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Published On: Fri, Jul 20th, 2018

Examining role of traditional media in communication

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By 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.
The aspects of 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. Achieving the goals of communication simply signifies that there is an effective communication between the sender and receiver at the same level.
Traditional media of communication is 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 can 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 a significant broadcaster who summons the elders for decision and policy making for the progress of the society. He relays the decision of the elders to the masses for implementation, usually loaded with information. Therefore, 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 to another, socializing new members and also entertaining the community.
Talking Drum: This is another form of traditional media. The talking drum is an extension of oral tradition. It is regarded as the Ekwe–Ikoro among the Igbos ,Kelangu 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. For instance, when danger approached a village, the talking drum is used to warn villagers using sounds plucked from the beat in tones that match the speech of the land. The drumbeat travels across the air with clarity and faster than a horse rider would, thus serving as an effective means of 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. The early music in Nigeria was music performed in the court of the kings at various festivals. The musicians serve as the eyes and ears of their community, they sing praises of not only the kings and chiefs but also notable people. Their role however goes beyond that of praise singing, they are the ones who keep the families’ oral history and remind of those who bring dishonor to the family and the community, the musicians like computer have information on every member of the community, the name, parentage and history. Further remarkable feature of music is that it teaches morals.
The open market: This always remains an important means of passing across information among the rural dwellers. The village markets usually have a cycle which may be every four to five days interval. It is usually a beehive of all sorts of communication activities. The open market serves as a natural infrastructure for multi directional dissemination of news, opinions and rumors.
Folklore/Drama: These are used to teach morals, create amusement and laughter, expose the follies of people and extol their virtues. Local drama groups provide opportunities to bring about a radical change in thinking on a subject matter brought to reality through drama. It helps to create awareness; correct certain negative impressions and improve the living standard of the people through the various lessons learnt .Awareness of specific developmental programmes can be built and incorporated into local drama.
The use of 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.
In conclusion, the traditional means of communication has been an effective tool for rural development. The various means of communication discussed above have contributed to the socio-cultural development of the region. Presently, a combination of the modern and traditional media is used in information dissemination among rural dwellers, although there is much limitation in the use of modern mass media, this limitation is as a result of the nature of the rural areas which is dominated by high illiteracy rate, poverty, inadequate power supply. These factors affect the accessibility of modern media in the areas. In spite of these challenges, traditional means of communication in Nigeria should be positively exploited and utilized to meet the needs of rural people.

Florence Enejah is of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

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