The gods are meeting the heavens are quiet but the clatter of agogo and the rustle of ṣekẹ̀rẹ̀ honored the high voice of Ohùnúnbáre as it echoed from the horizon with her chant. Ohùnúnbáre was in high gear you would think Ògún was coming. Her chant meandered through difficult octaves to invoke a passion that only her knows. Her chant was beautiful but the spirit was different while the focus of ṣekẹ̀rẹ̀ stayed the same.
Ohùnúnbáre was calling on the gods to listen to her supplication before they entered their meeting but they seemed not to be listening and the ṣekẹ̀rẹ̀’s rhythm seemed not to be abating. Ohùnúnbáre’s voice is in crescendo whilst the ṣekẹ̀rẹ̀ is not letting her go, it followed her sonority like the obsession of a newly found lover. gúdúgúdú joined the team as the clatter of the omele akọ emerged and in speed, they went to high gear to supplicate the gods. For Ṣaworo Idẹ was missing there must be a problem in town.
But where is Àyànróunbí, where is the master drummer? Where is the man with the unmistakable stick that speaks in tongues on leather? Where is the spirit that makes the drum dance for itself and the grasshopper somersault on its standing? Where is the animal that makes the butterfly dance with open arms like a lady waiting for an embrace? Where is the stick that stings on the drum and makes the stubborn dance in ‘U’ turns? But nothing is coming from the ánjọ̀nú whose tantrums with sticks contours the mind of the living. The man who agitates leather as if at war needs to speak so that the most hardened spirits in heaven can agree with the man that Àyànàgalú has a representative on earth.
Àyànróunbí needs to talk with his drum. He needs to say something with leather for the earth to rest and the abyss to be at peace. Even the heavens are waiting, everyone is anxious because of Àyànróunbí’s delay with his message. It has been a long time this happened something is brewing.
Ohùnúnbáre called Àyànróunbí his father’s name. He reminded him that Àyànàgalú would be disappointed in the land beyond if Àyànróunbí does not speak with his father’s voice. She asked the man that speaks with the voice of the drum to echo people are waiting. The ako omele responded but the young dùndún and ṣekẹ̀rẹ̀ gave a staccato whilst the agogo continues its anger with the clatter. But Ṣaworo Idẹ was missing there must be a problem in town. Suddenly the boom!!! came like the roar of a lion, the ánjọ̀nú of drums came out with the sound of thunder. In unison omele akọ, the young dùndún and the ṣekẹ̀rẹ̀ echoed with a passion to welcome the gifted but Àyànróunbí’s Ìyá Ìlù echoed the sound that has not been heard for ages.
Àyànróunbí’s delay was not without reason, the bells of his Ìyá Ìlù clattered without apologies like the voice of God. Their rent of sound filled the air like the voices of deities. Ohùnúnbáre smiled that Àyànróunbí respected her voice and she was not left in disgrace.
Àyànróunbí agitated his drum from afar while his mates continue with support. He eulogised Ohùnúnbáre as the woman of honor. The woman that can change even the mind of Ẹlẹ́gbára the twin brother of the deity at the ‘T’junction, the sonorous singer whose voice Èṣù respects. Ohùnúnbáre is the voice that sings and the heavens sing. She is the voice that can echo like Elijah and God shall send rain to respect her anointing. Ohùnúnbáre is the woman of voice that can make Àyànróunbí’ come today. She is a woman of honor that even the gods fancy and Ọ̀ṣun respects. Her voice would call to question any voice on land like Kàyéfì Òṣà chanting with her voice of grace and her rhythm will resonate on any conscience that the gods have given a mind.
Àyànróunbí engaged his drum with a ferocity that agitated the horizon. His delay was not without a reason. The drummer of grace does not dither without a cause. His stick went into turbo, his drum went berserk to agitate sound so loud that even the deaf could hear. Its message was harsh and caused the world to stand. Àyànróunbí drummed and drummed until the cloud was rent with the spirits of the people. Forefathers listened to his tantrum and the gods awed at his news. The founders of the land turned in their graves as Àyànróunbí called ogẹ́rẹ́ afọkọ́yẹrí to order with his drum that speaks with the sound of heaven.
