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A Life Without Culture is Empty- Oriyomi

Oriyomi Joseph

Oriyomi Joseph is a multi-talented performing artiste who is vast in the area of Dance, Drums, Acting, Recitation, Singing and Chanting. He is also vast in the creative art in craft, design, drawing and painting.

Originated from the royal lineage of the Ojomu of Ajiran, Ikota, Ajah,Eti-osa local government, Lagos, Nigeria. Had his elementary school, college and higher institution in Lagos, and graduated from the Department of Theatre Arts and Music, Lagos State University, Lagos Nigeria with a Second Class Upper Credit on Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Popularly known as ORí has remarkable experience in media arts, radio, Tv and film. Oriyomi Joseph has worked as a trainer on quite a number of television reality shows eg. Airtel Nigeria’s Got Talent, Pepsi’s Nigerian Idol, Glo X-Factor, Lasu’s Got Talent(as a judge).

His credits also includes certain international functions; International YouthArts Festival(UK) where he led a group of performers to showcase artistic excellence in the light of promoting Nigerian culture and Africa at large, Cultural Exchange in Ghana, Republic of Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast on Theater workshop, fellowship ..

In this interview with Adewale Adenrele (African Development Magazine) , Oriyomi speaks about his experience , challenges and  lifestyle :

Promoting culture has been your priority, what motivated you into this?

As a child, I grew up watching my father sings, play certain musical instruments like Membranophone (skin drums), Harmonica, Accordion, Godjé(the   local stringed acoustic box that produces melodious sounds which is  also common among the Hausa people.

His Yoruba poetry known as Ewì and oral praise chant –  Oríkì entices me a lot with the way people react when he recites it.  Mostly, when done in a church setting being a devoted Christian. The chanting is regarded as Oríkì Elédùmarè’’ (Praising and chanting for GOD).

It is evident that my dad influence on me is huge I could completely say it was my father who motivated me into appreciating culture in the first place. Despite that my growing up was knitted around the city of Lagos, from the elementary school named Ahoyaya Primary school now Victoria Island Primary school Lagos.

I was an active member of the cultural club. The way people doled out money to me while rendering oriki at that formative period of my life, coupled with the ovation gave me lot of courage..

What are the challenges you faced while doing this and how did you overcome them?

Apparently, I didn’t really understand what it means to prioritize culture while growing up.  I was just observant to what was going on around me.  The way he greets people, talking in parables, stories he told us about our heritage were quite extensive.

During my days in the high school I was at some point made the leader of the “Drama and literature society” whilst there I dug deep into understanding culture and it’s values. So, I became more passionate, I attended events, I also realized I was having more adults as friends than those of my contemporaries.

At certain stages, I was feeling unacceptable from friends and some relatives, even quite a number of immediate family members who are my blood relations seemed to have negative feelings about me, the fact that I began to wear beads on my neck and wrists instead of a chain or bracelet, I use cowries as part of my accessories on bags, shoes, finger ring, shirt button etc. to make me feel very African, these seemed really funny to them, even other people looked at me like I’m a ritualist or a son of a herbalist.

I can remember vividly in the year 2000, I was privileged for the first time to take part in an event showcasing live Theatre performances  organized by the association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) called “Artistes Night”. I was able to perform amidst notable professionals, the event was aired on a national television station, and people began to reckon with me. In other words, I began to talk about culture and its value wherever, whenever i get the chance to apart from performances and events, my commitment and passion for cultural promotion drove me into studying Theatre Arts in the university.

What do you like about African Culture?

Africa is a continent consisting people of many countries, its strength lies in its cultural foundation. I choose to promote African culture anywhere in the world for it is a very strong means of identification. Culture is the might and ego of Africa; it is the bedrock of its historical value. The only thing that brings out the originality in us as Africans is our culture.

Are you a spiritual person?

Yes, I am Christian, but nothing stops me from promoting my culture and acknowledging my tradition.

You are popularly known as ‘’ORI” can you tell us the secret behind it?

This is still based on cultural consciousness. I was named Joseph Oluwafemi Oriyomi. From childhood everyone calls me Joseph, but at a point in life , I began to explore into my culture and understanding its worth, i realized that ,  i needed to be tagged with something stronger, a name that has more depth.

Apparently, my father named all his children according to the bible, from the first child to the last. For instance, we have Emmanuel, Benjamin,Christiana, Solomon, Matthew, Joseph and Samuel.

The name Joseph has an amazing meaning which is “Increase” according to the Hebrew. but then, it does not identify  me as Yoruba.

