Piano and Drums Poem Analysis

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Commentary – Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara
In Gabriel Okara’s poem, “Piano and Drums”, Okara expresses his feelings and thoughts of a primitive society in contrast to a western society. Being an African himself, and having studied in a western society, the poem reflects the confusion in his emotions as well as the loss of self-identity. The title of the poem itself, “Piano and Drums” displays a sense of dissimilarity and contrast as the instruments are so unalike in terms of sophistication. Throughout the entire poem, Okara incorporates the instruments to further express, through music, how the speaker is feeling. By using well-structured stanzas and poetic devices such as imagery, symbolism, sensory detail, personification, and diction, Okara is able to immerse the readers into the difficulties of cultural conflict and the confusion of a person in the midst of the two contrasting societies.

Some of the most important poetic devices utilized in this poem by Okara are imagery and symbolism. Throughout the progression of the poem, there is a constant use of images to assist in displaying Okara’s conflicting emotions about the two separate worlds. The title of the poem, “Piano and Drums” clearly displays the symbols that are used in the poem. In expressing views of his native culture compared to Western culture, Okara uses the “jungle drums” (2) to represent the African culture and does the same with the “wailing piano” (17) to represent Western culture. These symbols are used particularly because of the complexity of the instruments. Being such a simply crafted instrument, with just a resonance chamber and animal skin, the jungle drums are a good symbol to signify the African life. On the contrary, with the piano being such a complex instrument with many components assembling it together to create more variety of sound, it is distinct that it embodies the Western lifestyle. In consideration of these symbols, the speaker implements more imagery to further...
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