How to Play the Talking Drum in Seven Days

How to Play the Talking Drum in Seven Days
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DJ Irawo


Drum Jamming Irawo is a Drummer, Singer, Songwriter, Disc Jockey, Blogger and Music Business Coach.

Her major musical instrument is the Gangan Talking Drum which originates from the Yoruba tribe of Western Nigeria.

She sings in the English and Yoruba languages and in the folk and electronic dance music (EDM) genres of music. She calls her brand of music ECLECTICA.

As a DJ, she performs all genres of music.

She performs her talking drum solo on her live DJ set or with a live band.  

She started drumming on table tops, wardrobe doors and conga drums when she was ten years old and in the boarding school.

In 1994, she joined the drumline of the Boys Brigade of Nigeria and majored on the snare drums.

In 2004, she graduated from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye with a second upper division in accounting. In addition, she has two diplomas and professional certifications in accounting. She worked as a marketer and the head of internal audit for some financial institutions before focusing on her music career.

In 2005, she began her music career professionally after her mother taught her how to play the talking drums. She learnt more about the art from other talking drummers.

In 2007, she was awarded a scholarship to study music at the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) in Lagos. She majored on the drum set and graduated with a distinction.

In 2009, she registered with the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) as a songwriter. In 2021, she registered with the same organization as a Music Publisher. In 2009, she learnt how to play the violin at the Baptist Church Music Camp and Music School.

In 2010, she founded Drumline Entertainment.

In 2012, she wrote the book: HOW TO PLAY THE TALKING DRUM IN SEVEN DAYS. She organized her first talking drum workshop. She won the Christmas Magic Contest in a charity concert organized by the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) and the Art Colony International by performing classical and jazz music compositions. She competed with a pianist, a violinist, a tenor singer and a quartet of clarinetists. She also earned a certificate in entrepreneurship from the Edge Business School, Lagos.

In 2014, she was made a talking drum ambassador by Intro Afrika, organizers of the Yoruba Drum Festival.

In 2015, she was selected as one of the six Nigerian DJs who toured Lagos and Abuja to introduce the electronic dance music genre of music into Nigeria via the Electronic Soundscape Music Production and Live DJ Project. These events were sponsored by Goethe Institut, Lagos, Alliance France, Lagos and Institut France, Abuja, Nigeria. DJ Irawo was the only female DJ on this project.

In 2018, she earned a certificate in intellectual property law from Harvard Law School, USA. She also earned a certificate in Prince2 Project Management from Agile P3 Consulting, Lagos.

In 2022, she was bestowed with the title of Ayan Agalu Amazon by the Ooni of Ile Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) at the Ayan Agalu Festival, 2022.

DJ Irawo has performed at several jazz festivals, art festivals, drum festivals, music concerts, club raves, musical theatre performances and private events.

She has also taught several children and adults in schools, private classes and corporate drumming sessions the art of playing the talking drums and the music business.

She is working on her thirteen-track debut album which will be released on January 1, 2023.

Please, follow Irawo Oluwakemi Famugbode AKA DJ Irawo on the internet via the following links:

Facebook = @djirawodrums

Instagram = @djirawodrums

Tiktok =      @djirawodrums

Blog =


by Joe Agbro Jr

October 18, 2015

For The Nation on Sunday


Many drummers realize that they have drumming talents from tapping on wood. Such was the case of Oluwakemi Famugbode-Adetula. She started drumming at age ten when she was a student of the Lagos State Modele College, Badore, Ajah, Lagos State. As a border, the table tops and wardrobes were outlets that she used in horning her drumming skills.


“People liked it,” said Oluwakemi, who was also in the school’s chorale group and dance theatre. “It was just a hobby. I used to drum for my friends.”


However, the urge to pursue the hobby took another dimension after she finished secondary school. She joined the Boys’ Brigade of Nigeria at St. John’s Anglican Church, Satellite Town Lagos where she and her family worshipped. This time, she played the snare and tenor drums. It was then that her parents knew that she played the drums. Her dad was even pulled in to become one of the patrons of the Boys’ Brigade.


“My members always wanted me to play with them because anytime I am with they make more money because our audiences are always thrilled to see a female drummer,” Oluwakemi recollects of her time with the Boys’ Brigade. “I play the snare drum and stand at the front of the band.”


In fact, the latter part of her name, Irawo Drumline, came from that stint. “The tenor drum, snare drum, bass drum, hi-hats and triangle make up the drumline.”


