By CHRISTY ANYANWU
Aralola Olamuyiwa’s stage name is Ara and she’s Nigeria’s first female talking drummer of international repute. She’s very passionate about her roots and culture as well as projecting Nigeria to the world through music. Recently, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi appointed her as cultural ambassador to the kingdom of Ife. In this interview with Sunday Sun, she spoke about her firsts.
First day as an artiste?
There was a lot of publicity about my coming i.e. that Ara n bo meaning Ara is coming and people were wondering who this Ara is? People yearned for me but they weren’t sure where Ara would come from. That was in year 2000. It was memorable, because it was my first day on the talking drum and being the first female talking drummer, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received. I think it went very well, because I never had stage fright. A few minutes before getting on stage, I dozed off a bit and I saw a vision of the confirmation of what I was about to do. It was after the whole thing, I remembered that vision and I realized that it was God’s way of confirming to me that he had a hand in what I was about to do. He blessed me before I went on stage.
It was titled, ‘Which one you dey’ but my stage name then was Lola Ola and that was between 1998 and 1999 and it was recorded by Ebenezer Studio owned by Mr Femi Olasonde. I was into Afro beat then.
First day with long hairstyle?
That was in Benin Republic where I went to braid my hair. I finished very late at night and by the time I stepped out, kids followed me and chanted “Pangolo, mammy water don come, mammy water don come” and as they were singing, my hair was responding to the rhythm. That day, I knew I chose the apt signature hairstyle for my pseudonym, Ara. It took the stylists between 9 hours and 10 hours to finish and we had breakfast, lunch and dinner in the process.
First day with on the drum?
I was in Primary Four and we had gone home for Odun Ileya (Eid festival) in Ondo town with my parents. My mum is from a royal family and they had this talking drum and there was this elderly man, Pa Olopade who played the talking drum and I was always amazed. One morning, he visited the house and I asked him if I could carry the drum. He said “Why not”? That was the Iya ilu. I played the Iya ilu, gangan and omele.
My first pet was a dog I named Peggy but we were in Warri then.
The first car I bought myself was a Camry and that was in 2009. I later gave it to my pastor.
First trip abroad as Ara?
That was in 2001 and it was to New York. I remember I had been through a series of things in my life and going to New York at that point in time was very symbolic. I traveled in business class and I remember they said, “Welcome to JFK” and tears welled up in my eyes. There was something special about going to New York at that very point in time for me. I went to perform and I was supposed to sign a deal there. So, it was very symbolic for me.