Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara

When at break of day at a riverside
I hear jungle drums telegraphing
the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw
like bleeding flesh, speaking of
primal youth and the beginning,
I see the panther ready to pounce,
the leopard snarling about to leap
and the hunters crouch with spears poised.

And my blood ripples, turns torrent,
topples the years and at once I’m
in my mother’s laps a suckling;
at once I’m walking simple
paths with no innovations
rugged, fashioned with the naked
warmth of hurrying feet and groping hearts
in green leaves and wild flowers pulsing.

Then I hear a wailing piano
solo speaking of complex ways
in tear- furrowed concerto;
of far away lands
and new horizons with
coaxing diminuendo, counterpoint,
crescendo, but lost in the labyrinth of its complexities, it ends in the middle of a phrase at a daggerpoint

And I lost in the morning mist
of an age at a riverside keep
wandering in the mystic rhythm
of jungle drums and concerto.

About the Poet

Gabriel Okara is a reknowned Nigerian poet and novelist. He was born on April 21, 1921 in Boumoundi, present day Bayelsa state. He attended Government College, Umuahia, Yaba Higher College, and Northwestern University, USA. He worked as a book-binder for many years and as a journalist in the then Eastern Nigerian Government Service. His works are widely accepted with his poetry featuring in the Black Orpheus and other anthologies. He has to his credit the following: Fisherman’s Invocation (1978; Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1979), which is partly based on the Ijaw oral tradition, The Call of the River Nun,
and The Voice (1964), a controversial short novel.


PIANO AND DRUMS is a very good Imaginative work by Gabriel Okara. Infact I give him a big Kudos.

According the The poem

it speak about Clash in Instrument which is Definitely Clash in Culture … I tried to reason well. what Culture and Culture may this man be saying. then I sense Gabriel Okara is a Nigerian then Definitely it is AFRICAN And EUROPEAN Culture he is Talking about.
The Drums is Our typical Culture. Like Bata, Omele, Gan Gan, and other Drums.
But the Piano is never ours.
so Using such as imagery added to my fastest way to view it is African and European Culture.
The drum is depicted as Natural and simple. while Piano is depicted as Strange, Fascinating and Complicated.
I personally I Play Drums. including those Hand Drums, I play Piano and some other instruments. it was easy for me to know that playing Piano is very complicated. learning Major scales, Chord, 7th , Minors and the rest. But Drums So simple and Natural.

I can write A Book on this but let me stop here

The poem *piano and drums* is a state of differentiating the white and black. Piano symbolises white men, while drum symbolises black men.Africa.
The poem gives out a duel between Africa and the British empire. If we flash back to those days of independent, we will notice that; every bit of the scene is pictured bit by bit in this poem. That means: During those days, we were meant serve them and bow for them. Because, piano here is a very powerful tool in music, which shows how rich and powerful they’re to Africa,not for we having just drum in our abode which is our main and only tool in Africa then.

The three sub-themes:
1. Clashing of cultures
2. Innocence
3. Desperation.

Coming to the Poem *Piano and Drums* by my own renowned poet; Gabriel Okara. I have few spices to add because you people(wizards) have done a mammoth work on it.

Now, structurally, the poem has four stanzas and or of twenty nine lines.
But looking at the poem, it seems to have two to three stanzas. Stanza one and two have eight lines each, I think that if stanza three has nine lines and the fourth stanza with four lines.

Like all you have said, that the poem hold firm the following;
Culture conflict✅
Complexities of the white ways of life, shown by the *wailing sound etc*.✅
I love the guy that mentioned indecision??? actually the persona or rather the poet persona doesn’t know which culture to embrace☹
I can also feel tension, words like snarling, pounce etc depict fright and so on?
We also see the work as fictional?
The poet just imagines

The Poem *Piano and Drums* by a renowned poet; Gabriel Okara. I don’t have much to add because you poets have done it all.

Now, structurally, the poem has four stanzas and or of twenty nine lines.
But looking at the poem, it seems to have two to three stanzas. Stanza one and two have eight lines each, stanza three has nine lines and the fourth stanza with four lines.

The poem is talking about African and European cultures.



1. The Theme of Culture / Conflict
Culture in Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara In the poem “Piano and Drums” the poet Gabriel Okara depicts and contrasts two different cultures through symbolism of pianos and drums. The Poem is divided into four stanzas. The first two stanzas represent the “drum” culture and the second two stanzas show the “piano” culture. The description of the drums is in two stanzas, but is one sentence long. The first line of the first stanza: ‘When at break of day at a riverside’ Uses trochees to emphasize the deliberate broken rhythm. The stanza has savage words, “bleeding flesh,” “urgent raw,” “leopard snarling,” “spears poised,” to show that this is a primitive culture, one which has dependency on the environment, as is represented by the “hunters crouch with spears poised.” The environment in this culture is physically dangerous, surrounded by wild animals. Drums here are a way of communication, and “jungle drums telegraphing the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw…” shows the way of life in this culture. This is life which is simple, near the beginnings of man. The stanza … … middle of paper … …with one another, with Drums illustrating primitive behaviour, and a savage, dangerous culture. The connotations of the piano are complex and technical. The piano uses significantly different word sounds, showing that it is learnt, westernized and intricate compared to the drums which is instinctive and naturally acquired, and simple. The poem uses no set rhyme pattern which suits the poem as it has an undecided effect, emphasizing the confusion of the persona over his future.

2. The Theme of Innocence
The theme of innocence in the poem is explored in the poem is explored in the depiction of african culture, from the very first line of the poem where we are told that the events take place “at break of day”, the idea of innocence is already implied. This is because the day is fresh and uncontaminated by other activities or sounds. The sound heard from the jungle drums are therefore pure and not corrupt, the poem also invokes the idea of innocence.

3 The Theme of Dilemma
The theme of dilemma also features in the poem, while the poet speaks glowingly of african culture, he also finng european culture, despite its shortcomings, seductive. Thus he is unable to dwcide whether to let go of the inherited culture or embrace the new one this is the plight of many educated africans today . many have however resolved this delimma by taking from the two cultures in what has come to be know as cultual syncretism


• Personification; giving the quality of humans to non-living things
The poet make use of personification in stanza 3, line 1
Then I hear a wailing piano solo speaking of complex ways in tears
• Enjambment; the poet used enjambment throughout.
•Metaphor; I hear the jungle drums telegraphing
• Simile; I hear the jungle drums telegraphing the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw *like* the bleeding flesh
And More …


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Author: Judaisky

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