So, right before i left secondary school i instructed everyone around me to call me ORIYOMI (which is actually my surname) since then. Also, knowing fully well that my father was born into an Islamic background, he changed his name from Tajudeen Raji to Moses Atanda Oriyomi. It can be funny …very funny …laughs!

In a nutshell, i took the first three letters “ORI” as my own brand name, throughout my university days, people call me Oriyomi majority feels it is actually my name, and in the Art business I am popularly called ORí. Having said this. ORí in the Yorùba mythology and spirituality means a lot.

The mystical power of intuition,  the source of every mankind, the head, the solicitor, leader, fate, creator, one’s spirit, mystery etc.

Is there something you stopped doing, even though you loved it?

Apart from adopted name. I had to do away with some people who looked down on me, people who sees me as educated but uncivilized, like girlfriends particularly (lol)…… Ladies can be funny when you are expected to be on the social scene and you promote culture.

Although, some of these characters now marvel at the exploits I have made so far in my career as a cultural ambassador.

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can u share with us your most amazing memory?

My experience at youth conference  at Eko Hotel, Lagos in year 2002. with lots of international delegates and i was spotted out amongst over 500 youths in attendance due to my outfit. I wore a dàánsíki with the cap, a neck bead, my bracelet had a bit of cowries, wristwatch strap was beaded. That day i was awarded with the sum of N20,000 9Twenty Thousand Naira Only)

. I had an interview that was aired on NTA in the year 2003 after drumming at an inter-house sport opening ceremony, my mother saw me on television and shed a bit of tears but tears of joy.

At the Lagos school, a play was staged by the Blue Print Vision with the wife of former Lagos State deputy governor in attendance Mrs. Jumoke Pedro, who was amazed about the character i played alongside dancing and drumming which also gave me an amazing moment.

In 2012 i attended International Youth Arts Festival in  UK. I went with  my team  and we were on the street for publicity to create further awareness of our show on the festival. People met with us, they invited us for dinner, lunch, shopping and so on, to express their happiness, gratitude for making them feel home yet again.

In the year 2016, I was privileged to have a performance with my troupe at the governor’s office in Osun State. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Executive governor of Osun State stood up from his sit to give me a hand shake after several comment and excitement about my performance on the drums; he walked towards me and gave me a hand shake saying… “Well done, well done and well done my friend”. Laughs…

You have participated in certain international functions and events  promoting Nigeria’s culture, can you tell us the value in Nigeria’s culture?

One cannot comprehend the magnitude of the value our culture abroad, I have only been to London anyway, yet, I could tell how passionate the people are to see us display, showcase or exhibit our cultural diversity. The same appreciation  is replicated  even in our African countries during my visit Togo, Benin, Ghana and Ivory coast.

You are a performing artiste, what kind of music genre do you sing?

Highlife and Folklore.

Do you have any musical tracks and album to your credit?

No. I haven’t done any record, I perform live on stage

Can you sing for me now?

Yes, I can

Have you performed for Yoruba Monarchs who are custodian of Yoruba culture and heritage by reciting and chanting?

I haven’t really been privileged to do that, but I have performed in several events where there are Monarchs, governors, clergy men and women.

Can you recite in 2-3 sentences for Alaafin of Oyo and Ooni of Ife?

I can.

Alaafin: A ki rọ’ ba fin la lẹ de Ọyo, O ya ẹ jẹ a lo ree ki Alaafin, Ọmọ a jowu yọ kọ lẹnu, A bi Ila tọ-tọ lẹhin

Pan-du-ku bi soo ro,Ibi ti wọn ti ni ki Olowo gbowo, Ki Iwọfa sọ tọ wọ rẹ nu, Ṣe ko le ba di’ ja, ko le ba di apọn ,Ki Ọba Alade le ri n jẹ, Ọyọ mọ l’ afin Ojo pa Ṣẹkẹrẹ, ọmọ Atiba

Ooni:  Kabiyesi Ooni Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja Keji Omo Ojaja fidi ote jale Omo Ayi kiti Ogun Omo etiri Ogun Kare o Leyoo aje okun Ooni Ajere aboju jojo

I have done research by understanding their eulogy and to be sure of the right words to say because there are a lot of misconceptions going on about oral praise of most powerful personalities in Yorùba race; there are loads of different versions.

Have you attended, performed at Nigeria festivals, what can you say about it?

