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In Badagry, Sato drums hold life, communal prosperity.

The Sato Drummers Troupe was the cynosure of all eyes at the last Coconut Festival, held recently in Badagry, a coastal town in Badagry Local Government Area in Lagos State.

It, always, is, especially at major events in and around the community. Sometimes it plies its trade outside the shores of the state, too. And, perhaps, one significant attribute of the troupe is that it always has a way of adding colours to events; a feat that has won it accolades and honours within the state and at the national level.

But, besides adding glamour to social and cultural events, it is generally believed that the troupe represents Badagry's rich cultural heritage and tradition, and its presence at any event, therefore provides the community the opportunity to showcasing such heritage that makes the community tick to the world.

While the leader of the troupe, Mr Kotin Houngbe will not dispute the fact that the troupe attends social events to add glamour to such events, its duties, he insists, go far beyond that.

The Sato drums the troupe beats, everywhere it goes, is generally believed to ward off evil, wherever they are beaten within the community. So besides adding glamour, he says, it also does some spiritual cleansing, too.

Perhaps one unique thing about the drummers' group is that despite being there to propagate the rich cultural heritage of the town, it does not operate like the regular community drummers groups, which in most cases, comprise of unlettered men and women, that move around events, with the sole aim of soliciting for alms to make ends meet.

The leader of the group, is a post-graduate Diploma student of the Lagos State University (LASU), and he is quick to explain that the need for culture preservation remains the motivating factor for him, accepting to lead the group.

'I was born into a traditional religion, in the Ajara community. And ever since then, my life has been to propagate the culture of my people in all areas, including leading this troupe,' argued Houngbe, who claimed to have been leading the troupe to represent the community, both at the state and national levels, since 1993.

Houngbe, who hails from the Ajara Agamade Community area of Badagry, explained that the Sato Drums which are moulded in twin form, are treated as sacred by the people of Badagry and its environs. And, the reasons are not far-fetched.

For instance, it is generally believed that the Sato drums, have the potency of driving away evil spirits, wherever they are beaten. He also described the Sato drums, as a royal musical instrument, adding that one of the uniqueness of the drums to the people of Badagry, is the twin forms of the drums which depict humanity.

Houngbe further explained that besides its usefulness as a peace and 'cleansing' instrument, the reptiles inscribed on the drums depict the conquering prowess of such drums.

As to the origin of the drums, he explained that the drums were a child of necessity, prescribed by the oracle, at a point in the community's chequered history.

There was pestilence in the land and all efforts to unravel the 'cause of the mystery' proved abortive, until the oracle that was contacted by the forebears of the community, ordered that such drums be carved in those forms and beaten, whenever the community was going through such trying times, Houngbe explains.

'It is a royal drum. They are twin drum. We use it to cleanse the land. It is to ward off evil from the community. Sato symbolises peace. As you can see, some of the reptiles on the body of the drum tell you the drums are conquerors over evils.

'Sato came as a result of death, pestilence, evil and all sorts of unwholesome situations in the community, and as a result, the oracle decreed that there should be a twin drum that should be beaten so that the evil spirit could be driven away,' he stated.

According to this LASU post graduate diploma student of Theatre Arts, the history of the drums is closely woven to the history of Badagry community itself.

While he admits that such history is fast reclining in the memories of the people of the community, Houngbe still remembers some of the details that led to the forming of the Sato Drums, vividly.

Giving the historical background of the drums, Houngbe narrated that in the days of yore, the people of the community, called Badagry, were one.

'We had one lineage. We migrated from the Middle East, down to Ethiopia and from there to Aja. Thereafter, we landed here. Of course you know that migration has always been part of man. That place called Aja is now Republic of Benin, before our great grand fathers later settled in Badagry here.

'The history of the drums can, therefore, be traced to as early as the 16 Century, when both young and old, who had settled here, were dying without a trace to the cause of deaths. Nobody knew the cause of the death. The farmers then could not harvest what they had planted and it was one misfortune on the other.

'So, the elders came together to consult the oracle about what's happening in the land and the oracle said there's a mighty snake, called Othan, in Badagry language, living in the hallow of a tree called Ajorohunti, that was wrecking havoc on the community.

'The oracle insisted that not until the mighty tree was cut and its wood, used to make drums and the drums, constantly beaten, would the community overcome those challenges facing it at that time.

'This was obeyed. And, once the snake heard the sound of the drums, it would run away. Sato was derived from the word 'to be washed away', that is for the evil snake to run into the river and go forever (o ku lo ni Sato bo yi),' he stated.

Houngbe, however, added that the only thing that has changed, today, concerning the drums, is the fact that unlike in the past when the only people, qualified to beat the drums, were able-bodied young men, who must be orphans, those without one of the parents, and not necessarily an orphan are free to beat the Sato drums.

According to him, the community, through 'spiritual buy-out', has been able to amend that law and make it flexible, so as to make the Sato drums relevant in today's fast-changing world.

Houngbe also explained that the decision of the community to adopt the drums as its official symbol has also gone a long way in explaining how significant these traditional drums are to the people of the community.

'These drums you are seeing are the official symbol of the Badagry kingdom because they are treated as sacred and very important to the entire people of this community. You can see, it's male and female, because the world we live in comprise of the masculine and feminine gender. It is our way of depicting humanity and universality,' he added.

Interestingly, the sacredness of the drums is also seen the inscriptions all over them, and which are not without their history.

'The drum is carved from Ajorohunti, a mighty, gigantic tree, and inscription of reptiles, snake, fish, alligator and others tell the story of where the community was coming from.

'The cowries you are seeing on the drums are symbols of prosperity. It is called 'qwasi' in our language, which simply representsprosperity. What it means, in this case is that once the land is cleansed, as expected, through the Sato drums, there will definitely be prosperity,' he added.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Sep 25, 2018
Words:1394
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