All this while, she had not yet gotten admission to a higher institution. She later studied accounting at Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos but continued rehearsing with the Boys’ Brigade. After that, she got admission to study accounting at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun Stat.


She met her husband in 1995 while still playing in the Boys Brigade and they got married in 2002. She became Mrs Adetula.


From Accountancy to Playing Drums

Having trained as an accountant, Oluwakemi worked intermittently between 1997 and 2012 in the corporate world but she wasn’t fulfilled. “I hated Mondays. I do not like traffic and usually most of the jobs that I got were on the Island and I lived on the Mainland.”


It was time to become an entrepreneur. The mother of three boys started her own accounting firm, Axiom Corporate, in 2013, after giving birth to her last child. “It was to help SMEs,” she said. Later, she relaxed on it. 

Earlier on, she had started Drumline Entertainment in 2007 while at the music school but did not have the business registered until 2010.


According to her, “People were not taking the accounting business serious because she was combining accounting and music.” 

She decided to merge the accounting side of the business with Drumline Entertainment. 

“Under Drumline now, I have the accounting aspect where I consult for music and creative industry people,” she said. “I do accounting service for people in that area because they now take me serious. I stopped Axiom Corporate but I cannot stop music for 



While the school has started with teaching drumming, it will kick off fully in January 2016 and dovetail into teaching other aspects of the music as well as the business side of it. 

“We’ll teach how creative people should account for their business and all those things that are not really taken seriously by creative alongside music.”


It has been a winding journey for Oluwakemi. After graduating from the university, she participated in the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps in Lagos. During that period, she took part in music and drumming. 

“I was in the Lagos State Cultural Troupe. I played the talking drum as well. We represented Lagos State at the annual NYSC cultural competition in Abuja in 2006.”

Though her troupe didn’t win the competition, the experience was a baptisimal  of sorts for Oluwakemi. “That was the first time that I would perform with the talking drum,” she said. “I wasn’t an expert then because I was still learning.”


It would take seeing Ara and Ayanbirin, two contemporary female drummers, to set Oluwakemi back to her love. “I said to myself, ‘This is what I want to do!’” she recalled.


An opportunity presented itself when she saw an advert for scholarship to study music at the Pencil Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) in 2007. She applied for it and got the scholarship. One student was to be chosen for each department available. She got the scholarship for music.


She said that before getting the scholarship, she had always been curious about how the talking drum made music. Her mother taught her the rudiments of playing it and then she went further to learn it professionally from Mr Taiye Alujo, a talking drum expert, who she says is still her mentor.


“It took me six months to learn the rudiments,” said Oluwakemi. “It took me three years to become perfect. The learning process continues. I always learn something new every day. I still learn idioms, proverbs, panegyrics (oriki) of a particular town. For example, if I want to praise someone from Ijebu or someone from Ilesa, it is a technical process.”


While the Gangan is seen as Yoruba musical instrument, Oluwakemi has deployed it to jazz which has led to a misconception about her style of music.


“People believe that because I play the talking drum, it is a cultural instrument and must be played in the traditional way but to me, it is not a cultural instrument. It is just like any other musical instrument but because they are older than I am, I do not argue with them.”


At PEFTI, Oluwakemi learnt the theory of music, drums set and song composition. However, she discovered that playing the drums set will put her in the background as she would have to play for other musicians. It was not a position that she cherished because she also wanted to write songs and sing. With the talking drum, a player stayed in the front of a band.

“I wanted to stay where people would see me and where I could also dance with the drum. This is why I chose the talking drum as my major musical instrument. Apart from this, I wanted an instrument that could give me a melody like the violin.”


Though Oluwakemi learnt how to play the violin afterwards, in 2009, she adopted the talking drum as her choice instrument to play jazz music.


Becoming Irawo

She had wanted to use her name but at music school during her graduating performance at PEFTI, that changed. When asked her name, she simply said, “Oluwakemi Adetula.” The manager thought that her name was boring considering her sterling performance. She thought of how people came out to see her when she plays her drum. “It is like coming out to check a shooting star. This is how I feel when I play my drum. The talking drum is a star that brings people out to come and watch me.” Irawo means ‘star’ in the English language. Hence, she became Irawo Drumline, a name that she has adopted for her brand.


Recently, she held a talking drum workshop where she played some classical pieces from Beethoveen, Victor Uwaifo (Joromi), Osita Osadebe (Osondi Owendi) with the talking drum. “I cut across all languages,” she said. “We cannot go far if we keep on saying that the talking drum is only for the Yoruba. It has to be contemporary and that is what I use it for; as a jazz musical instrument.”


