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Yoruba Nursery Rhymes on YouTube? Yes Please! Preserving Nigerian Culture with Gbemisola Isimi of CultureTreeTV



CultureTreeTV is a YouTube channel that started recently and when we came across it, we were so excited to do this feature.

Gbemisola Isimi is the brand behind this brilliant idea. She is a mother of two girls, a three year old and a 6 month old.

Her YouTube channel aims to preserve and teach children Yoruba and on this channel you will find stunning and colourful 3D animation videos of popular English nursery rhymes which have been translated to Yoruba. These include some of the evergreen nursery rhymes you sang along to as a child in Nigeria (for those who grew up in Nigeria), stories, lullabies and other educational materials.

culturetreetv bellanaija april 2016 04-08 at 23.07.52

Eki Ogunbor of connected with the brains behind this idea and here’s what she had to tell us.


BellaNaija: When you came up with this idea, what were the reactions you got from those around you?

Gbemisola Isimi: I’ve been speaking Yoruba to my daughter who is now 3 since she was born but the idea for CultureTreeTV came about after noticing that the only way I could get some alone time when she was younger was if I gave her my iPad and let her watch YouTube. I noticed one day that she was watching random Hindi nursery rhyme videos and loved it. I searched online for Yoruba or specifically Nigerian ones but couldn’t find any. This was when I started translating the songs she loved myself and teaching them to her.

The reactions to her speaking Yoruba are always very positive so when I shared this idea of Yoruba nursery rhymes, stories and animated YouTube videos with my group of friends who also have children, they were very receptive to it. This reinforced my determination to go ahead with the project.

So far the only negative reaction I’ve had was from an acquaintance who told me she didn’t really see the need for her child to learn any Nigerian language because as she put it ‘it won’t help her in life’. To this I reinforced my own belief that passing on our culture and language to our children is a gift and we should be proud of our roots. It may or may not help them in life to understand or speak any Nigerian language but it gives them a sense of belonging like nothing else can.

culturetreetv bellanaija april 2016_04-08 at 23.08.21

BN: What are your thoughts on parents who don’t speak/teach their local language to their kids?

GI: I’ve always been a Yoruba girl through and through. You know one of those ones who correct you when you pronounce their name as “Bemi” instead of “Gbemi”. It was inevitable that my own children too would speak Yoruba. Having said this, I totally understand that there are many reasons why some parents will not or cannot teach their local language to their kids. I have a lot of friends who like me are second generation Nigerians living in the UK whose parents spoke only English to them so never learnt to speak it themselves. You cannot speak or teach something you don’t know yourself.

I also understand how much effort you actually have to put into teaching children your local language. It is very hard! Believe me I know. Especially when you’ve spent the whole day, maybe at work, speaking

English then you have to come home and switch it up. It’s just easier to communicate in English.

There are also inter-tribal marriages where both parents speak different languages and English is the spoken medium.

I would never judge anyone who can’t speak or chooses not to teach their local language to their kids. I just want to make it easier for those who want to teach their children to do so.

culturetreetv bellanaija april 2016-04-08 at 23.09.17

BN: What do you think of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria who offer French and English as the only languages taught in some schools?

GI: I think it is good to learn foreign languages and also for schools to teach in English because there are so many different languages and dialects in Nigeria but, and this is a big BUT, I think it is incomprehensible that some schools don’t place any value on indigenous languages and students could even face punishment for speaking in their local language.

Young children are so receptive to learning new things. They are like sponges and can absorb and learn very quickly, especially languages. I think all schools in Nigeria should revisit their curriculums and give students the option of learning at least one of the major languages spoken in Nigeria. I’m always in awe when I hear my Igbo friend speak Yoruba and Hausa fluently. He learnt these languages because his parents moved around Nigeria a lot when he was younger.

BN: How easy/difficult was it to see the idea through to fruition and how long did it take?

GI: As mentioned earlier, the inspiration for CultureTreeTV came when my first daughter was still only a few months old and I went back to work soon after so didn’t really have time to work on the idea. I’ve just had another baby so life and motherhood definitely has a way of shifting your focus. We have a lot of nursery rhyme videos and stories in the pipelines for the channel and some songs were more complicated to translate than others. I’d like to say a huge thanks to family and friends who helped with brainstorming the idea, those who helped with the translations and especially my friend Kimberly Corbett for drawing the characters. I’d also like to thank my husband and my little girl Keyemo, the original Yoruba Ogori Princess.

culturetreetv bellanaija april 2016-04-08 at 23.08.46

BN: What’s the next step for Culture Tree TV?

