to seek permission of my father. I decided to move on without telling my father even though I didn’t tell my mum that I did not inform my father.
“I started acting, drumming and singing at 15. I am 26 now. I have won many prizes. It comes from within. Anything you want to do, ask if your heart and mind can be part of it. If your heart and your mind are not in support of it, you can’t achieve anything. I am happy doing it.
“I have a lot of friends coming to join this group because of me. Anytime I dance, sing or drum, they get fascinated.”
For Juliet Echerebe, a 13-year-old female drummer from Imo State, she does not agree that drumming is a male thing. According to her, drumming is an interesting art which everybody should be part of, not minding the sex.
The teenager told Daily Trust Saturday that she had intentions to study law in the university, but now “I am planning to study theatre art.”
“I have found drumming very interesting; it is an art one can use to survive. I also enjoyed the drum festival because it’s an encouragement for people out there to be good in drumming.
“I’ve never seen drumming as a male thing because I have always loved drumming. You can drum anywhere because it is rhythm that makes people dance,” Juliet remarked.
On his part, 18-year-old Ogbonna Gideon from Ebonyi State, who is the oldest member of Gifted Steppers – a group of teen drummers, said “the world has moved from the era where people think only males should engage in drumming.”
However, a middle-aged woman, Omalicha Harrison who led Gifted Steppers to the festival, told our correspondent that the 23 teenagers who are members of the group, were picked from the street and nurtured through the art.
“I am giving back to the society through art. I am using art to nurture street kids. They are 23 in number and all of them live with me. Some of them are from very poor homes, some have no background and some were simply surviving on the streets. Instead of allowing them to waste away, I groom them through art, send them to school and accommodate them. I started the group two years ago and so far, God has been by our side.
“We have performed in different places. We don’t only dance and drum, we also model and are involved in beauty pageantry.”
Apparently thrilled by teenagers’ impressive outing, Governor Ibikunle Amosun pushed for inculcation of the knowledge of drums, its rhythm and tonality in children and the younger generation.
Amosun, who spoke at the sidelines of the festival, said he was happy that the program now has an intellectual angle.
He noted that drum plays an important role in “our everyday life as Africans,” adding that even beyond the continent, drum has its pride of place.
“I am happy that we are looking at the intellectual side of it so that we can inculcate drums, particularly in our children and generations yet unborn because these are legacies from our fore bearers. We don’t want to forget our identity, we don’t want to forget our past, we can do a lot with drums,” Amosun said.