Finance as the Challenge

Though enmeshed in full time drumming and a music training outfit, Drumline Entertainment, Oluwakemi says, “It has not been easy. It is more of an advocacy job that I am doing now. It is not lucrative for now. People are still trying to see, ‘Okay, what is she doing?’ I believe that by the time I release my album and shoot some music videos and promote them, people will understand exactly what I do.”


Like many small ventures, Oluwakemi says finance has been the greatest hurdle that she has to deal with so far. “When I go for events, people would not want to pay. They would say that they are promoting me.”


After being in the industry for a while and attending professional meetings like the recently concluded Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) conference on digital marketing in in Lagos, Oluwakemi knows better.


“At a point in time, we should draw a line between when we get paid and when we are being promoted,” she quips.


“People don’t want to pay for intellectual property but we need to get paid because without money, we would not be able to create more music and without music, other things will not flow in this world.”

Author: Goodlife Promotions

Date:     September 22, 2015


IRAWO DRUMLINE, born Oluwakemi Bamidele Famugbode, is a soul-jazz musician, drummer, singer, drum instructor, songwriter and live DJ. 

Her major musical instrument is the gangan, a popular Yoruba musical instrument also known as the talking drum. Read more...


Author: Namang Banang 

Date: June 16, 2015

Talking drum has been one of the oldest form of Nigerian music instrument, mostly played by the Yoruba people of the Western part of Nigeria.

In this photo, the old piece of music instrument was handled by a female DJ by the name Irawo Drumline who combined live performance with her song mixing.

Read more.


It was amazing to watch her synchronize the two together.



By Ebere Ameh

March 28, 2014

For New Telegraph


When at a young age, Oluwakemi Famugbode-Adetula started beating on tables and other surfaces producing various sound and familiar beats, she had no inkling that she would be a professional drummer that she is today. A graduate of accountancy, she is not only an expert in beating all kinds of drums, she wants to take the talking drumming to a whole new level.


Singer, dancer, songwriter and drummer, Famugbode-Adetula, indeed a multi-talented artiste who is in tune with and enjoys what she is doing. Popularly called ‘Irawo’ from her stage name ‘Irawo Drumline’.


Explaining the meaning of her stage name, she says “‘Irawo’ means ‘star’. It means somebody that is different. When the three wise men needed to see Jesus, they were led by a star to where he was. What happens now is that people say, “Obirin n lu ilu!” (A woman is drumming!) and they all come out to watch me. My drum is the Irawo because that is what is bringing the people to see me. I also call myself Irawo because I am different. I decided to add Drumline to make for a better identification.”


A graduate of accountancy from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Irawo was doing well as the head of audit in a financial institution before she decided to find her way back to music, her first love.


“I studied accountancy for my parents, especially my dad. He is a quantity surveyor and one of those who insist that their children must be doctors and lawyers. We did his bidding but none of us practices what we studied in school. I have no regrets though because I have my own accounting firm and I remain an accountant even though I have decided to go professional with my music.”


Call hers a family of talents and you won’t be far from the truth. While she is into music, her sisters, Tolulope, who studied business administration and Ibilola, who studied law, are now big time jewellery and embroidery designers.


Her sons are not left out. Oluwademilade plays the piano, conga and guitar and Oluwaferanmi is a drummer and recorder player. The youngest of them all, Olasubomi loves to sing.

 “However, in the midst of all these talents, my husband loves to sing off-key most of the time.”Irawo says humorously.


Wondering where all that rich talent came from, Kemi explained that her mother, despite being a nurse, was also a fashion and jewellery designer and musician too.


Talking about her husband who is a public relations practitioner, she said that he is yet to fully support her foray into the music industry.

“He is still on the fence because he feels that all married musicians are promiscuous and they end up with marital crises but I want to prove him wrong that it is not all married musicians that have marital crises. I have promised him that I will be scandal free. I have told him that I want to eat my cake and have it. I want to keep my marriage and also be successful in my music career,” she said enthusiastically.


From beating on the tables and surfaces, Irawo progressed to learning how to play other musical instruments. Now, she is the founder of the Drumline Band, an eight-man band that boasts of playing other musical instruments in addition to the talking drums.


“It was an adventure for me to pick the drum and learn it. It started with the table, then the conga drums, then other percussion instruments. After my secondary school, I joined the Drumline of the Boys’ Brigade where I played the snare drum. I could play all of the drums but I chose the snare drum because of its versatility. From there, I moved on to playing other kinds of percussions like ekwe and djembe and then the talking drum.