GI: Oh I’m so excited for what the future holds for CultureTreeTV. My aim is to preserve and teach children Yoruba and there are so many fun ways of teaching children. The possibilities are endless. For the YouTube channel we will upload a new nursery rhyme video every week (each Friday) and will have stories, webisodes, and recordings of my daughter and friends learning Yoruba (children love watching other children). Children are so technology savvy these days and it is such a useful tool for learning. We will also have books, games, apps, toys and other educational materials.

Feedback received so far from my Igbo friends is, what about Igbo? To that I say, watch this space!

Taking it outside of the online platform, we hope to have kid’s language schools all around the world where children can learn Nigerian languages. I don’t want to give too much away now but we definitely have big plans.

BN: That’s so impressive. Do you have any advice for parents out there who may be reading this?

GI: My advice to parents who wish to teach their children their local language is to persevere. They might answer back in English or laugh when you ask them to speak but they will learn. Even if it’s just one word they learn a day, keep at it. Let them watch videos, listen to songs and play games in the language you want them to learn. It may also help to ask your parents or family members who are fluent in the language to speak to your children only in your language.

Finally, please share our YouTube channel CultureTreeTV with all your friends who wish to teach their children Yoruba.

BN: Thank you Gbemisola for sharing!

Gbemisola Isimi bellanaija april2016

Gbemisola Isimi

Watch CultureTree TV’s Recent Videos – the morning routine song – “This is the way we … early in the morning”

You can go to their YouTube page to watch Baba MacDonald ni Oko – (Old McDonald had a Farm) and more!


Connect With CultureTreeTV:
YouTube: CultureTreeTV
Twitter: @culturetreeuk
Instagram: @culturetreeuk
Email: Gbemisola Isimi (Founder & CEO of Culture Tree Ltd) – [email protected]


  1. mo

    April 10, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Good job! I will definitely play this for my Preschooler. But I like baba MacDonald lol. Its hilarious.

    • damilola

      April 10, 2016 at 5:58 pm

      Where is nene? Yorubas are too cultured right? Well, go visit this channel and learn this beautiful language that is spoken in several parts of the world. One of the original language that many languages emerged from.

    • Nuna

      April 10, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      Jesus calm down!

    • nene+

      April 11, 2016 at 5:36 am

      Aren’t you mad? Do I have any issues with your language or do you have with mine?

      Why speak out of point?
      Brilliant idea I call it. Every Nigeria language is important for that matter even if it’s spoken by 2 people it’s precious. Damilola quit smoking, we are not in any tribal battle.

    • Cocolette

      April 11, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Mehn! Damilola this your hate for igbos is quite strong…just coming from another post where you strongly communicated it. We are sorry about what Chioma’s mum said to you, let those words not be the lens through which you view igbos for the rest of your life

    • Damilola

      April 12, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Thank you, Gbemi for this creative idea.
      But why is everybody having heart attack? I dont have hatred towards igbos. I just have strong opinion about sheninigans. And nene, you are not in tribal battle but know how to post ignorant tribal BS. Biko, have several seats.

  2. Tosin

    April 10, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Omode meta nsere. 🙂

  3. Babym

    April 10, 2016 at 8:16 am

    O woow, such a brilliant idea, iv had it on repeat for my bubba lol

  4. Wunmi

    April 10, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Bayi la n se fo eyin? really?Good job but no.I actually thot it was our own original yoruba nursery rhymes.The ones we grew up singing bk then (which I can hardly remember)

    • Papa D

      April 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      The Idea is to teach yoruba, so it might be a good idea to use rhymes they already know in English. At least for a start

  5. Tee

    April 10, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Wow! Kudos! Love love love it. Isnt it weird how our kids understand all the United Kingdom accent but ask “mummy what did uncle say” or “what does it mean” when your parents are around, or when you are in a family gathering. It’s shameful! Have you noticed that oyinbo people no dey criticise your blunders the way our fellow Africans carry it on top their head like say another thing they. Good job Ma!

