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Yoruba’s Bata drum and the aesthetic value of culture

Nigeria is a diversified country with each of it over 350 ethnic groups having distinct cultural styles. These ethnic groups include; Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, Fulani, Tiv and so on.

The Yorubas are one of the largest ethnic groups and they are culturally endowed. Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ogun, Lagos Kwara (part of) are the Yoruba states in Nigeria. They are located in the country’ southwest. Each state has a culture peculiar to them.

Yorubas are known to be cultural, artful and spiritual. They are also lovers of tradition and this includes music and dance. They are great musicians, drummers and dancers. They use music as a means of conveying emotions like excitement, sorrow or pain.

Yorubas have various types of songs and drums. The drums are artistically carved from tree trunks with a hole in the middle, and this hole is later covered with membranes gotten from animal skin. Some of these drums include gangan (talking drum), saworoide, gbedu, ashiko and bata. Drums are differentiated by how they are made, by their history and by the sounds they make. 

Bata and history

Bata is a double-headed conical drum. Its creation dates to back 500 years ago when it was the favourite of the Yoruba deity Sango.

Associated with thunder, lightning, justice and dance, Sango reigned for seven years as the third Alaafin of Oyo. His wives included Queen Oshun, Queen Oba and Queen Oya. Sango is known to be a violent and powerful leader who loved intense dancing before going to war.

The popularity of bata is due to Sango’s love for rigorous drumming and dance. The deity rejected other drums brought to him claiming that they were too slow for him. But when the bata was beaten, he liked it.

The rigorous beating of bata fitted Sango’s violent personality whose reign ended due to a lightning incident after which people began worshipping him as a deity. He is still worshipped today on the fifth day of the week known as Ojo Jakuta, and with bata drumming and dance. 

Bata: the setup

Bata is usually made of conical wooden frames. The drum consists of four parts and they include iya ilu bata (“mother” bata drum), omele abo (“female” bata drum), omele ako (“male” bata drum) and kudi bata.

Omo iya ilu is the largest bata drum. It initiates the tune for the other three drums by bringing out long and complex variations. It is often decorated with bells and bronze caps (shaworo) that enhances the tune.

Omele abo is not as big as the iya ilu but it also has a nice tune. Next is the omele ako. It has three round faces and two leather straps hung around the neck of the bata drummer (alubata). It is smaller than omele abo but it has the highest tune amongst the four.

Kudu bata is the shortest but it has a very nice tune. 

Bata is played sitting down with the drum placed horizontally on the knees and the drummer plays with either the hand or bulala, a drumstick made from leather.

Different tones can be gotten by beating different parts of the drum and it is also used to communicate messages such as hope, divination, praise and war.

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The creation of bata is essentially for religious purposes but it is also presently used for entertainment purposes not only in Nigeria but also in Cuba and the United States.

The sound emanating from the drum is always exhilarating. It is also used for ceremonies such as Egungu festival which also require rigorous dancing.

Bata is an important cultural value in Yoruba land that can never go into extinction. 

Inioluwa Fadairo
Guest Writer at The Realm News

Inioluwa Fadairo is a student of Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan. She loves communication and is passionate about promoting the beauty of Yoruba culture.

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