Àyànróunbí was the only drummer on earth that could go into offensive and the gods would abandon their meeting. When Àyànróunbí is on top of his art the world must stop Àyànróunbí drummed, he drummed and drummed. He hit his drums until Òṣòròngà abandoned their meeting. He bellowed and bellowed, the Oṣó ilé gave vent to their ears to hear. Àyànróunbí bowed to the North, he curtsied to the south. He honoured the west where the sun rises and praised the east where the sun sets. He rolled his drum on the floor for Èṣù the master that has its home on the ‘T’ junction and blessed Ọ̀rúnmìlà the master of destiny and the only god that was present at creation with Olódùmarè. Àyànróunbí told the world the rat inside the house and the rat outside the street, last saw each other a long time ago he asked whether they noticed that Ṣaworo Idẹ was missing among the drums. The big tree has fallen who has the guts to lift it up. The largest whale is out of water who has the strength to push it back to sea. Àjànàkú is on the floor it cannot lift itself.
The ricochets of sounds are now undeniable. The sleeping birds have woken, dosing elephants have risen, invocation is heavy it is waking the wild. The abyss is in tumult, birds of the sky have lost their bearings. Spirit angels are leaving their places and forebears are listening. Ṣaworo Idẹ is missing, the big tree has fallen who has the guts to lift it up. The largest whale is out of water who has the strength to push it back to sea. Àjànàkú is on the floor it cannot lift itself.
Ayanrounbi’s drum is now in solo. The omele stopped its anointing, the agogo stopped its clatter as Àyànróunbí unleashed his anger of the moment on his Ìyá Ìlù like a bully. He asked the big tree to behave like his forebears and lift itself up to stand. The big tree should rise so its leaves can wave to the sky. It should stand so birds can succor with joy on its branches. It should face the sun so energy shall flow into its green and stand so its roots shall dig deep into the earth’s recess. But the big tree has fallen there is no strength left for it to stand. The whale is out of water it could not be pushed back to sea. Àjànàkú is on the floor it cannot lift itself.
Àyànróunbí turned to the sea to to ask that it should roll itself to the shores. It asked the master of the horison to let its wave come in drones with power. He supplicated the endless wall that circles the earth with its presense to make itself felt so the big whale can have the strength to come back to sea. But the Ocean roared with waves that causes surfers to awe. The mat of ships refused to come to shore, the anchor of tsunami continues its work like nothing is happening; the spirit divine that rushes round the world in immeasurable waves of blue that is endless knows the big tree has fallen no one shall lift it up; the big whale is out of water no one can push it back to sea. Àjànàkú has fallen and shall never stand up again.
In unison the unity of drums embarrassed the air, Àyànróunbí unleashed his stick with venom that only his heart can trigger. Àyànróunbí is the drummer that the gods respect. He is the master that would drum and elephants shall stand on a leg and dance. Àyànróunbí could invoke Ìyá Ìlù and tigers shall dance from tree to tree. His drum was fiery as if talking from another celestial order. His Iya Ilu invoked and invoked and invoked. It asked Ọ̀rúnmìlà to visit him with fervor; It asked the father of secrets, witness to allocation of destiny, a friend of every deity to ask Ọ̀sanyìn who has secrets to the plants world to lift up the big tree. the seducer of Ọ̀ṣun with her two breast of unequal sizes should ask Olókun to push the whale back to sea. The confidant of Àgbọnìrègún should ask Àjànàkú to stand up but the one who fed fat on water, master of palm kernels that dangled back and forth on a tray like the scrotum of a blessed man when walking pretended not to hear. The god that challenged death to fight and harbored death’s wanted child in his house and nothing happened to him turned his back to Àyànróunbí’s misery. For the big tree has fallen no one can lift it. The big whale has left water no one can push it back to sea. Àjànàkú is fallen the father of elephants cannot lift itself. Ṣaworo Idẹ is gone for ever.