  6. CultureTreeTV

    April 10, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    We appreciate all your comments. Our YouTube channel will feature both popular English nursery rhymes translated into Yoruba and our ‘old school’ Yoruba ones. We will have all your favourites on there soon. Please stay tuned ?

  7. Ijebu-Ipswich

    April 10, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    That’s beautiful!

    Efik peeps PLEASE create the Efik version please……..
    Igbo peeps PLEASE create the igbo version please……..
    Hausa Peep’s PLEASE create the Hausa version please……..

    Every other language in my OBODO NAIJA create your own versions too……..


  8. Mama D.I

    April 10, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I absolutely love this! I agree with the Founder. I am also teaching my boys yoruba. These videos are fantastic as my older son is familiar with the nursery rhymes. The yoruba version is icing on the cake. Fantastic idea. Just what I need to teach my sons Yoruba. Kudos to the founder for this amazing channel.

  9. Adebayo Adegbembo

    April 10, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    This is great. There seems to be a growing appreciation and promotion of our indigenous Cultures with the number of related content I’ve seen recently. Let’s keep at it.

  10. Iyosi

    April 10, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    I love this and hope to share this with my children in the future. In a foreign land, language is easily the most important, yet underrated tool for connecting with the motherland, and developing a sense of self.

  11. S

    April 10, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Well done, Gbemi. As a yoruba mum (married to an Igbo man) living in the UK I have despaired of ever being able to teach my son Yoruba, as much as I would love him to know how to speak it. Due to our language difference (if hubby even knew how to speak igbo I would have made efforts to learn) we speak English at home. I try to teach my 20 month old son simple yoruba words like wa- come, gba- take , wajegba – you will chop cane ? but it’s not easy.

    Coming across this really got me excited. My son and I had all the rhymes available on replay for close to an hour. He did say “better” when we finally switched to his favourite English nursery rhymes. But hey, small small, abi Gbemi? I’ll have him onside soon hopefully. Thank you so much for providing this platform.

  12. Tunrayo

    April 10, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Well done, Gbemi. This is a great initiative and I look forward to seeing more videos. Let me go and subscribe now

    • Tunmi

      April 11, 2016 at 4:26 am

      My namesake!!!!!! And I agree

  13. quietconfidence

    April 10, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Gbemi, this is such a brilliant concept. It is great that you are mixing it up by featuring the familiar English rhymes, the indigenous Yoruba rhymes, stories, etc. Since this is the technology age, making it accessible on YouTube is very smart. Kudos to you Gbemi! Concept well conceived, planned and implemented. A sure way to keep our culture alive is by teaching the younger generation.

  14. @IAmAniwura

    April 10, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    Love it. Well done!

  15. Tina Leigbe

    April 10, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Well done Gbemi…
    This is amazing.
    My daughters are always on youtube. ..listening to other cultural nursery rhymes. BUT NOW..they can listen to their favourite ryhmes in their own language.

  16. Mrs Nwosu

    April 10, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Oh wow! You bet my kids will be learning this in no time. Great idea, great job. Biko give us this rhymen in igbo, hausa, efik, gwari etc. My Mum was always concocting it in my language when I was little.

  17. PD Young Billionaire

    April 10, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Wow!Really nice.My kids just started learning yoruba by fire by force,this of course will be a brilliant addition to whatever they have learnt..Kudos to the brains behind this.

  18. Honey

    April 10, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Wow, thank you Gbemi. I live in Canada n I ve been trying to teach my kids Yoruba . So happy about this


    April 11, 2016 at 10:36 am

    This just made my day, keep up the good work……Now brothers will learn Yoruba with ease

  20. Pretty girl

    April 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Someone from Agbor should come and do one pls. Even I want to learn . Thanks

  21. tito

    April 13, 2016 at 8:23 am

    brilliant and all the best with expanding this beautiful initiative.

  22. Mayor Adebanji

    April 13, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Gbemisola n shey gudu gudu meje ati yaa yaa mefa… Good idea…great job.. I am a big Fan…

  23. Olamide

    November 26, 2016 at 9:13 am

    This is so awesome!!! Well done for following through on the project!! Love love the idea. God is your strength can imagine how tough it is!! Rooting for you! I’ve been teaching my daughter Yoruba from birth too and seeing results everyday all glory to God. Came across your channel recently and we love the videos Bata mi a dun kokoka is a favourite. It’s really helped exposing her to a variety of material which I find is lacking.

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