From a historical perspective, the talking drum, also known as the Dundun, in the Yoruba language was beaten by griots who were usually men. It is one of the most ancient musical instruments used by the Yoruba and a few tribes in West Africa. It mimics the sound of the human voice and can be used to converse and reproduce songs. With globalization and civilization coupled with the realization that whatever a man can do, a woman can do it better, a couple of women have dared the tradition to venture into playing the talking drum. The talking drum is no longer played by men alone or for deities and at traditional ceremonies. These ladies are revolutionizing the talking drum.

“The talking drum is a cultural musical instrument which signifies the rich culture of the Yoruba people and I want to promote it. That is why I am incorporating it into the kind of music that I do. I call my kind of music contemporary jazz. The jazz fusion that I do is a combination of different kinds of music like reggae, pop and the rest but the main thing about my music is that it is done with the accompaniment of the talking drum. I also use the talking drum to play classical music. My aim is to promote it beyond the African setting. I want it to be a universal musical instrument just as we have the guitar, the violin, the djembe and other musical instruments,” she said.


Irawo got so fascinated with the talking drum when she listened to juju and fuji music but according to her, she got captured with the sound of the talking drum after she listened to songs by Majek Fashek who has a way of infusing the sound of the talking drum into his reggae genre of music. Irawo believes that if he could do it successfully, then the talking drum could be used to accompany and enrich any genre of music.


“Initially, the reception was very poor for me because people did not understand what I was up to. I got rejections from a couple of managers who wondered how I could create and perform soul, pop and even reggae genres of music and infuse the talking drum into them. They felt that I should play a guitar or piano instead. They also suggested that I left song writing and drumming for folklores, chanting and Yoruba poetry (ewi) but that is not what I want. One of them told me that the talking drum is too local. Now, people are beginning to appreciate my kind of music. When I do jazz and pop and other genres of music with my talking drum, the youths get excited and are encouraged to learn how to play it.”


Irawo has used her multiple talents to raise money for charities. She is involved in a program called Touching Lives with Aunty Wunmi. She dances, sings and raises money for charity. Now, she has gone professional and gets requests from individuals and organizations to play or compose songs to capture the theme of their events and also perform for them.


“I just finished a project with Mr Larri Williams. I played the percussions on his poems; Eko Lagos and Barrack Obama. I am partnering with some corporate organizations with corporate retreats via our corporate drumming services.


Different individuals and organizations invite me to perform for them and I can say that people are beginning to accept my kind of music.


Irawo, who studied music at the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) of the Wale Adenuga fame between 2007 and 2008 on scholarship and graduated with a distinction said she knew that she was doing the right thing when she started receiving awards and acclaims.


“I won the Magic Contest organized by ArtColony International at MUSON Centre in December 2012. I competed with four other instrumentalists; a pianist, a tenor singer, a violinist and a quartet of clarinettists. We performed classical and jazz pieces. When I won the competition, I knew that I was doing the right thing."


Talking about her plans for the future, Irawo says, “I plan to travel wide propagating and teaching the talking drum. It is a unique musical instrument which can only be played live to get the best sound. People have tried to put the sound in applications but it is not as good as the live sound which gives a variation of sound.


‘Some time ago, full-fledged Americans came to Nigeria to study the Yoruba language. Fascinated by the talking drums, they said they would come back to learn it. All these show the uniqueness of the talking drum and I am set to promote it.


‘I am a go getter. I set out to achieve results and I do not get discouraged by obstacles in my way. I believe that with God, all things are possible.”

DJ Irawo


By Karen Eloke Young

December 23, 2012

For THISDAY, The Sunday Newspaper

A charity Christmas concert held in Lagos seeks to raise funds for primary schools. Karen Eloke Young savours the delight for this recent event.


Music expresses so many things that cannot be said, that cannot remain bound in silence.


Without music, life would be a dreary and numb existence and there is no time as appropriate for the celebration of music than the yuletide season.


With the dry breeze of harmattan slowly making its way to this part of the country and the smell of Christmas already mingling with the anticipation of celebration in the air, ArtColony International made good their promise to thrill all in their Christmas Magic Goodwill concert.


Christmas Magic was born from the desire to use the arts to promote social awareness as well as to provide a means to creatively initiate sustainable and well needed development in at least one community every year.


