Why I’m passionate about Yoruba culture —Tunji Ajibade
Tunji Ajibade, popularly known as Talogaju, is a Yoruba cultural activist, musician, journalist and author. In this interview with Adewale Oshodi, he speaks on his passion for the promotion of the Yoruba culture, as well as why the people must come together to salvage the language. Excerpts:
You are a cultural activist, a musician, author, journalist, among others, how did it all begin for you?
RIGHT from when I was in primary school, I discovered that I loved listening to folk stories; I also loved researching into such stories. In fact, during those years, I formed the habit of researching into the meaning of names of communities and towns across Yorubaland. I also developed interest in the talking drum. I was a member of a church choir, and started reciting poetry in church. Although when I began reciting poetry, I was doing it for fun, after a while, people began paying me so I could perform at their functions like wedding, burial and house warming ceremonies.
Then there was this year that I came for holiday in Ibadan, and I saw some people reciting poems at the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Ibadan, and I told my brother I could also do it, and he took me to NTA. Although they gave me the opportunity to recite my poems there, they, however, said I was too young then. After my final secondary school certificate examination, I went to the Radio Nigeria, where I met Mr Sunday Olonitoke, he is late now; he was in-charge of poetry at Radio Nigeria then. When I told him of my mission, he took me to a big studio, believing I would become jittery, but I held my nerve and performed well; so it was at Radio Nigeria that I first had contact with broadcasting.
You really came to limelight while with Galaxy Television with a programme, Talogaju, but there was a time you stopped completely before coming back after some years, what made you stop it then?
Talogaju is a Yoruba quiz programme, and what made it different was that I introduced live musical performances during shows. There were other quiz programmes, but Talogaju was different. After I left Galaxy, in January 2006, I started on my own, publishing books, playing music at functions. I was in the United States, United Kingdom, Abuja, and many other places, performing music with my band. I then went into radio production. All this while, I left television completely, but four years ago, I was invited back by Galaxy Television. The management wanted me to resuscitate Talogaju, which I gladly embraced. Talogaju is now the only surviving Yoruba quiz programme in the whole of South West.
As a Yoruba cultural activist, are you satisfied with the state the language is in today?
I am definitely not happy. I am really working towards ensuring that our children speak the Yoruba language. Today, many parents prefer speaking to their children in English language, and they don’t know the harm they are doing to our culture. A language that is not passed to the coming generation will die. To address this, I came up with an organisation, Congress of Yoruba Book Readers, where we encourage people to read Yoruba books, I bring together pupils from different schools and we read selected Yoruba books and discuss the morals in the books afterwards. I also work with the Centre for Yoruba Language Engineering, where we are working towards producing cartoons in Yoruba language. We understand that children love cartoons, but they only have access to foreign cartoons, so the idea here is to come up with cartoons where the characters speak Yoruba instead of English. So parents have a lot of roles to play in sustaining our culture. At the moment, the United States government has set aside fund for teachers who are learning the Yoruba language. These teachers are not Yoruba people but American, and what this tells us is that very soon, Americans will be teaching our children our own language. Shouldn’t this tell us something? If our language is not valuable, would America commit such huge resources towards acquiring it? This is why I am not happy that Samuel Ajayi Crowther University in Oyo, which was named after the great Yoruba legend, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, is not offering any Yoruba language programme. The truth is that the Yoruba language is not complete without mentioning Samuel Ajayi Crowther, so we need to do more to promote our language.
Apart from speaking the language to children, through what other ways can we pass the culture to the coming generation?
The best way to acquire language is for those platforms that fill the world of a child to use the language. The television, radio, social media, musicians, actors, among others should make use of Yoruba, which our children will assimilate easily. It is funny that some broadcast presenters would be speaking Yoruba but wouldn’t be able to construct a sentence without speaking in English. So these platforms should be used to transfer language.
As a musician, what do you want to say to the type of music being churned out by today’s so-called music artistes?
The type of music being produced today reflects the state of the country; we know things are bad in the country, and that is why such terrible music are thriving. However, most of these songs won’t stand the test of time. Look at the music of Sir Victor Olaiya, Chief Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, all their songs produced in the 1980s are still relevant today, but the today’s songs which glorify instant wealth, violence, corruption, among others don’t thrive for long.