Women in Music: Indigo Tongues features Tosin “Ayanbinrin” Olakanye

Tosin Olakanye popularly known as Ayanbinrin (Female Drummer), an award winning Talking Drum player from Nigeria is one of the only women playing the talking drum on the international scene. Indigo Tongues meets up with Ayanbinrin in New York to learn more about her “TradHipTional”music

Tosin “Ayanbinrin” Olakanye, drummer, dancer, singer and entertainer is a self -proclaimed promoter of African Arts. Her unique brand of TraHiptional-Gbedu (Gbedu means big drum) music infuses yoruba traditional drum sounds with afro hip hop music.

Tosin always had a love for the arts, growing up performing in her church choir. Her dream of being an actress was frowned upon by her parents who saw no value in this career choice for their first born child. They wanted her to study something more “professional” in University. She gave into her parents wishes whilst still exploring her passion of singing and dancing. She realized that if she wanted to launch a sustainable career for herself in the music industry, she needed to be able to distinguish herself from other artists – create an identity that would be unique. During a student strike, which temporarily closed down her university for a while, she learnt to play the talking drum, and the rest is history.

Ayanbinrin, plays her talking drum with a ten-man band and has managed to carve a niche out for herself in the music industry in Nigeria. Female talking drum players are not very visible on the music scene on the continent as that instrument has been traditionally played by men and has not really crossed over onto the world music scene. Ayanbinrin’s music brings the talking drum and the deep Yoruba sounds into the afrocentric, afroplotain, funky hip- life scene. She is passionate about people of African descent embracing African cultural values which she believes has had a great impact on the wider world.

Ayanbinrin lives in Lagos Nigeria with her husband and children

About the interview

I had been in touch with Ayanbinrin over the years on social media, as she had enquired about the WOCAF Festival. I followed her on social media and was impressed with the style of music she chose to perfect. The more I learnt about her work, I knew she fit the mission of Indigo Tongues which is to showcase trailblazers from Africa and the diaspora. She is at the forefront of promoting African arts, and uses her music and performance style to engage audiences world wide.

Luckily for me, she was performing at the Afrodream fest at Silvana’s Harlem, New York produced by the best assistant ever Tosinger! 🙂 (Yes this one is for you!) and I got my chance to conduct an interview with Ayanbinrin.

The interview had its challenges as we were filming at a location that had music booming through the floors, so we choose to film outside which came with its own set of challenges. Ayanbinrin being the professional she is, was very accommodating and went with the flow of how the interview ran.

As the interview was rushed, I realized that there were a few questions I hadn’t asked and requested another interview with her which she kindly obliged. As the time we had was limited, I had to squeeze in the interview in between my doing my day job. Since I was working from home, I moved my mobile office to Ayanbinrins location, and interviewed her in between a meeting at work and online chat conversations with my co-workers. Who says multitasking isn’t possible!!! So this explains the two different looks in this interview, which is different from our normal series format.

This time, Ayanbinrin was more relaxed and we had fun shooting. She is extremely funny and kept cracking jokes, making her manager run silly errands and speaking in her Ondo tone which had me rolling whilst I was trying to diligently hold the camera. Her passion for indigenous Africa arts is evident in the way she speaks about it. Her sound is fresh, funky, African, Yoruba and much more. A natural in front of the camera, down to earth and a cheerful personality, Ayanbinrin was a pleasure to talk to.



This originally appeared on Iyalode Productions and has been republished with permission.

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