Drummer Boy by Cyprian Ekwensi
The main story in the Drummer Boy revolves round a blind boy named Akin whose wonderful drumming skill and melodious voice brought joy to the people in the communities in which he performed. Given the irresistible nature of the rhythm that flowed from his tambourine and the melody of his songs, the drummer boy becomes a focus of attention for well meaning as well as criminal minded citizens.
Madam Bisi, Nurse Joe, Marshall, Fletcher and Ayike genuinely seek to offer help to Akin while Herbert and his three criminal associates work against Akin even as they pose as friends. For example, Madam Bisi's plan to get Akin a place in "The Boys' Forest Home" as a means of making himself sufficient and less dependent on charity is misunderstood by the drummer who abandons his hospital abode for a stay with Herbert in Ikekan College. Moreover Marshall's attempt to talk to Akin into accepting a position in the Boys' Home forces Akin out of Ilkekan College where he has been a source of joy to all those associated with his music.
Akin helps Ayike to rebuild her Eating-House. He is joined by three other musicians and together they worked as a team. But when Ayike quarrels with the three musicians, Akin leaves also. He later finds out that his partners in music were criminals whose informant was Herbert. He also learns that Herbert's master was murdered by the gang. And then, just as he concluded a successful tour of various towns, he is imposed upon by this gang and robbed of his earnings.
The gang uses Akin as a means of distraction as they plan to steal tyres from an army lorry. They are caught. The three musicians are hanged and Akin and Herbert sent to the Boys forest home. Akin continues to spread joy in his new abode while plans are made for him to re-unite with his parents.
Setting and Background
The story is set in the colonial times. This is evident from the fact that Mr. Marshall is the welfare officer and Mr. Fletcher is the founder of "The Boys' Forest Home". Moreover, England is mentioned in connection with equipment for the center to train blind people. The hospital environment, sense of justice and school system depicted in the play remind one of the colonial days. Madam Bisi's encounters with the welfare officer and Mr. Fletcher are typical experiences that remind us of the colonial era.
Lessons in The Drummer Boy
Unlike other Nigerian and African authors of his time, Cyprian in relating the events that amounts to the story of Akin's life, indirectly makes certain general or universal statements about the protagonist's life the nature of the society in which he lives and the nature of man's fate generally. These implicit comments help us gain insights into life and human experience. Below are some of the themes that can be found in "The Drummer Boy".
1. A handicapped person has limited opportunities for self-fulfillment in many society. There are initially no facilities for training bling persons in Akin's society and the one that was eventually built needed a campaign to sensitise the populance to its usefulness.
2. Formal training could enhance the life of a handicapped person but it does not necessarily follow that all persons with disabilities need formal training to be useful. Madam Bisi's concern for Akin's welfare is laudable but Akin was quite useful as an entertainer.
3. Good music is irresistible to most people. This is demonstrated by the fact that Akin was considered an important person in his community who catered for the people's need of healthy recreation.
4. The world is full of intrigues. This is made evident by the exploitative activities of Herbert and his gang.
5. Some kinds of "criminals" can be effectively rehabilitated as is evident in operations of "The Boys' Forest Home".
6. Man's good nature may sometimes make him incapable of recognizing the nature of evil. It took Akin such a long time to discover that Herbert and his gang engaged in criminal acts.
7. Ignorance and unwillingness to be part of new experiences sometimes create difficulties for man. Akin's struggle to run away from a formal training created avenues for hisself-experiences.
9. Innocent persons can sometimes be mistakenly condemned or associated with criminal activities. If Ayike were not around to testify on behalf of Akin he would have surely been regarded as a criminal.