I have performed in several festivals in my country one don’t get to be privileged in showcasing in certain events if one doesn’t have good link who can solicit, most especially when one is not famous yet. regardless, I was part of the performers alongside Lagos State Council for Arts and culture for the opening and closing ceremony at the Lagos international sports festival, Lagos international Jazz festival with Biodun and Batik, Poetry Laughter And You (PLAY) for the International Peotry Rendition Competition by Guarantee Trust Bank in 2012(which my group came first), Osun Osogbo festival, Ojúde Oba festival in Ijebu, Drum Festival Ogun State etc.

Special thanks to our Amiable Honourable Abike Dabiri ,SSA to the President on foreign affairs and diaspora for her support  also for believing in me and my performing arts group. ORÍGÍNAL CREATION.  We were privileged to showcase our artistic prowess at the last Badagry Diaspora Festival 2017.

Above all, festivals in Nigeria are very significant because during festivals the people have the opportunities to experience real masquerades, tradition, songs, drums, rituals, spirituality, magic and much more.

How many tourist site have you visited in Nigeria and Africa?

Ikogosi waterfall and the cold  warm water spring, Osun Osogbo  groove(Osun State)  Orioke Olorunkole (ìbàdàn) ,Olúmo Rock Abeokuta(Ogun  State) Badagry Slaves Depot (Badagry Lagos) Zuma Rock(Abuja) the Ooni of  Ifè’s palace Ilé Ifè(Osun State)  to mention a few.

What would you do tomorrow if you would become president today?

I grew up with a lot of challenges, when you grow up without your father. I was much younger when my father departed to join his ancestors; I know what it means to grow without a father, without a helper, with hardship and so on. Meanwhile, I have seen quite a lot of people in the same situation even those whose parents are still complete.

As a president, I would provide free access to education for citizens, provide technical colleges and training centers for different disciples, job opportunities, electricity, empower women and children, create centers where citizens can be enlightened on various  aspects, eg. Marriages, business, politics, environmental awareness, media policy, academic value, health and likes.

What advice would you give the younger ones?

Stay focused, don’t give up regardless of whatever situation, Honesty, Faithfulness, Be real, Be truthful with yourself, appreciate your creativity and people around   you. Be humble, , be respectful to elders, work hard, exercise, drink water, pray hard,  believe in  yourself, don’t be deceived, trust your journey, learn, be open to criticism and corrections, respect women, love children, play.

Can you tell us more about theatre for development (TFD)

Theatre For Development (TFD) is a programme designed specifically for community development, it is mostly done in rural communities that are under- developed.   It is actually a curricular activity where we have students at their third year in the university studying Theatre Arts to go on a 10 day community research.

They live with the people; learn their culture, their music, tradition, art, business, family history, source of livelihood, kingship, politics, clubs, youths, women, children, men, festivals, rites, religion, and temperament. All these will enable participants to explore into whatever the challenges are and why the community is under developed.

There is a time for data collections, data analysis, prioritization, and scenario  building. After all these things, participants must arrive at putting up a play. This play must address all they have gathered from prioritization, it    must address the community people, it will mirror their problems, the cause and possible solutions.

This play will be presented with dances and songs (most of these will be from their own culture) for them to be carried along with better and quicker digest.

Also, community leaders both of government, monarch, villagers, the entire community. Although, there would have been a notice through public announcement by the Baálè or  Kábíesi about the ceremony.

As a matter of fact TFD is to help a dying or slow growing community diagnose its problem, analyse it, sought for solutions and of course draw government’s proper attention.

Do you think the federal government should establish university for cultural activities as a means for people who are multi-talented, gifted and beginners?

This is an amazing question. African is dying today because majority of our youth knows nothing about their culture, the one who make efforts to explore into it have nothing or less to motivate or encourage them. If not the fact that there is university offering Theatre Arts as a course of study i wonder what would have happened to someone like me. Though, passion is passion but if there are no elements of driving force it becomes only a person.

If we can have an academic center for cultural studies and activities with good facilities and cultural gurus who also have depth knowledge of history, i can assure you that we’ll secure the future.

Our future is threatened if youth and children can’t speak indigenous languages, can’t express themselves verbally in their native tongue, some can’t even explain the meaning of their names, alot cannot explain how marriages, naming ceremonies, burial, coronation, festivals are being done traditionally from their respective home towns. It is absurd for our people not to confidently recite their own Oríkì  let alone understanding their origin.

Whoever does not know his/her culture has no understanding of his/her history and not knowing ones history simply means there was no origin at all.

As a matter of fact, government should make indigenous languages compulsory for students in all academic levels, if possible.

Thank you for your time and sharing your experience with us.

You are welcome . Thank you .