From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
They are ubiquitous with their drumming and singing at political gatherings and government functions in Ogun State. Their dexterity with different types of drums is enthralling, while their immaculate outfit, stands them out from social mendicants.
They use their drums to sing the genealogical praises of the people especially politicians and top government functionaries, who in turn appreciate them with cash and other gifts. Seeing them at government functions, no matter how serious, these drummers will be at hand to provide melodious dimensions, and mellow down the atmosphere with their drumming and singing.
Welcome to the world of Paramount Band, or better still, Eni a fe de drummers. The band, formed a decade ago in Ijaye Oja Ale area of Abeokuta, is a nine-member band led by 37-year-old Jelili Adeyemi. At the outset, the band which members are all natives of Ijaye township and from drummer (Ayan) families, went around to entertain people at social functions in and around Abeokuta. According to the assistant leader of the band, Ismail Oladunni Asela, people started to like them and began to formally invite them social gatherings, though, they were paid token as booking fees.
But immediately they started to entertain people at any particular party, they would appreciate them by spraying them money. He said apart from drumming, the band, which has musical instruments such as leading drum (Iya Ilu), cowrie gourd (Sekere), Omele Sakara, Omele Bata, Akuba, can render melodious songs to accompany the drumming.
Asela added that initially, the reward was not that encouraging and the band was nearly disbanded. But fortune and the spirit of Ayangalu smiled on them when Senator Lanre Tejuoso spotted the band during a political rally and engaged its services.
He said though Governor Ibikunle Amosun also showed interest in them by asking them to follow him to political campaigns in preparation for the 2015 general elections, it was the senator who sat with them and formally engaged them:
“When the governor saw how we always performed at political gatherings, he requested that we should be following his campaign train. This made us to traverse the 236 wards in the state with the governor.
“Before the senator approached us, we were follwoing an aspirant who vied for the Ogun Central Senatorial district ticket with Tejuoso. The senator was the one who added Eni a fe de to our band name. He also asked us to be always appearing in his political cap for identification.”
He added that since engaging the band, though not on permanent basis, the senator always ensures he fulfills his promises to them. Apart from cash gift, he includes the band in his empowerment programmes, where members were given empowerment tools.
Muritala Adeyemo who handles Akuba, said the band had traveled far and wide within Nigeria, especially to Abuja and Port Harcourt, while a prominent woman entreprenuer and educationist, Iyalode Alaba Lawson, took the band to Cotonuo in the Republic of Benin and Ghana in 2014, to perform.
Adeyemo, with a smile of satisfaction, recalled how the band was a second runner-up at a competition organised by Goldberg Beer in February 2017, where the band was given a cash reward.
Another member of the group, Yussuf Alayande, the Bata drum expert, said though things are now looking up for Paramount Band, many unpleasant experiences were encountered in their line of duty.
For example, he said the group had been mugged, mobbed and harrased on many occasions by urchins who always tried to share from their largesse. He, however, thanked God that none of the encounters led to any serious injuries.
Talking on their uniform, Yussuf, explained that they have a dress code, which according to him, must be immaculate and presentable. While vowing that none of the members smokes or consumes hard drink, he stated that it was when a popular auto dealer in Abeokuta noticed their comportment and organisation, that he gave the band a bus.
The man in charge of Sekere, Abiodun Adegbite, narrated how the band, to everybody’s admiration, used drums to sing the national anthem and offer opening prayer at the Drum Festival, organised by the Ogun State Government. He also recollected how Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, during forme president Olusegun Obasanjo’s 80th birthday, sent one of his aides to give them money, for their performance at the event.
He said several Egba high chiefs had been pestering them to record an album, but the band was taking its time to find a good recording deal. Apart from that, he said the band was planning, with the support of a well-meaning individual, to travel to Canada.
He added that the band had performed with artistes like Sefiu Alao, Taye Currency, while Hafsat Abiola-Costello, promised the band, to organise a collabo with Wizkid.