Effectively combining both prime entertainment, promotion of young talented artistes as well as community development, Christmas Magic embraces a concert-competition format with an altruistic view.


The first edition of Christmas Magic which was held two years ago in 2010 generated a lot of positive feedback which encouraged its organizers to make a commendable effort to keep the show running over the years.


However, being the first of its kind in this part of the country it failed to generate any funds but ArtColony International was not deterred by this setback. It stayed true to its mission and established a relationship between the chosen community, Makoko and Kunle Adeyemi (of NLE Architects) in a bid to improve the facilities of Whanyinna Community School in Makoko, Lagos State.


In the subsequent year (2011), Christmas Magic showed a noticeable greater promise and a more varied audience with the introduction of a new segment as well as an income of fifty thousand Naira (N50,000) that obviously did not meet all of their needs. Still undeterred, the money was put to use in supplying five computer systems to the chosen community which was SOS Children’s Village, Isolo, Lagos State.


In the year 2012, ArtColony International held steadfast to their focus, which is the education sector but this time their objective was to raise one million naira towards the improvement of literacy within selected primary institutions in Lagos State. Their choice of primary school education is premised on the understanding that it forms the basic foundation for learning. Besides this, it is also their way of contributing to the attainment of the second item of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals in our society, which simply put, is the achievement of universal primary education.


The event, which was held on Saturday December 15, 2012 at the Agip Recital Hall of MUSON Centre was hosted by Ben Ogbeiwi and it was arguably an enliving occasion that featured seasoned performers representing five community schools in Lagos State. While it seemed like a competition, it really wasn’t as Suzie-May Ogunseitan, the artistes, programmes and events officer of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) explained. “This is but a fore-taste of the school’s art competition scheduled to commence next year being hosted by the same organization (Art Colony International). However, two contestants will be announced as the winner of the Magic Contest.”


The community schools represented in the competition were: Oluwole Primary School, Akoka Primary School, Military Primary School, National Primary School and Herbert Macaulay Primary School.


To ensure the successful implementation of the final project, ArtColony International worked with already established foundations dedicated to primary education and their focus was to contribute to school renovation/restoration, supply of school furniture for the teachers and the restoration of basic amenities such as restrooms in the school.


Representing these five community schools were Oluwakemi Adetula AKA Irawo on the talking drum, Guchi Egbunine for vocals, Uduak Nsehe on the piano, Emmanuel Fagbohun on the violin and the Premier Clarinet Quartet.


The judges for the night’s contest were Mrs Olufunmi Olajoyegbe (Olufunmi), Mr Seun Owoaje and Babatunde Sosan.


To get an idea of how impressive these representatives are in their different genres of music, one simply has to have a brief knowledge of their talents.


Kemi, also known as Irawo, began her journey into professional music in 2006 after she graduated from the Olabisi Olabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State with a second class upper in accounting and subsequently gained a scholarship to study music at the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) where she graduated with a distinction.


Kemi, whose genre of music is afrojazz, finds her sound in the percussion family. She plays the talking drums, drums set, djembe, conga and other percussive instruments.


On that night, Kemi treated the audience to a spectacular display of her talking drum prowess and also displayed her ability to diversify when she gave her contemporary performance to the accompaniment of the piano.


Next, is Guchi Egbunine who is regarded as the one of the most brilliant and flexible tenors in Nigeria today. A graduate of music from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Guchi’s vocals rivals only the perfection of angels. The roar of applause after his two performances on the night of the event was a decisive acknowledgement of his immense talent.


The confidence of the next performer was immediately evident as he walked across the stage and took his seat behind the piano. Uduak Nsehe, a recent graduate of communications, public relations from Daystar University, Kenya, is what can be described as a self-taught musician whose love for music and the piano in particular has led him to great heights.


Though he takes playing the piano seriously, he maintained a curious playfulness that endeared him to the audienceon that night. His classical and contemporary performance on that night was worthy of praise.


On the violin was Emmanuel Fagbohun, a musician who is gradually making his way to becoming one of the most renowned violinists in the country. Though Emmanuel started his journey into music in 1999 as a member of his church choir, his violin lessons began two years later under Segun Daniels. In 2005, he joined the MUSON Symphony Orchestra under the directorship of Dr Paul Konye. He graduated in 2009 with a MUSON diploma in Violin.


Last but not the least in the contest was the Premier Clarinet Quartet made up of Jesuseun Onifade (first clarinet), Folasade Ajibade (second clarinet), Victor Egbuna (third clarinet), Babalola Olusegun (bass clarinet).


