GABRIEL IMOMOTINE OBAINBAING OKARA: was born in 1921 in the ijaw area of the delta region of Nigeria. After hi secondary education in, Nigeria, he developed himself, by private reading and deep thinking, into a remarkable person and poet. He is known a principal information officer in the eastern Nigeria government service.

His poems and short stories have been broadcast, published in various journals, particularly in ‘’Black Orpheus’’, and translated into many languages. His novel, the voice, published in 1964, reveals hi deep concern with the problem of the development of an English languages capable of fully expressing the African’s view of life.


When at breaks of day at a riverside

I hear jungle drums telegraphing

The mystic rhythm, urgent, raw

Like bleeding tree of speaking of

5   primal youth and the beginning,

I see the panther ready to pounce,

The leopard snarling about to leap

And the hunters crouch with spears poised;


And my blood ripples turns torrent,

10  topples the yearsand at once I’m

In my mother’s laps a suckling;

At once I’m walking simple

Paths with no innovations,

Rugged,fashioned with naked

15 warmth of hurrying feet and groping hearts

In green leaves and wilds flowers pulsing.


Then I hear a wailing piano

Solo speaking of complex ways

In tear-furrowed concerto;

20  of far away lands

And new horizons with

Coaxing dimineudo, counterpoint,

Crescendo. But lost in the labyrinth

Of its complexities, it ends in the middle

15 Places to WIN $10,000
15 Places to WIN $10,000 Cash

25 of a phrase at a dagger point.


And I lost in the morning mist

Of an age at a riverside keep

Wandering in the mystic rhythm

Of jungle drums and the concerto

Piano symbolize or represent the western civilization or European culture while the drums symbolize diverse African civilization and its reach cultural heritage. The incursion of western civilization into the cherished African way of life places African man in a state of confusion and retards the growth of hi cultural life.

The poet is embittered that the advent of European civilization has brought in strange culture which has been very difficult for the people to comprehend. Though culture is dynamic but the way and manner the new culture(piano) has arrived and the poor impartation and the swiftness with which the invaders tend to propagates it creates serious burden to the people it has been imposed on. ‘’then I hear a willing piano sol speaking of complex ways/in tear-surrounded concerto, of the far away lands.’’

It because of the way ‘’things have fallen apart’’ and the centre of African civilization refuses to hold’’ that compels the poet to put down his pen. As these two culture class the speaker is in dilemma.

He does not know which culture is genuine to be followed. The African way of dressing, worship, food, language or the European way of worship, dress, food , dance and language.


In line 1-8 the poet stand by the river side in the early hour of the morning. Sound of some jungle drum flow though his ears. The drums bring in deep message to his heart. The deep message rushes in like blood out of the flesh of a suddenly killed animal. The jungle drums take him down the memory lane recalling to him what happened to him when he was a child at home.

As he listens to the messages of the drum it appears as if a leopard has arrived to kill its prey. The leopard bares his teeth and poises for war. The hunters have also gathered in readiness to kill with their spears. The drums invigorate and arouse the people into forceful action. The drums tense the atmosphere.

In line 9-16 His blood gradually returns inside him, the ancient drums carried him to the memory lane when he used to sit at his mother’s lap as a suckling child. The sound of the drums brings to his memory, how he walked along the bush path in the olden days. The bush paths were ungraded, untraded and gutter less. The message of the drums forces hi mind to return and walk along the narrow paths which people’s feet have made as he hastily, gladly moved through the blooming vegetation and flowers of tropical dark forests.

In lines 17-25 the sound of the piano pierces though the ear of the poet. The piano’s sound appears singing and crying at the same time.

The piano is just a lone voice without supporting drums. It speaks varieties of things and diverse way of life that make it difficult for the people to understand. It uses cry to put its messages across.

It discusses place that are far away and strange experiences and knowledge which proves that it is an alien speaker. The voice fluctuates, rises and softly falls. There are other entertainments that are coming from the same piano, at the same time. The speaker observes that, whichever way the music of the piano takes; whether high or low tunes, It is gradually drawing him closer to like the music of the piano.

He is worried that while he has been deeply engulfed in the heaviness of the piano’s melody, but it suddenly stops without final conclusion. Its abrupt stoppage become painful and devastating as if a dagger has pierced through his flesh or body.

In line 26-29. The speaker discusses how he has been taken down the memory lane on the river side in the years gone by. In those ancient days indeed, nothing appeared visible and feasible to him as he stood dumbfounded. His mind begins to make an unsteady fluctuation between the magic flow of the jungle drums and the difficult nature of the piano and vise versa; without siting with anyone. He remains in dilemma


The poet employs many devices to convey his message.

Diction: his choice of language is good. He uses simple language that can be easily understood by a lay reader. Though there are some complex words that a lay reader must resort to the dictionary for proper meaning. Such words as ‘panther’ in line 6, ‘’crouch’’ in line 8, ‘’furrowed concerto’’, coaxing ‘’diminuendo’’, line 22, ‘’crescendo’’ line 23 ‘’labyrinth’’ line 23.


The speaker makes use of water imagery having come from river rime area. We can see such words as ‘riverside,’’ ‘’torrents’’ line 8. He makes effective use symbols. The title of the poem piano and the drums symbolizes cultural clash between the western civilization and African civilization and the consequences of the marriage that exist between the two cultures or civilization.

He again makes use of metaphor to convey his message. He uses mist as a metaphor to mean that which is difficult to be remembered. In the last stanza mist is metaphorically employed to show that in the midst of culture clash, the speaker does not know which of the civilization to follow. ‘’ I lost in the morning mist of an age of a riverside deep.’’ Wondering in the mystic rhythm of jungle drums and the concerto.’’


The poem moves from one line to other without a break in sense.

‘’and my blood ripples, turns torrent, topples the years and at once I’m in my mother’s lap suckling’’ this is another clear use of imagery.

Alliteration: this is another device employs by the speaker. The poet employs the use of consonant sound. To enhance the music flow of the poem.


  1. Discuss the use of contrast in Gabriel okra’s ‘’piano and drum’’.
  2. Discuss Gabriel okra’s ‘’piano and drum’’ as protest poem.

    See also



    The themes and characterization of the novel


    The plot of Native Son by Richard Wright

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Get Fully Funded Scholarships

    Free Visa, Free Scholarship Abroad

               Click Here to Apply