The staccato ended and the drums in unison went on the rampage. Àyànróunbí’s supplications filled the air. Every cockroach in the neighborhood listened, every lizard nodded their heads. Every rat stood up with trepidation while cats were anxious they could not go into action. Àyànróunbí’s note now was restless the tonation was sad. Àyànróunbí had news that no one wanted to hear. The ricochets of his Ìyá Ìlù travelled like thunder. Winds carried his message like wild fire. Àyànróunbí’s message echoed to the far corners of the world like lightening. Sages were agape, prophets were in awe but angels rejoice in heaven. The maestro of language, the man with facialographs, the lákátabú of drama with white beard that Santa envies can no longer come out for play. The man with the grace of pen can no longer write again and the wizard of culture is now indifferent to culture. Ṣaworo Idẹ is gone, the champion of his mother tongue is mute. Àyànróunbí finally announced to the world on Saturday 17th February 2018 that Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá is gone.
The fair man of culture can no longer behave like his father. He can no longer dance with his hands and rollick with his legs; the man with the white beard Òyìnbó prayed should be their own but God denied the grace can no longer dance with all his body. Ọmọ Ìṣọ̀lá was no longer listening, the maestro was no longer cheering. Indeed the big tree has fallen no one has the strength to lift it up, the whale is out of water no one can push it back to sea. Ajananku is fallen it cannot lift itself. Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá the maestro of Yoruba, the pride of his people has gone to bed never to wake up again,
Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá has gone with kánọ̀kò to meet his bosom friend Alàgbà Adèbáyo Fálétí in the world beyond. Àjàgbé àró ọmọ Oròójídé the man of grace did not say he would go so soon. The writer of Ṣaworo Idẹ, Madam Tinúubú, Ó le kú and many others is now in Unison with the saints. The Ògídímọ̀làjà are in peace where the greats meet and the anointed are back as friends. Ọkọ Adébọ́lá the man in glasses that sees left and right with eyes like an eagle gave no notice he would soon abandon us in this world. The blessed fair man now speaks with the voice of angels and chants with the beauty of the anointed.
Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá was the sage with wisdom that feeds mortal minds with knowledge like the friend of spirits. He was the lion that roars in Yorúbá and all other animals respect his diction. When Akínwùmí coughed elephants greeted him “Ẹ káàrọ̀ Baba”, when he sneezed lions greeted him “Ẹ káàsán Alàgbà”. Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá was the man that dared yawn and crocodiles fell over one another in the sea shouting “Baba òò!!!, Baba oo !!! kára baba ó le òo. Kẹ́mì í ọlá ó gùn!!!”. When Ọmọ Ìṣọ̀lá is around angels of language spoke Yorúbá before they could sleep in peace. Akínwùmí is the man the Òyìnbó man sees and forgets the meaning of vernacular for anyone who insults Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá’s mother tongue shall hear the story of the husband of his mother. Ọmọ Oroojide was the loyal patriot of his root. The son of Ìṣọ̀lá was the sage who left legacy of pen that shall guarantee his anointing in the minds of men for ages. Akínwùmí was the man that looked out of the window angels levitated to have his gaze. He owned the inkwell that fed pen that ran riot over the universe like a witch on mat. The fair man can no longer sing his father’s song. Honest man shall no longer write his moon light plays that awed artists of pit theatre. The man with facialograph that the gods worked over time to put in place can no longer dance his fathers tune.