Made up of individuals who have excelled as soloists, this quartet gave a brilliant performance that wowed the audience.


It really was a tough one for the judges but in the end violinist Emmanuel Fagbohun representing National Primary School won the Most Entertaining Act while Oluwakemi Adetula AKA Irawo won the Christmas Magi.


It wasn’t all about the contest on the night of the Christmas Magic Concert. There were also special performances by Scotland born Norman MacLeod, an accomplished piper in his own right who broke new grounds on the Nigerian contemporary music scene playing the highland bagpipes.


Seasoned gospel singer and vice president of the Society for Performing Arts, Olufunmi, also gave a beautiful performance that night.


Overall, it was a night that would resonate in the memories of all that were present thanks to the support of the MUSON Centre and UBA and we cannot help but commend ArtColony for putting together a spectacular show. We wish the organization greater heights.


By Ahaoma Kanu

November 23-29, 2009

For National Daily


Lagbaja can do wonders with his saxophone and D’Banj thrills with his harmonica but you need to hear Irawo get her talking drum to sing out melodies with dexterity and a sense of fufillment that only passion can give. Little wonder Oluwakemi Adetula dropped her job as an accountant to pick up her drum and pursue a career in music. In this chat with Ahaoma Kanu, she explains why she took that decision and her plans to take drumming to the younger generation.

You always move around with your talking drum inside your handbag. Is that how precious the drum is to you?

Yes, it is very precious to me and I like to be identified with it. Also there might be moments when I need to get it out to exhibit what I am known for. So, I carry it everywhere. It is portable and I can put it in my bag.

How do people react to it when you bring the drum out of your bag?

People are surprised. They wonder what a woman is doing with a talking drum and they ask me if I can play it. I kill their curiosity by playing it.

Take us back into your early days to your involvement in music.

I am Oluwakemi Bamidele Famugbode. I am married to Adewale Adetula. We have two lovely boys together. My musical career started while I was in the nursery school. I took part in all music activities like the Christmas carols, Easter Fiesta and so on. I continued to exhibit my talents in the primary school where I participated in cultural dances. I was involved in the Yoruba, Hausa, Efik and Edo cultural dances. The Igbo cultural dancers did not allow me to join in their dances. That was my first experience with tribalism. I was six years old.

When did the attraction to drumming come?

It came when I was in Junior Secondary School One at Lagos State Model College, Badore. However, our temporary school site was at Government College, Ketu, Epe. It was a mixed boarding school. While we were about to attend our first social night, power went off and we were in darkness. We improvised by lighting candles and lanterns. The seniors started beating melodies on the tables and singing songs. When they got tired, there was a need for someone to continue. I felt that I could do it better. So, I took over the drumming from the senior student, Senior Chioma, from Lagos State Model College, Igbonla. My performance was so cool that I got the nickname, ‘Kemi the Drummer Girl’. From there, I was contracted anytime there was a birthday celebration by a mate or senior. For my service, I was paid a plate of jollof rice asides from the party goodies.  I drummed on classroom desks, dining hall tables and hostel wardrobe doors. I was also a member of the school chorale and performing arts group. I also directed choreographies for social nights and operated as a music curator by calling on my classmates to come and listen to their favourite songs on my radio which I sneaked into the hostel on resumption days. After secondary school, I joined the Boys’ Brigade of Nigeria in my Anglican Church in order to have a chance to beat the drums with boys instead of joining the Girls’ Brigade. I started playing the talking drum in 2006 and I represented my community development group as a member of the Lagos State Dance Troupe in the National Youth Service Commission competition that was held in Abuja in 2006 during my service year. Before playing the talking drum, I used to play the akuba and conga drums.

Did you undergo any training or you taught yourself?

My mother was my first talking drum teacher. When I decided to go professional, I hired two talking drum teachers. Mr Taiye Alujo taught me how to play the Gangan talking drum while Mr Tajudeen, Sunny Nneji’s talking drummer, taught me how to play the iya ilu.

When did you purchase your first talking drum?

I purchased my first talking drum in 2006 for N7,000.

I was made to understand that you studied accounting. Why did you leave a white collar job for drumming and how did your parents feel about it?

