Saturday, 6 March 2010

Tope’s drum of a life

Obanikoro Street in the suburb of Lagos is roused from its serenity by sounds filtering out of the Breath of Life Church auditorium, venue of the Wonder drums Live-In-Concert.
I’m ushered into an empty seat in the almost filled hall, as the sound from the drum sets on stage continues to enchant the audience; watching the drummer hit the gadget in a tutored rhythm.
Within seconds, “pam, pam, gre…gre…gree…greee… pam, pam, pam” and a lady springs up from behind the drums.
“You are welcome to my show,” she says gasps for breath as a result of exhaustion.
“I am Tope Odebiyi (a. k. a. Topsticks) of Wonder Drums; with me in live-in-concert is Emeka on keyboard and Philips on bass,” she informs, bowing in obeisance.
Her last word, which is not far from ‘thank you’, is drowned by applauses that sends her off the stage for another performer to step in. Topsticks’ performance is almost cyclic, as she comes on and off stage giving room to other invited upcoming artistes performing.
“I feel so great, so good that the event was a success,” she says after the concert. “Putting things like this together was not easy for me with my limited resources.”
She adds, “I thank God for the audience, I never knew the turn-out would be this much even with the little publicity given to it.”

TOPE’s joy reflects on the way she responds to greetings. She hugs some, shakes hands with others and almost kneeling to acknowledge the greetings of an elderly woman.
What’s next with this outing?
“I cannot say for now, but definitely there is going to be another outing before the year runs out,” she says looking satisfied with the just concluded one.
“I look forward to having an all-female band, where all the instruments would be played by ladies; though I have not started putting things together in that direction, I must mention that it has been penciled as one of the things to do this year.”
As if not satisfied with her response to the question, Tope in emotion-laden voice reveals her other plans.
“I also want to mentor upcoming drummers to play the instrument better and to tutor interested youths, who want to come into this aspect of the art form.”

WHAT is your relationship with ( K-Sticks), Kunle Ponmiloye?
“He is my mentor and coach. He advises and directs me on drums, and I hold him in high regards. He is like a father, a teacher and mentor. He is all put together,” Tope says with a giggle
But people say he is your secret lover.
“No-o-o-o! Our relationship does not go beyond mentoring. He is more experienced than I am, and guides me professionally. Besides, the gap between us is too wide for him to descend so low, to be involved in extra-marital affairs with me. Please, it is not true.” Her otherwise happy mood is changing already.
And the men, are they coming?
Tope, drummer girl, not yet recovered from the last question, says, “let’s keep that for now. “They have been coming and God in His infinite mercy has been giving me the wisdom to handle them because I can’t give everybody a chance. It is not that I do not want to marry, but I want to use this period to concentrate and acquire more musical skills, so, that I could be firmly established, like some of the men, in the field.”

THE queen of drums, a product of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, is not in a hurry to be joined in matrimony, in fact, she is more interested in building her musical career and mentoring the youths than settling down to make babies.
So, when would the bell ring for you?
“I will let you know when the time comes,” she says amidst laughs.
And your leisure
“I enjoy listening to music or being around drums. I hardly go out to leisure places on my own, except to shows. I’m always thrilled by music, especially the sound of drums.”
Just like always wanting the best for herself, Tope is not in a haste for the market…
“I am not in a haste to bring out a CD, I am taking my time and as soon as the guys working on it is through, I will push it to the market. Surely very soon,” she enthuses.
Your parents”
“Oh! I have their backings for all I do as you can see that they came to cheer me up. When I started, they never supported me because they found it difficult to see their daughter drumming, but seeing my dedication and success, they, especially my father, had no choice than to support me.”
Talking to the parents, the elated father the father, Odebiyi, an engineer, says, “I was not willing to allow Tope to take to drumming as a career because nobody in my family does that. But with what I saw this evening, she has won my heart, I never knew she has gone this far; her confidence, prowess and following are what I never expected. I’m happy because she has made me and my family proud.”

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