Analysis of the poem Piano and drums by Gabriel Okara
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>Themes of Piano and Drums
Piano and Drums
When at break of day at a riverside
I hear the jungle drums telegraphing
the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw
like bleeding flesh, speaking of
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;
Then I hear a wailing piano
solo speaking of complex ways in
of far away lands
and new horizons with
coaxing diminuendo, counterpoint,
crescendo. But lost in the labyrinth
of its complexities, it ends in the middle
of a phrase at a daggerpoint.
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.
Analysis of Piano ad Drums
Piano and Drums is quite clearly a poem about the cultural dichotomy of traditional and Western cultures in post-colonial Africa, but the raw emotion of the poem makes it an expression of confusion that anyone tied to more than one culture (which is a lot of people in this day and age of globalisation) can relate to. Even failing that, the imagery of the poem is powerful enough to express his confusion – we can almost feel Okara’s indecision seeping through the page. Okara’s metaphors are simple but fitting: the drums represent traditional African life, while the piano represents the Western world. What I love so much about the writing in this poem is how his reaction to each “instrument” is portrayed. Both the first stanza (drums) and the third stanza (piano) are arranged in a similar way. There are essentially three parts to each one. First, we hear the sound of the instrument. In the case of the drums, it has a “mystic rhythm” that is “urgent” and “raw”. As for the piano, it is said to be “wailing” and “a tear-furrowed concerto” is being played. We get an impression that while it is seductive, it is far more complex and multi-layered. Next, we find what the music “speaks of”. The drums speak of primal life. The piano, on the other hand, speaks of “complex ways” and of “far away lands and new horizons”. Each stanza closes with his base reaction to hearing each instrument. The drums induce memories and images of hunting in a primal lifestyle, and the simple life with natural beauty surrounding him that he can lead in that culture. The piano, while seductive, turns it to be too complicated for itself. The expression of those ideas only works on the level it does because of the way each line of the poem flows into the other. Although it appears simplistic, exposition is handled very well here, in a way that many authors of prose could learn from. As the poem begins, the drum beats recall in him the primal nature of traditional life as a hunter gatherer. The placing of the word “telegraphing” here is interesting due to its difference from the rest of the diction in the stanza. It conveys to the reader a subtle feeling that Okara is no longer part of the beating of the drum; it is implied to be a kind of message – although it brings out raw and fresh emotion in him, it is telegraphed, not played in all its purity. As the hunters stand poised to take action, Okara’s memory shifts from a situation of primal aggression to memories of his childhood. He revels in remembrance of being in his “mother’s laps a suckling”. Here there are “no innovations”; paths are shaped by the pulse of life in all its simplicity and glory. However, his love of the drumming is not strong enough to prevent his
distraction. In a mere moment, his focus is on the “wailing piano / solo”. The complexity of the piano is seductive; the “far away lands” and “new horizons” present a counterpoint to the simplicity of his reminiscing of traditional life – but its complexities reach a point where it stops abruptly, lost in itself. It might sound at this point as if Okara has already made up his mind to follow the path of the drums, but he still finds himself lost. This confused me the first time I read the poem, but on re-reads it makes perfect sense. Despite the fact that the piano seems to crumble upon itself, he is still
seduced by it – its arrest at a “daggerpoint” almost adds to its layered and complex nature, which is what attracted Okara to it in the first place. The last stanza, seemingly calmer and more restful in its rhythm than the first three, feels to me as if fueled with raw, pure emotion. He is lost, wandering aimlessly as the music of the two instruments meld around him. Confusion surrounds him and, for the moment, he succumbs to it.
The Themes in Piano and Drums
Analysis of the major themes in piano and drums
1 The Theme of Culture / Conflict
Culture in Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara
In the poem “Piano and Drums” the poet Gabriel Okara depicts and contrasts two different cultures through symbolism of pianos and drums. The Poem is divided into four stanzas. The first two stanzas represent the “drum” culture and the second two stanzas show the “piano” culture. The description of the drums is in two stanzas, but is one sentence long. The first line of the first stanza:
‘When at break of day at a riverside’
Uses trochees to emphasize the deliberate broken rhythm. The stanza has savage words, “bleeding flesh,” “urgent raw,” “leopard snarling,” “spears poised,” to show that this is a primitive culture, one which has dependency on the environment, as is represented by the “hunters crouch with spears poised.” The environment in this culture is physically dangerous, surrounded by wild animals. Drums here are a way of communication, and “jungle drums telegraphing the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw…” shows the way of life in this culture. This is life which is simple, near the beginnings of man. The stanza ... ... middle of paper ...
...with one another, with Drums illustrating primitive behaviour, and a savage, dangerous culture. The connotations of the piano are complex and technical. The piano uses significantly different word sounds, showing that it is learnt, westernized and intricate compared to the drums which is instinctive and naturally acquired, and simple.
The poem uses no set rhyme pattern which suits the poem as it has an undecided effect, emphasizing the confusion of the persona over his future.
2 The Theme of Innocence
The theme of innocence in the poem is explored in the poem is explored in the depiction of african culture, from the very first line of the poem where we are told that the events take place "at break of day", the idea of innocence is already implied. This is because the day is fresh and uncontaminated by other activities or sounds. The sound heard from the jungle drums are therefore pure and not corrupt, the poem also invokes the idea of innocence.
3The Theme of Dilemma
The theme of dile also features in the poem, while the poet speaks glowingly of african culture, he also finng european culture, despite its shortcomings, seductive. Thus he is unable to dwcide whether to let go of the inherited culture or embrace the new one this is the plight of many educated africans today . many have however resolved this delimma by taking from the two cultures in what has come to be know as cultual syncretism
Poetic Divice of literary terms in Piano and Drum
The main poetic device is the use of symbolism
The use of Symbolism
The poem use symbolism to derive its message, the sources of the conflict explored in the poem are represented symbolically by Piano and Drums