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Themes of Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara

Gabriel Okara, the writer of "Piano and Drum" was born in Bayelsa state, Nigeria in 1921. A novelist and a poet; he was once a civil servant. His poem "Piano and Drums" was well beautified with imagery and symbolism.

The themes of the poem can be divided into three: (1) Childhood reminiscence and its effect (2) Complexity of the present and future (3) Dilemma.


    Childhood reminiscence and its effect

Since the poem is about the poet's experience with two different cultures or lifestyles, the poet used the experience of his village background to depict African culture which he grew up with, while comparing it to his present civilized way of living.
The poem speaker was reminded of his/her "primal youth and the beginning" through the quietness of the early to morning river and the echoing forest. While at the riverside, the poem speaker could "hear jungle drums telegraphing/the mystic rhythm..." (Line 2 & 3) and other things like panther, leopard, hunters crouching
with poised spears, etc added to his/her memory.

The poem speaker revealed in stanza 2, the effect such reminiscence brought to his/her memory of sitting "in my mother's lap a suckling", "walking simple paths with no innovations", and groping in green leaves with wild flowers in naked hurrying feet.


    Complexity of the present and future

How complex, unstable and confusing the present and the upcoming future look were portrayed in the stanza 3 of the poem "Piano and Drums". As said before, Okara preferred his past life to the present that was why he symbolized his rural life with drum, a musical instrument which very easy to learn and operate while he symbolized his civilized modern lifestyle with piano and describe it as complex.
The poem speaker heard "a wailing piano" which symbolised a painful sound which "solo speaking of complex ways" (the confusing present and the unknown future) and such painful sound brought a silent cry which the poem referred to as "in tear-furrowed concerto". In spite of the pain, the poem speaker got "lost in the labyrinth of it complexities" which symbolised the confusing complexity of the future through rough(coaxing) mild(diminuendo) opposite-change(counterpoint) and tough(crescendo).

Conflit of Culture
This is a very vital theme in Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara; it shows the speaker in the poem standing between past and present (or preferably between African and Western culture); this theme can also be called a clash of culture or cultural disparity. As mentioned earlier, the voice of the poem described his past rural African background as simple as drums beats while his present and upcoming urbanized Western lifestyle as difficult as the wailing tones of a piano. Since ways lead to ways, this theme leads to another theme known as the theme of dilemma.


    Dilemma

The poem speaker concluded that he found himself/herself in dilemma "wandering in the mystic rhythm/of jungle drums and the concerto."(line 28 & 29) because he didn't know which culture to totally embrace. He preferred the simple rural life but it was also impossible to let go of the civilisation he had got unto despite it was complex and confusing.

>>> READ MORE POETIC ANALYSIS

Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the candid Leo with wings flying)
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