One way to enhance understanding of Yoruba language is by  listening to stories during events, also by paying attention to the usage of words – stories often have sayings/adages that lead listeners to a whole other stories – they work to shed lights to certain events that are similar.

At this year’s Drums Festival at Abeokuta, quite a lot of elders were in attendance.

Here’s is what I learned.

I found Alaafin Oyo, Oba Adeyemi’s speech quite entertaining and reflective. He was in a cheerful mood. Here he talks about many functions of talking drums in Yorubaland as a medium where messages are passed to the Oba or audience by drum beats without having to speak out the words.

As a wakeup call:

  • Olayiwola dide ko bo sokoto, a kii f’ise igbonse ran omo eni.

This is waking up the Oba early in the morning by reminding him of day break. (not Yoruba translation but that’s the message).

As a warning:

  • M’ọ̀sà, m’ọ̀jà, la fíi mọ akínkanjú l’ójú ogun, akínkanjú tó bá m’ọ̀jà, tí kò m’ọ̀sá, níí b’ógun elòmìí  lọ.

Rough translation – Knowing when to fight, and when to quit is the best way to spot a brave warrior. A warrior who knows how to fight but loses sight of when to stop, loses the war.

“O d’ifa fun Adesuyi nigba to fe jagun, won so fun wipe asiko ko tii to…”

Here Oba Adeyemi cited an example of one Adesuyi but he did not finish the story. The indication is that in history there was someone named Adesuyi who perhaps failed to recognise the signs around him.


  • Ikún kìí j’ẹun ẹni, kó pani, nínú ilé Ọ̀yọ́ kọ́ o.

The above ‘spoken’ by the drum is to remind the Oba not to eat outside of his home


Reminder of shared history

  • Ò̩rọ̀ pọ̀ n’íkùn, a kò r’ẹ́ni ‘re ba sọ́

The above means that people have quite a lot they would like to share but they don’t have trusted people to speak to. This drum beats is used to warn the Oba to be cautious of how much information he divulges with unfamiliar people.

As a prompt.

If an Oba is out at an event  and he his carried away  socialising with the host, the drummers instead of going to him interrupting the meeting, they use the drums to remind the Oba that his time was up to head home

  • Agbe gbe wa dele o, agbe. Alaafin kii rajo, ko ma bo, agbe.


Ọọni Ogunwusi’s  speech was on the same theme of encouraging Nigerians and Yoruba people to unite together for grater good. I wonder if Ooni could pull off Ife accent.

As a word of advice, Ọọni too dropped and adage.

  • Tiwa, ni tiwa, ti akisa ni ti aatan

Rough translation: Let us embrace what is ours.


Professor Wole Soyinka can be quite charming when he is in good mood (Nigeria situation can get under anyone’s skin). I enjoyed his speech particularly when he touched on how our people today somehow see everything about tradition to be diabolical/paganism. I agree with Prof on this, we tend to fear what we don’t know.

Prof. too dropped an adage:

As a reminder to acknowledge significant event/thing.

  • Àjànàkú kọjá mo rí nkan fìrí, t’ába r’érin, ká sọ pé a r’érin

Rough translation: An elephant is big enough that one can not confuse it for any other animal. In relevant to the Drums Festival, it is a big deal and this is the second year of such.