I studied accounting and graduated with a second class upper. I also wrote professional examinations in accounting and almost completed the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) before I decided to give it up for music which is my first love. I worked with Access Bank PLC as a youth corps member as a marketer and transaction officer. Then I worked with Hazanwao Microfinance Bank Limited as the head of internal audit. Then I worked with Cashlink PLC as the head of internal audit. I left the job for audit and my parents were not pleased with me especially my father who felt that he had invested so much in training me but I have always wanted to be in the arts. I have more passion for the arts. He thought that I should still hold on to my job but I was not able to combine my 9 to 5 job with the home front. So, I decided to quit my job and face my music career. I was chocked up and needed to focus.

How far did your husband feel about it?

He was uncomfortable with me being on stage and people when he saw the commendation that I got from my audience, he relaxed about it and let me be.

Your stage name is Irawo. How did that name come about?

Irawo means ‘star’. I liken to Jesus who is referred to as the bright morning star. I got the inspiration for that name from the biblical story of the visit of the three wise men who were led by the star to Jesus’ manger where he was born. I liken the star to myself. The music that I make leads people to my drum when they come to watch a woman perform the talking drum with dexterity.

Some of the females that took into drumming went so far in recognition and acceptance but simply could not cope with being on top of their game. Are you scared that this might happen to you?

I am not scared of going into oblivion because drumming is what I have been doing since I was a child. I can play the drum without anyone backing me up. I am confident and I believe that I will still be drumming even when I am sixty years old and above.

There is this other fear that discourages ladies from drumming which is the fear of developing biceps as a result of the constant movement of the arms. Have you heard about that?

Yes, I have heard about that but that does not bother me. I am aware that drumming involves a lot of energy. I am also aware that drumming can keep me fit. If the biceps will keep me fit, I do not mind it at all.

What reactions do you get from fellow drummers of the opposite sex?

I get encouragement from them. Some of them marvel at what I can do with the talking drum. Being a member of the Association of Percussionists of Nigeria helps me a lot in this regard. The association is dominated by men but they are happy to associate with me and provide me with the necessary support at all times.

Which shows have you performed at?

Before I decided to go professional with drumming, I used to perform in church, weddings and family celebrations. Watch out for me as the sky is my take off point.

Let’s hear about your two debut singles.

The two debut singles that are on air right now are Ijo Ope and Believe in Yourself. Ijo Ope is thanking God for everything. It is my thanksgiving song for everything that he has done for me. I have been able to finish my education with flying colours. I am married with two children. God has been blessing me and I need to specially thank him with that song. Believe in Yourself is the first song that I composed after I stopped composing rap songs. It is an inspirational song that encourages us to stop procrastinating and go on to achieve whatever one sets one’s mind to do.

Is music the only thing that you are involved in?

Yes, music is the only thing that I do but in different areas. Apart from performing music, I partner with the Down Syndrome Association of Nigeria where I teach children how to play hand drums. I have always wanted to help children with special needs after I read in the newspaper that many of them are gifted in the arts. I went there, had a discussion with the director, Mrs Mordi and I started teaching them. Also, I have a teaching programme for pupils and students in the primary and secondary schools where I teach those who have an interest in drumming on how to drum.  For any school that is interested, I will send a proposal and we will take it from there.

What are your prospects for the music industry?

I will like to teach drumming even as I soar in my career as a musician. I love children a lot. I have been a Sunday teacher for a long time. The project that I have right now is the teaching of talking drum and dance and storytelling of folktales. This project will come into forms; the cultural and contemporary songs, drums and dance projects.


By Jibola Oyekunle

Sunday, July 19, 2009

For National Life 

She may be the next marvel the music world is waiting to experience. Her stage name is Irawo (Star) which connotes that she is indeed prepared to leave a mark in the industry.

With a blend of afro genres rendered in a remarkably inimitable style, Oluwakemi Famugbode-Adetula is quite certain that she will go far.

To pursue her dream, the gospel music hopeful, a graduate of accounting from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State recently bid goodbye to the tedious life of a corporate woman when she ditched her banking job for the mic. According to her, she was the head of the internal audit department of a micro finance bank before she decided to resign so as to face her music career squarely.

The thirty-one year old mother of two told National Life that she was in secondary school when she discovered the passion for music. “I used to be actively involved in entertainment and sport while I was a student of Lagos State Model College, Badore. I used to compose songs for our end-of-year parties and every other activity that required entertaining people with songs. I was also good in sport but I discovered that more of my talent lay in music. 

It was during my industrial attachment after completing my ordinary national diploma in accounting from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos that I developed an interest in the talking drum.

