interviewBy John Chuks Azu
Mr. Chukwu Oba is behind a Scottish grown music genre, the Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB), which is making in-roads into Nigeria.
Can you tell us about your music?
We play the bagpipe music. There are so many types of bagpipe music across the world, but ours is the Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB) music, which is greatly promoted in Scotland. Here in Nigeria we are trying to bring it in for all kinds of social events.
Do you think your kind of music will have acceptability in the society?
Yes, it is suitable for all kinds of occasion because of its uniqueness be it wedding, funeral, anniversary, child dedication, among others. It is used to welcome visitors before an event commences and to close the event by playing farewell songs. Our kind of music is of social and health values. Listening to this music relishes memories and where words cannot combine; it is so philosophical and emotional even where words of expression cannot touch. The sound of the pipe can reach up to nine miles. So, what we do is to use this to play some solemn music when an event is about to commence.
Why did you take to this music?
This is a project I have been studying closely for the past 24 years. It is a musical instrument so unique and very popular around the world. And somehow the initiative came to establish our own. We are working to ensure that the music penetrates the Nigerian society. I did not have to travel to Scotland to study this music, but through interaction and research, I have been able to learn the instrument.
Can you recall the events you have covered?
We are just starting, but we have been to wedding as well as funeral ceremonies.
What are the various instruments used for the performance?
The GHB is an instrument that performs on it own; it has been designed such that it produces the required harmony in music. And just like the name 'Bagpipe' suggests, it has drones that produce the tenor and bass sounds with the help of the airbag supplying constant air under pressure from the blower. The bagpipe is so fitted that combining the instruments produces a memorable melody.
Don't you think your brand of music and the instruments used may be viewed as too elitist?
Yes at the moment one may say it is elitist, because it is foreign instrument inherited from our British colonial masters. The Nigerian Army and the Police Force have sustained the tradition. If you look at their band they always have one or two pipers. We want to make it more accessible to civilians. Other Nigerians who have been outside and seen this type of music play and enjoy it continue to encourage us.
What about the costume?
All over the world, pipers are known for their costume. We wear the kilt (which people call skirt) which is made of the tartan fabric one of the oldest materials, the spora, the jacket, host, the hat and the pipes. Our costume and the instruments were specifically supplied from Canada.
One may wonder why a Nigerian will chose to promote a foreign rather than an indigenous culture?
The Nigerian culture is not far away from what we are doing. Though we use foreign instruments, we are trying to let the world know that Nigeria is not left behind in global affairs; we are trying to join the train pipe music fraternity and be part of the scheme of things. The type of music we play one way or the other is still Nigerian culture.
How do you finance the project?
Right now we are using individual contributions. I have ten students learning under me now, and I have been funding their training with my money. But we expect corporate organisations to encourage us, because it will help attract investments to the country. Ordinarily foreigners don't believe Nigerians can play the pipe. They may have seen them among the Police band, but they don't know the citizens can also play it.