In the poem “Piano and Drums” the poet Gabriel Okara depicts and
contrasts two different cultures through symbolism of pianos and
The Poem is divided into four stanzas. The first two stanzas represent
the “drum” culture and the second two stanzas show the “piano”
The description of the drums is in two stanzas, but is one sentence
long. The first line of the first stanza:
‘When at break of day at a riverside’
Uses trochees to emphasize the deliberate broken rhythm. The stanza
has savage words, “bleeding flesh,” “urgent raw,” “leopard snarling,”
“spears poised,” to show that this is a primitive culture, one which
has dependency on the environment, as is represented by the “hunters
crouch with spears poised.” The environment in this culture is
physically dangerous, surrounded by wild animals. Drums here are a way
of communication, and “jungle drums telegraphing the mystic rhythm,
urgent, raw…” shows the way of life in this culture. This is life
which is simple, near the beginnings of man. The stanza uses
alliteration, consonances and similes to give a rhythm that is like
that of a drum.
Threatening imagery is also used to give the image of danger and show
The first stanza mainly describes the way of life and sets the scene.
It shows how the drums are associated with the jungle and a primitive
way of life.
In the second stanza the persona says how when he hears the drums, he
goes back to his youth, “my blood ripples, turns torrent, topples the
years...” reminiscent of his childhood to when things were simpler and
carefree, “in my mother’s lap a suckling.” The repetition of the ‘t’
sound in “turns, torrent and top...
... middle of paper ...
...” shows how he is lost between the two societies-
between his background and upbringing and what he is aspired to be.
“Wandering in the mystic rhythm of jungle drums and the concerto.”
The poem follows a logical format with each stanza beginning with
“When, And, Then and And.” The connotations of each instrument
contrast with one another, with Drums illustrating primitive
behaviour, and a savage, dangerous culture. The connotations of the
piano are complex and technical. The piano uses significantly
different word sounds, showing that it is learnt, westernized and
intricate compared to the drums which is instinctive and naturally
acquired, and simple.
The poem uses no set rhyme pattern which suits the poem as it has an
undecided effect, emphasizing the confusion of the persona over his
future. There is some iambic use as well as the use of trochees.
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