Currently, Irawo is working on two music singles titled, IJO OPE and NOW O’CLOCK. They are inspirational gospel songs. Which will soon be released on air. I am trying to do my things in my own style. I want to make a difference. I do not want to copy anybody. A lot of producers have approached me by asking me to do music the way others are doing it but Iwill not do anything that is going to make me lose focus.

She started music professionally three years ago after she got the full backing and endorsement of her husband. “I had to seek my husband’s permission first and I am happy that he is giving me his full support. He is even the one that bought my first talking drum for me. He is a Public Relations Officer at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). He has been very supportive financially. He also helped me to compose one of the songs.”

It was because of pressure from her father that made Oluwakemi to study accounting. She had always dreamt of studying music and theatre arts at the university. “It was my father that made me to study accounting. Otherwise, I would have settled for music. I still did well in accounting. I graduated with a 2:1.”

Even while she worked in banking and took care of the home front, she still found time to practice her music.

“I play the talking drum perfectly. I even studied music on scholarship at the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI). I majored on the talking drum and graduated with a distinction. I play jazz and can play all types of drums and the violin. It was difficult combining it with my work and taking care of my husband and children. When the stress was too much, I had to resign from banking to concentrate on my music and family.”

One of the major challenges facing her at the moment is finance. “It is really a serious problem but I do not want it to affect my dream. I believe that by the time my songs go on air I will draw the attention of a lot of managers and record labels who will appreciate my style. I have no record label for now and I have not been invited to any major show but churched invite me to come and sing for them. I also get invites from friends especially my classmates. I believe that by the time I start my promotions, it will be a different story.”

She also spoke about how she met and married her husband.

“We met at a family friend’s house in 1995 and we became friends. We were friends for a long time and he became close to my family. We did not start dating until 2001and we got married in 2002. He is a graduate of communication and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. Before he joined FAAN, he used to be a master of ceremony and a comedian. Somehow, we both have a knack for entertainment. That is why he easily supports me.”


By Olujuwon Bukunola Philips

For Reality Weekly Magazine (June 8 – June 15, 2009) 

Oluwakemi Bamidele Adetula AKA Irawo studied accounting at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. After her youth service, she worked briefly as an internal auditor at Lagos based financial institutions until she resigned from her appointment to practice what she knows how to do best which is music.

In this interview with Olujuwon Bukunola Phillips, she speaks about her career and the entertainment industry.

How did you come about your stage name, Irawo?

I got the name from the historical birth of Jesus Christ where it was recorded that some three wise men came to visit him in the manager. It was his star that actually attracted these unusual visitor.

So, I picked my stage name from there because whenever I perform my music attracts people to come and be a part of the merry making.

How did you become a gospel artist?

From my childhood days, I have always loved music and in the process, I learnt how to play the rhythms but professionally, I started music in 2006. I also play the talking drum quite well.

Where and how did you learn the talking drum?

My first talking drum teacher was my mother followed by a professional talking drummer known as Mr Taiye Alujo and Mr Tajudeen who is a member of Sunny Nneji’s band. They both thought me the rudiments of the Gangan and the Iya Ilu talking drums respectively.

Do you see yourself as a competitor with other female drummers like Ara and Ayanbirin?

No, I don’t because the sky is wide enough for the birds to fly without commotion. Besides, the dexterity of these two talking drummers that you just mentioned motivated me to learn how to play the talking drum.

Have you had the opportunity to work with any of them?

No, I haven’t but I’m sure that when we shall all perform together. It shall be fun and great watching three talking drummers on stage. I can’t wait to see the day.

Why did you resign your appointment as an internal auditor?

I had to quit my job because I always derive joy as a professional artist. When I was working as an internal auditor, there wasn’t enough time for me to practice as an artist. So, I had to let the job go to face my music career,

Do you have any regrets?

By the grace of God, there is no regret at all because the Lord is on my side.

What were your parents’ reactions when you took to music?

I never wanted to study accounting. It was what my parents wanted. I studied it to please them. I wanted to study music and theatre arts or mass communication. My parents were against me studying these kinds of courses because they were of the opinion that those who studied these kinds of courses were unserious.

So, how many albums have you waxed?

I am currently working on my singles which will make up the songs in my music album.

What distinguishes Irawo from other female talking drummers?

What distinguishes me from other female talking drummers is that apart from the folk genre of music, I possess the ability to play different genres of music with the talking drum. I can also play musical instruments like the drums set, violin and the piano. I am also able to do a solo performances with the talking drum by playing the lead and the backup beats at the same time unlike other female talking drummers. Lastly, I can perform for long hours.  





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