Drum Languages Project

Ayanlere Alajede

Ayanlere Alajede with his Iyaalu Dundun (c) Mariano González

Ayanlere Alajede with his Ìyáàlu Dùndún (c) Mariano González

Mr. Àyànlérè Àlàmú Alájédé was born in Ode-Omu near Osogbo in Osun State, into an Àyàn family (family of master drummers). He took drumming lessons from his father from a very tender age. When he was of age, he occasionally followed his father to social engagements such as marriages, naming, house warming and burial ceremonies either as an in house apprentice or to give a helping hand on any of the smaller drums. He acquired the skills of a master drummer from his father, which includes mastery of all the talking drums, oral genres, sacred and secular practices, and various histories of the Yoruba culture.


Àyànlérè got his primary school education in Ode-Omu, Osun State,  before he started his career as a professional talking drummer. He first joined Jide Osu’s Juju orchestra band in Ilesha, as the lead talking drummer. In 1976, he left the band to become a freelance talking drummer till 1977, when he got an admission into a community high (secondary) school in Ipetumodu, Osun State, from 1997 to 1981. He excelled both in his academics and sports, and was made the games prefect for his exceptional performances in sports especially football and Athletics. He was also nicknamed “excellent” for his brilliant academic performance, and represented Oyo state government in sports competition, winning several medals for his school.


Having completed his West African School Certificate in 1981, Àyànlérè headed for Lagos where he stayed for 7 years (1981 – 1987) with Chief C.F.I. Oláníyan, a native of Ode-Omu, who owns a high school and hotels, in which Chief Oláníyan educated and harbored orphans and destitute children. While staying with Chief Oláníyan, he got a job with Beecham Pharmaceuticals, as an operation officer. Later, when his musical skills were discovered by his boss, he was made the in-house musician (drummer and singer) at all social ceremonies organized by the company. In 1993, Àyànlérè left Beecham Pharmaceuticals, to set up the ‘Oyo Drumming Center’ at Dopemu, Agege, specialized in the construction, repairs, and sales of African traditional percussive instruments, musical performance, and trainings, among others.

Baba Àyànlérè, as he is now popularly called, has featured as a lead talking drummer in many outstanding recorded albums waxed by various types of musicians in Nigeria, such as Gbenga Adeboye (1992 – 1996), Babatunde Idowu (1994 – 1995), Sir Shina Peters (1995). He went on tour with Sir Shina Peters’ band to the United States, Canada, and Italy in 1996. He was also the lead talking drummer for the performance of Wole Soyinka’s “The lion and the Jewell” and “The king horse men”, in 2007 at the National theatre in London. He has performed at the annual African drum festival in Ogun state, Nigeria, and the annual Daystar Christian church Christmas Carol. He is also a music student at the department of creative arts, University of Lagos, where he consults with researchers at the department on Yoruba talking drums, and indigenous technology systems for constructing traditional musical instruments.

Baba Àyànlérè is the principal talking drummer of the Redeemed Christian church of God National (RCCG) Praise Team, which he joined since 1999. He was the founding member and immediate past president of the “Musician Talking Drummers Association of Nigeria (MUTADA) since 1995, and currently honored as a ‘Pillar’ member of the association, now referred to as the “Association of Professional Drummers of Nigeria” (APDON). He has received various awards and recognitions, which includes the ‘Glamour Media Productions Award’ for the outstanding international talking drummer of the year in 2017 and 2018, as well as the RCCG Praise Team long service award and certificate of creativity. He is the CEO/Director of Alajede Music company. In 2020, he was invited to collaborate with researchers at Utrecht University as a master drummer and principal Yoruba informant, at the Drum Languages Project in Lagos, and in the Netherlands in 2022. In 2021, he was the consulting master drummer and principal informant on a collaborative research by Dr. Olupemi Oludare (University of Lagos) and Dr. Katie Overy (Universaity of Edinburgh), on a research on “Rhythm, Movement, and Cognition”, sponsored by the University of Edinburgh Catalyst fellowship grant. Later in that year, he was again invited as a master drummer and chief research informant on an educational research on Yoruba drum language pilot study, carried out in Lagos by researchers from Utrecht University.

Baba Ayanlere Alajede (middle) with the DLP researchers Mariano González (left) and Dr. Olupemi Oludare (right)

In 1997, Baba Àyànlérè created the “Àyàányilúwa Dundun Ensemble”, a group of five professional Yoruba talking drummers consisting of Ìyá-Ìlù dùndún (Àyànlérè Àlàmú Alájédé), Èjìn (Múyìwá Oláore Àyàndèjì), Gúdúgúdú (Oláídé Oláòsun Àyàndáre), Omele Ako/Ìsáájú (Oyèwolé Monday Àyàndàgbà), Omele Abo (Alájédé Olábòdé Peter), Keríkerì/Aguda (Táíwò Àyànlékè). This amazing group has travelled to many states in Nigeria and also cooperates with the Drum Languages Project at Utrecht University, Netherlands.

Text: Dr. Olupemi Oludare