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Brother Resistance, cultural activist, researcher, educator and rapso artiste, will receive the Keeper of Tradition Award when the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) hosts its annual Yoruba Drum Festival tomorrow at the Yoruba Village Square (the bandstand), near Besson Street, Port of Spain between 1 and 8 pm.
This award is given annually to someone from the Yoruba Village community who has worked assiduously to preserve and develop African art forms and traditions inherited from our ancestors. The presentation is part of the all-afternoon event which is hosted by the ESC.
A release from the ESC said the Festival preserves part of our African heritage that has played a significant role in the development of the culture of T&T and features performances by drummers, dancers and rapso artistes.
This year’s performers will include the St James Police Youth Club Drummers and Dancers, 2013 Drums of Thunder Champions, Wasafoli; Ujamaa Ambatana; St James Cultural Artisans with Desmond Wallace, recipient of the 2013 Keeper of the Tradition; the Black Beat International Band and rapso artistes, Oba Dread, Curious Ringo, Mc Meo, Cardinal, Wise One, Wolde Dawit and Knocker, recipient of the 2012 Keeper of the Tradition.
The tribute to Brother Resistance, also known as Lutalo Masimba, is based on his hard work over decades to preserve, teach and develop the oral tradition through the creation and performance of rapso music.
A son of the community of East Dry River, or Yoruba Town, he was the lead singer of the Network Riddim Band which has generated strong conscious messages with songs such as Ring de Bell and Mother Earth. In addition to the development of the rapso genre, Brother Resistance is also the preserver of another African tradition, calypso as he continues to hold the post as President of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonian Organisation.
In Trinidad, during the 19th Century, East Port of Spain was known as Yoruba Village or Yoruba Town because of the large Yoruba-speaking population residing there at the time. Now, the town is known as Laventille, Belmont, Gonzales and Morvant.
The only evidence of the Town’s existence is the Yoruba Village Square, opposite the old Besson Street Police Station located at the southern end of Piccadilly Street and St Joseph Road, Port of Spain.
Among the traditions passed on by those who came was the gift of drumming. During the days of slavery and colonialism, it was a connection between the African’s uprooted homeland and the place enslaved people had been told to consider their new abode. The drums were considered a call to prayer, a call for help, and a call for celebration, but the colonists thought otherwise. They often interpreted the drumming as if the enslaved persons were sending messages that might lead to an uprising.
Now, the youngsters who play these drums play a call for unity, brotherhood and peace. Playing the drums is a skill transferred from generation to generation and this year, the participants will show off their talents.
The Yoruba Drum Festival, one of the major events leading up to the Emancipation Day celebrations, is held annually the day before Father’s Day and fathers present will receive a gift made by one of the craftsmen of the community. The ESC will also present awards to youth for their achievement of excellence in commemoration of the United Nations International Day of the African Child.