Drum Beats

The imp stared at the crowd, invisible, as strained beats on taunt deer skin announced the Oriki for the prince. It smelt the ancient blood in the veins of the possessed drummer man. Boiling, rippling, bringing word from the oracle; choosing a destiny for the new prince.

The air was thick with dust from the harmattan. It dirtied the white lappas of the Ifa priests and penetrated the reds, blues and greens adorning the bloated bodies and necks of Oba Adeleye, his eight wives wives and twenty-six daughters. They stood around the drummer and Olori Aina, one of the eight.

Necks craned to see her gentle waltz with her baby, ears speared to hear and understand the names bestowed by the oracle via the drum. Hearts blackened with hate at the affluence displayed for the only male seed in her arms.

Gliding from the back of the square, the imp moved towards its prey. Cleverly avoiding drunk Alagbas and gyrating full bodied women, through groups of foul mouthed courtesans hoping for a romp after the show and children scrambling to pick pockets; its fluid form inced forward little by little. Little by little, till it stood behind the Agbadas and Bubas of the rich. The last lines of the Oriki were being beat.

Arms materialized on the once fluid form of the spirit. Legs followed and soon, a blackened human outline materialized. It walked a  few steps to the old drummer in front of a largely unseeing crowd. Turning to the left, it nodded at the gaping form of Olori Nike, the Oba’s first wife and said “Remember our deal. I get rid of the son, you become the favorite once more. You will give me all of your five children.” She nodded, a tad fearful. It opened its mouth in a blackened grin before jumping into the drummer.

The drumming stopped abruptly. The old man looked around, a new light in his eyes. His eyes met the scheming first wife and he grinned maniacally, his tribal marks looking fit to tear. She looked away, scared.

The first beats of a new tune sounded. Words of death which only the elders knew. The Queens and Princesses did not understand the drugged stance of the old man and the tirade of new thumps of the drum. The fat and thin Ifa priests, further dirtying their already brown regalia, ran from the entrance to the village square where they had sat drinking earlier on. Their old varicose covered legs sprinted to where the man drummed and drummed and drummed. Staring in horror, they recognized the sounds of the new destiny of their prince. He would bring disaster to their land. He would bring famine. He would bring death. He had to die.

The child was thrown in the evil forest two market days later.

The kings spirit was broken at the loss of his son. He sat back on his throne, eyes bleary and drunk from the local brew, lamenting his fate. Late at night, he wandered the village half naked, asking the gods what he had done. Famine, wars and starvation ravaged the land due to his inability to rule. His children died in droves starting mysteriously with Olori Nike’s five and then the rest from the plagues in his land.

In the Baobab tree at the village square, the little imp looked out at the destruction it had wrought and grinned. The same evil grin from the day of the celebration. As it went to the spirit world, its true form materialized. It was Esu. It wondered to itself when humans would realize the dangers in making deals with him. Cocking his head to the side, he let out a chuckle and thought about how greedy and callous they were. He would always have the upper hand, all he needed was their permission.


(This story is based on the artwork of a marvelous Nigerian Artist: Twins Seven Seven called Baby Naming Ceremony. To see more of his work, click here. Please feel free to give insightful critiques. If you notice mistakes (typos), point them out. If my punctuation(s) are wrong, let me know. If I was too hasty in finishing or describing, let me know below.  If it was crappy, I will take that with a bow too. I appreciate that sort of correction. Have a wonderful time reading.)

13 thoughts on “Drum Beats” by Onu-Okpara Chiamaka (@Onu-OkparaChiamaka)

  1. My mind is pudding in your hands..I really really enjoyed it… I didn’t notice anything wrong… Thanks for sharing…

    1. Thanks Kay. I shall now use your mind to make chocolate pudding. Hehe. Thank you for the honest contribution.

  2. Your narration is culturally evocative and has a deep spiritual undertone. Indeed humans are the architects of their own nemesis, not Esu.

    Now, let the drum beat resume while we dance the waltz of the spirits. Egwu mmuo.

    More ink to your pen.

    1. Thank you @ndukafro, for this amazing comment!. I am glad the message in this story got passed across. We are most times,through greed, the authors of our own misfortune.

      I hope my ink brings fluidity to the steps and stories of the spirits.

  3. Rich in the Yoruba culture . Arranged like a poem but to me looked more like a prose. Good piece.

    1. Thank you very much @newnaija, for liking this story. It is a prose piece, although the short paragraphs might have hinted a tad at poetry. This was done to curb boredom when reading.

      Hopefully, long nights of practice will help me find how to achieve longer paragraphs without readers sleeping off. Tee heee :)

  4. oh okay, I was thinking it was a poem. I really enjoyed it cause most writers now concentrated on the city and new gadgets etc. We are neglecting the village and deep cultural setting of aeons ago.

    1. @newnaija, I totally agree with you. We seem to have forgotten that culture and strength lies in Tradition, lore, language and art. That is also why Africa is falling behind; we push away the old and run into the arms of the new shiny things brought by the white man. May God help us.

      Me, I shall sit in my own little corner and try my best to show the amazing side of Africa. To each his own.

      1. I will try that too. I really need to dig deep inside and produce something like that too.

        Are you on twitter? Will like to connect. I am @newnaija on twitter

        1. Yeah, we should exchange ideas @newnaija. Twitter it is…

          1. will contact you ASAP

  5. I was caught up by your creative prowess-an igbo gurl giving a narration of life in a yoruba setting.you made the culture speak volume through those drum beats and the events aftermath.if not your name which is igboic,i would admit you are yorubaic.nice piece.keep the diversification alive.o di okay

    1. CHOI! @himalone, I am trying to act and sound grown up here but you just gave me the encouragement of life. Nna, it is to go and buy isi ewu and Pami on top this comment. One love!

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