Soji

  • Craig Huckaby:  OK, introduce yourself.
  • SOJI:  My names are Aladegoroye Ezekiel Olusoji. People call me S.O.J – BATA. I was born and raised in Lagos state, Nigeria. And I still reside there. Majorly am into music as an instrumentalist. I play the omele Bata drum professionally….
  • Craig Huckaby: Can you tell us about the history on the drum that you play?
  • SOJI:  Oh yes… Bata drum is a drum that emanates from the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. It dates back to centuries, when the great ruler of Oyo kingdom, Alaafin of Oyo, the great Sango (who metamorphosed into god of thunder). Who also doubles as a great warrior. One of his close subordinates was Bata, a drummer, who plays for him anytime he wants to dance and also to the war fronts. There was once a disagreement between Bata and Sango, which made them to go their separate ways. It was the man called Bata that metamorphose into the drum that we play today. It has three different types. Namely;
    The Iya Bata, Eyiti o powole, and Omele Bata, which is the one I play. That’s what brought out the Yoruba adage that says : “tipatipa ni oni bata fi nferan sango..” meaning : “its by force that a player drum player must love sango- the god of thunder…”, because they are inseparable.
    Correction… ” .. It’s by force that a bata drum player will love sango…”
drum
  • CRAIG HUCKABY:  When did you start playing drums and who were your teachers?
  • SOJI: As a Christian its only natural that you will develop interest in some things within the church environment. While in children’s choir in my church (Celestial Church of Christ), I used to play some drums called Acuba, Agbamole etc., then I later graduate to the Konga drum, which I became a master there. But my sojourn into the world of Bata drum started out of interest and curiosity. Whenever the church band have a live show, I will be useless, as the konga drum can’t be easily carried, so they have to leave it behind, most times I will be dropped. So my playing time was only limited to the church environment. I approached some guys who have been playing the talking drum professionally around my area, initially it was talking drum I wanted to learn, but when I got to where they are building and servicing the drums, I saw a section where bata drums were made. And the interest developed towards it instantly. I did not come from the lineage of bata drummers, so I will automatically have a master that taught me the rudiments, the do’s and don’ts of the bata drum, and also how to become a very good bata drummer. My master’s name is Mr. Lati, people calls him Baba Ruka. He is a foremost bata drummers. He came from the lineage of bata drummers in Isehin, and based in Lagos. His own late father happens to be the bata drummer of Late Hubert Ogunde. In their family they don’t have any other profession than the bata drum….
  • Craig Huckaby:  :  How long did you study with BABA RUKA
  • SOJI:  18 months. During which I went to shows with him too, and am always the one carrying his drum bags…
  • Craig Huckaby:  Tell us something about your family
  • SOJI:  I was born into a family of 5girls and am the only male child. My both parents hails from Owoh Local Government in Ondo state, south west Nigeria. My dad is an account while my late mum was a teacher with the Lagos state Government. Though I have spent all my life in Lagos, I can speak the Owoh dialect fluently….
  • Craig Huckaby: Ok so as a Christian do you play in traditional Yoruba ceremonies and rituals
  • SOJI:  The bata drum is a traditional drum itself, no doubt about that, this does not have anything to do with religion or Christianity. So, I do play at events, weddings, burial etc., depending on the nature of the show. This does not affects my religion or beliefs. I am a Christian from birth, and I will still continue to be a Christian.
  • Craig Huckaby:  great answer, really shows the strength of your convictions and the unifying power of music in general and drums in particular, next question..is the bata drum a drum played by Yoruba only or do other groups in Nigeria play them
  • SOJI:  Bata drum originates from the Yoruba people, so initially its been played by the Yoruba’s, but some other tribes are now infusing it into their genre of music. And its been appreciated well. Even some other countries where Yoruba’s are residing are now making using of the bata drum, because of the uniqueness of its sound…

Craig Huckaby:  Can you tell us something about the construction of your drum the omele bata, are they store bought or hand made

SOJI:  They are hand made… It has two types, the first one is the one that uses Awo (hide, skin) to do the Osan, the rope that tie the top to the base. The other type is the one that uses Okun (rope) for its Osan… The wood is called Odo Ilu, the top is made of Awo, that has been dried in d sun…. So many stuffs involved, that’s the beauty of Drumming line…
  • Craig Huckaby:  In Nigeria who makes these drums, are there those who are wood carvers who make drums, or are there people dedicated to the making of drums alone
  • SOJI:  In Yoruba land, we have some people that specializes in carving woods, they are ‘AGBEGILERE’… They carve the woods into different sizes and shapes, with specialized woods.

Craig Huckaby:  Do they make drums?

SOJI: Some of them combine with making drums. But basically, their job is not to make drums, and it’s meant for people that came from the lineage of drummers, they are called OMO ONILU AYANGAALU ..
  • Craig Huckaby: When discussing Nigerian music in the united states one name seems larger than life FELA, and to some degree KING SUNNY ADE how important are these two musicians to you and who were some of your early influences in music
  • SOJI: Oh yes, u can’t the history of music in Africa that you will not mention those names, they are both great legends… Their songs are always evergreen and inspiring. The messages are also great… They are a great influence on me.
  • Craig Huckaby:  Other than these two who else did you listen to growing up in Lagos?
  • SOJI:  A lot. Where will I start to mentioning names.? They are so numerous … I don’t want to mention any one in particular,
  • Craig Huckaby:  what bands/groups have you played with and who are you currently working with
  • SOJI:  I started from church band(s), then after I left my master Baba Ruka, I moved to Atunda Entertainment in Lagos. I left when salaries and allowances are being owed. I have played with so many artistes, presently am with Bola-Oyin Adejobi and His Honey Flavors Band. I still play at different events and so many church programs. I have travelled almost every states in Nigeria. While I was with Atunda Entertainment, we travelled to Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana, that was in 2008, all within the west Africa coast.
  • Craig Huckaby:  Did you record with any of the many bands that you performed with?
  • SOJI:  Yes of course. In fact we just finished an album with a gospel artiste named Araba. I played the bata drum on the album….
  • Craig Huckaby:  Any last words about upcoming projects ,or musical plans that you like to share
  • SOJI: I believe in the philosophy that “Man proposes, God disposes.” Some studio works this January, and I will take each day at it comes….
  • Craig Huckaby:  One question before the previous one tell us something about life in Lagos and Nigeria as a working bata drummer of today.
  • SOJI:  The terrain is very rough. As an upcoming instrumentalist, you need the right connection and to gather a lot of experience. But all in all Lagos is a very good place in Nigeria as an entertainer and showbiz… Still more exposure and more room for experience…
  • Craig Huckaby:  thank you for allowing us to interview you, any closing comments
  • SOJI:  You are welcome. The pleasure is mine. Parents should allow their wards to harness and develop their talents. Talents are special gifts from God, so it should not be covered. And destiny can never be changed. Put all your trust and hope in God, HE will surely make a way where there seems to be no way. MUSIC IS LIFE!

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