Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

They Also Serve Who Make Their Voices Heard

In this age of the computer and instant communications, some would wonder if there is still a place for talking drums.

The significance of these drums lies not only as a medium of communications, but as proof that things are not always what they seem to be. To some ears, the sounds are repetitive noises and yet to the initiated and those who have taken the trouble to learn, the sound of the talking drums carries a message.

Judging from the amount of heat that is generated and the general dissatisfaction expressed about the coverage of events in the Third World in general, and in Africa in particular, it is safe to assert that everybody is agreed that there is something fundamentally wrong with the telling of the story.

Many people put the blame on the Western media which controls virtually all the airwaves and the major newspapers of the world. They neither understand nor sympathise with Africa and her aspirations, it is asserted, and as a result they interpret all events from their own point of view.

The obvious antidote to this problem should be with the press in Africa, they not only know and understand what is happening to and around them, their sympathies should lie with Africa.

The tragedy, however, is that very few places on the continent can lay claims to the existence of a free press and after years of futile and sometimes bloody fights, many people who practise the trade in Africa have discovered or decided that they should either give up or amend the rules so that they play comfortably beside oppressive regimes.

It is an equal pity that even in those parts of the continent where it is legally safe for a free press to exist, the practitioners have not been able to resist the temptation to align themselves to various factions; the result being that one needs to read about six different newspapers and listen to about three different radio stations before one can pick out the truth in any matter.

In other parts of the continent, it is deemed a treasonable offence to hold and/or state opinions which differ from the current official line. This means that the governments run the very real danger of coming to believe their own propaganda, and the efforts at communicating with the people become counter-productive.

Most people simply tune off from whatever is being said because they have decided that it is all official propaganda ending in the creation of a wide credibility gap between government and the people. It is not surprising therefore that day by day, the Western media assumes even greater credibility to the fury of many.

Africans and friends of Africa. We believe, in undertaking the adventure of "Talking Drums", that there is an urgent need to discuss the events that have convulsed the continent in a sober and calm manner. We believe that there are many voices that have not been heard and many sides to the arguments that have not been stated. Simply because of the limitation of resources we are focussing attention on the West African sub-region now. It is quite possible that, removed from the tensions and disasters of the region, the problems of the region can be discussed in a more reasonable atmosphere.

"Talking Drums" aims at providing the forum for such discussions and debate of the matters that affect the sub-region, we believe that all the many and varied voices of the area deserve to be heard and we extend an invitation to all who care about the area and its peoples to contribute to these debates.

We pledge ourselves to create room for all shades of opinion in the belief that it is only through such discussions that answers can be found to these problems. In those countries in the regions where only official positions are allowed to be publicised, we offer the opportunity for alternative opinions to be heard. The governments in these places are, of course, also free to present their views. with the only proviso that since they have the advantage of the whole government controlled media houses behind them, they would keep their arguments devoid of all rhetoric and ideological propaganda. To those countries that have a free press but where everybody is screaming his own story so loudly that nobody can hear anybody else, we offer the opportunity to make their points without hysteria.

Some might ask, how can you play the Talking Drums, an essentially African phenomenon, in London, the capital of colonialism? How, indeed, can you sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

Our only answer will be to cite the Ghanaian proverb which states that when a farmer is clearing a path in the forest, it is only somebody else who stands behind who can tell that the path is veering to the left or right.

We are under no illusions whatsoever about the enormity of the task we have set ourselves, but we are counting on the support of all those who believe that human problems can be solved through dignified debate, to join us in this adventure.

We are well aware that there are many newspapers and periodicals already in existence that have been. telling the story for many years and doing a good job at it; but we are sure that there is room for more views to be heard.

Above all we believe that it is important for human beings to resolve their differences through the power of persuasion by reasoned arguments.

Welcome to the 'TALKING DRUMS'.

talking drums 1983-09-12 Inaugural edition Nigeria elections and confessions - Ghana Executions and Confessions - Chad neglected desert war