The gun salute is issued as heaven is agog Ọmọ Ìṣọ̀lá is coming in pomp and glory. Olóhùn Iyọ̀ is there to welcome the gifted to the place of distinction. Àyànàgalú is now his drummer, Akínwùmí has arrived where the greats are respected, his trod is filled with the sound of prestige and full of breath of success. Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá’s sacrifice for his language is speaking for him, there is a guard of honor with angels in a lap of honour. The man of fame the heavens acknowledge counted his steps to the home of nobles. He has the steps of joy and listens to the chant of his oríkì. Olóhùn Iyọ̀ ushers him to the palace of the King where he would be received as illustrious in majesty and honor.
Professor Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá was my senior colleague in University of Ifẹ̀, Ilé- Ifẹ̀ (now Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀ University) when I was a young lecturer. He took to me when I started there in 1982. I was his adopted son. Subsequently anyone Professor Ìṣọ̀lá introduced me to became my mentor and all of them influenced me to very beautiful measures. They doted on me. He introduced me to Professor Ọlábíyíì Yaì
and Professor Làmídì Fákẹ́yẹ. They all spoilt me stiff to the envy of many that I forgot that I had no father. It was also through him that I gained beautiful access to Alàgbà Adèbáyo Fálétí in 1987 when Professor Ìṣọ̀lá arranged and anchored plans for the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of my father’s death and started me on another relationship of father and son that still endears my memory. Only Professor Yai is alive now and I beg him in the name of God not to be in a hurry to go. I need him here for much longer. His guidance is invaluable to me.
My relationship with Professor Ìṣọ̀lá continued to blossom with the inauguration of the D O Fagunwa Foundation in which we were members of the Board of Trustees. The Foundation benefitted immensely from him socially and culturally. His contributions at Boards meetings were golden, worthwhile and purposeful. He is a sad loss to the Foundation which he supported with experience, knowledge and charisma. He and Alagba spoke flawlesss Yorúbá. That was not a surprise given that like my father (Chief D O Fagunwa) of memory they had facialograph (tribal marks) that immediately distinguished them as made in Nigeria commodities. But above all they were celebrities and it was not only very overwhelming and emotionally exhilarating but a prestige and honour to be regularly sitting on their table to brood, laugh and enjoy.
Professor Ìṣọ̀lá was humble, straightforward and kind. He had a highly developed sense of humor and was very unpretentious. His presence was relaxing, humane and friendly. He was a simple man, full of joy and warmth. He was easy to access. Professor Ìṣọ̀lá was extremely gifted with knowledge of Yorúbá language and traditions. He emitted Yorúbá wise sayings and words of wisdom with diction from a repertoir that overwhelms you if you were craving for Knowledge. He always spoke Yorúbá and was an incorrigible exponent of mother tongue. He preached it and lived it. He and Alàgbà Fálétí were Yoruba dictionary and thesaurus for me. When you were in conversation with them your brain sometimes goes comatose with excitement as you listened and listened to words of wisdom. You could not be bored if you were present when Professor Ìṣọ̀lá and Alàgbà Fálétí were engaged in a banter. They wore smiles that still reverberate in my memory and turned anywhere they were electric with theatrics. They took you to an out of this world layer of discernment and entertainment where you hated to return only to realise later you were still on earth if you had the favour of sitting in their presence.
Professor Ìṣọ̀lá authored plays and works that explored Yoruba culture in depth. These are legacies for our people to embrace. He had enough knowledge in his arseal to mentor tradition for our crux of leadership. He opined on many fronts that culture should be the backbone of education so it could be of value to national development..
I commiserate with the family of Professor Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá. He was an intellectual of no simple status with Solomonic sagacity. He was a man whose worst moments were better than the best of most of our high and mighty. His sense of purpose and honesty was high so much that he was given the nickname ‘Honest man’ by his friends. He died at old age and his life should be celebrated.
Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá did his bit, the baton is now handed over to us to leave this world better than we met it. Indeed what joy or glory is in for a man who does his people no good? Such men should not have lived. They are a waste of God’s time. Akínwùmí was a celebration of God’s love for man. He lived well.
Rest in Peace Professor Akínwùmí Ìṣọ̀lá. God bless you wherever you are with gentle repose.
GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN.