Relevance of traditional media in Nigeria

Florence Enejah

Communication is the act or process of using words, sounds, signs or behavior to express or pass across information. It involves different forms which include the intra-personal and interpersonal group or mass communication. Animals can communicate among themselves, bees for instance communicate by a form of dancing and transmission of smells, wolves by the movements of their bodies, birds by quite a large range of methods such as their songs, bodily movement, displays and even preliminary nest building behavior. Human beings however have developed the largest known range of means of communication which does not only involve speech and writing but also a vast repertoire  of signaling devices from primitive drumbeats in the jungle or smoke signals to the sophistication of art ,literature and systems of telecommunications extending all over the world.

Communication both traditional and modern means has promoted peaceful co-existence, understanding and self awareness among human-beings. They have certain common elements that together help define communication process. In any communication there must be an individual who is involved in the dissemination of the message and a receiver .It is done simultaneously in other to achieve a desirable result. Traditional media of communication are the forms or means people in rural settings use in passing across information .The traditional media include the town crier, oral tradition, talking drum, smoke signals, ivory horn and long brass, the open market , music/lyrics , festival , drama amongst others.

The town crier: It is a potent force in information dissemination as it remains an authoritative voice of the traditional authority. The town crier is usually an eloquent individual who understands the community. The town crier uses a metal gong which is of varying sizes and shapes. The Igbos call it ogene, the Yorubas call it agogo and the Hausas kuge. This instrument is particularly used to communicate information and at the same time perform a rhythmic and melodic function. The town crier or village gong man is usually heard in the early hours of the morning preceded by the sound of a gong. He announces important meetings, ceremonies, messages and imminent troubles. He is seen as the society’s journalist. The effectiveness of the town crier usually lies in his oratory skills and thorough knowledge of the community norms, values and heritage.

Oral tradition: This is one of the most important media through which Nigerians interact and communicate in the rural settings or the introduction of modern communication. The tradition in form of history, cultural values and heritage were passed on by word of mouth from one generation to another in form of songs, proverbs, legends, religion etc. Oral tradition dominates all other sources of information exchange in pre-colonial Nigeria.

It helps in sharing knowledge of environment interpretation, transmission of social heritage from one generation another, socializing new members and also entertaining the community.
Talking drum: This is another form of traditional media. The talking drum is an extent ion of oral tradition. It is regarded as the ekwo –ikoro among the igbos ,kalengu among the Hausas and dundun or gangan among the yorubas.The talking drum speaks the language of their community, expresses their feelings , circumstances and event. It speaks without tongue and its audience hears and understands the message content. It reproduces the tonal pattern of a sentence and can be heard over a long distance, For many years, the talking drum has been noted as one of the symbols of the old African tradition and an instrument of music. It has over the years played an important role in communication.

Ivory horn and Long brass: These are used to communicate messages and herald important event. It produces notes that vary in length and tones. The ivory horns are found in south eastern part of Nigeria where they have also become state symbols of titled men. The long brass on the other hand is found mostly in Northern Nigeria. It is called kaakaki which is trumpet and Algaita which is the short trumpet. It is usually used by royal trumpeters who keep the villagers informed of the movement of titled men. Its function is associated with royalty. It is played only at events at the palace of the emir or any title holder, during festive periods like sallah or durbar.
Smoke signals/gunshots: Smoke signal is one of the earliest forms of long distance communication. It is a form visual communication .it is used to transmit signal of danger or gather people to a common area. Each village has its own signaling system and understanding. The location of the smoke usually conveys the meaning.

Music: The traditional Nigerian society vibrates with music and music accompanies all life activities .There is music for all occasions like social, ceremonial, religious, ritual etc. Further remarkable feature of music is that it teaches morals.
These means of communication in rural areas in Nigeria cut across various ethnic groups. Most groups depend on one or more of these as a means of reaching out to its people and disseminating information. However, in evaluating the present state of traditional media in Nigeria one would discover that its use has declined drastically because of the development in communication. The most visible effect of globalization is wide spread communication. The introduction of newspapers, mobile technology, television, radio, internet has contributed in the spread of information on a large scale with ease. From the comfort of your home you have information on happenings all over the globe. Unlike the traditional media that can only reach a few people at a time. The influence of mass media has grown as the number of media outlet has increased.
The ease of the accessibility of these modern media has made information dissemination very fast and easy.

The mass media has always played a very important role in our present society more of its usage which is in the urban settings has remained one of the methods of controlling people and their recreational time. Globalization of the media despite its advantages has its disadvantages especially as it affects our culture.  Exposure to most foreign cultures influences the perception of people especially the youth. Most of them no longer appreciate our indigenous language, dressing, values and norms, food, etc. They copy most of the foreign cultures thus our culture is gradually fading away.
Thus, traditional means of communication in Nigeria should be positively exploited and utilized to meet the needs of rural people.

Enejah wrote from National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abuja

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