Piano and drums by Gabriel Okara narrates the difference between the African culture and the western culture. Piano symbolizes the western culture and the drum stand for the African culture.
The first stanza of the poem describes how lifeful the drum beats are. He calls it ‘ mystic rhythm’ and ‘ bleeding flesh.’ The poet presents his ecocentric perspectives by narrating the impulses of the Panther and the leopard. In the next stanza, the poet writes that even his childhood was comfortable.
Poet establishes that the advent of the imperialistic powers adversely affected the African people. He dreams of the days in which they used plants to cover their nakedness and they walked bear foot. The absence of innovations helped them to maintain a fruitful relationship with nature.
In the third stanza, the Poet writes about the looming of western powers over the African land. Poet uses the piano to denote the complexities generated by the imperial powers.
Poet describes the piano as a ‘ wailing piano’ to indicate his opposition to western culture. Poet uses the complex term to clear his points to the readers. He uses ‘ coaxing diminuendo’, ‘counterpoint’, and ‘crescendo’ to mock the western culture which pretends to be different from the rest.
By the end of the poem, Poet feels that he lost his mystic rhythm. We can find the same theme once upon a time. He clearly states how deeply he enjoyed the drumbeat. Poet expresses his desire to go back to the days when man and nature were one.
Find more poems from African Literature here.
Piano and Drums
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 lap 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 concerti: 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 dagger point.
And I lost in the morning mist of an age at a riverside keep wandering in the mystic rhythm of jungle drums and the concerto
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