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Messages - Abdalla

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I enjoy the debate – but try to stick to the point. The point, in case you have forgotten, is that Muhsin describes this forum as “miserable” and “lifeless” (his words). In explaining further, he accuses northerners (not just the owners of the forum – which includes the posters) of being “dispassionate” about anything they do. Instead of sticking to the arguments about whether he is right or not, you shifted to general, and I would say anarchic condemnation of northern Nigeria.

In my dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary), “banal” translates as: “lacking originality, freshness, or novelty”. In other words, useless. I doubt very much if you have read more than 1% of the banal papers I have written since 1985. I doubt very much if you have read the country reports I have written for World Bank, Unicef, USAID, DFID and the Kano State Government – banal reports that were dovetailed into Nigerian cultural and educational policies over the years. I think it’d be pointless to draw attention to banal meetings I had attended across the globe aimed at finding solutions to real-life problems affecting our youth. I doubt very much if you have read the banal rubbish we discussed at Arewa House on Education in Northern Nigeria, and how northern governments are quietly implementing the recommendations of the committees on this. I doubt if you have seen the syllabi produced for  Almajirai  in Arewa House, or the experimental Tsangayu that emerged out of these syllabi. I could go on, but it would only further expose your desire to see the black, rather than the white or even the gray. A typical nihilist strategy.

It is good to be an armchair critic. You are safe. You don’t have to do anything. For instance, you lambast others for discussing Zawarawa, but they did nothing. What do  you want them to do? Marry every single Bazawara? How many have you married yourself to demonstrate your concern for their welfare? In short, enlighten us on the specific strategies YOU have taken to “move north forward”. Maybe we are not on the same page – so bring us back to your page of enlightenment and insight. In any battles, there are generals who strategize and foot soldiers who implement. Just as we can’t all be generals, neither can we all be foot soldiers. You are welcome to belong to where ever you want to be – but it is your choice; don’t force it on other, for you do not hold the keys to Enlightenment.

You can only accuse other people of being useless, banal, and trite – if you have passed these labels yourself; in which case then you are judging from high moral ground. Why would you expect someone to lead the way – what is preventing YOU from taking the lead? Why are you waiting for me to call you (plural) so that you can give me ideas to give to the people you believe are my contemporaries? Why don’t you give it to them YOURSELF? In short, what is your prescription for the diagnosis? Am I right in deducting that you have been trying to pass on your ideas of great social revolution – and you have been rejected, and that is why you are now annoyed at everyone? Just like Muhsin is annoyed because no one seems to be giving him accolades on this forum (no praises, no awards for being the most prolific poster – else why draw our attention to the fact that Naijerians have given him an award, so they are more lively, etc).

Now is the time to outline an implementation plan according to Nuruddeen – for instance, close all universities because they churn out useless research, make the minimum wage in northern states ten thousand dollars a month, give every individual a free laptop to be changed every three weeks plus a generator and gasoline allowance for it, kill any husband who divorces his wife, or kill any wife whose husband dies (e.g. bury them together; violent, but what you could see as a more pragmatic solution to zawarawa – they did that in ancient Egypt, and parts of modern India,  you know). As I said, it is easy to point accusing fingers at useless intellectuals that have not developed the north (forgetting that the north of NOW is different from the north of the year we were all born).  You presented the same accusations at our last Get Together at Alliance Francais in Kano – and we asked you the SAME questions which you did not answer: what is the actionable plan in terms of specific changes of behavior? Who will be responsible for this action plan? Who agrees to the action plan? What consultation exists to ensure equity? And finally, what gives you the moral right to impose your vision on others? Or have you been appointed a new visionary?

I think you are passing through a Visionary Phase of your life – for suddenly, you invoke Islam to justify your actions. You are not the first. There are other, far more erudite, who have tried to use Islam to project their narrow understanding of both Islam and the world. This is not the forum for such discussion – nor do I engage in such discussions, otherwise it’d have been quite interesting to go into that arena. But briefly, there is nowhere in Islam that says you should dissolve your traditional identity. Islam prohibits any behavior that clashes with fundamentals of faith – and these fundamentals are well known. What Islam abhors is mixing Un-Islamic traditional identities with Islamic faith. If you chose not to engage in any “gargajiya”, that is your choice, but don’t force it on others, and claim a Messianic role, for you are not mandated. Oh, and by the way, if you are cutting and pasting from an online source, you need to ensure you do it right. Your pedantic quotation of Ayat 208 of Al-Baqara, you  wrote:

Ya ayyuhal lazina amanudkulu fissilmi kaffatan. Wala tattabi'u kuduwatishshaytan

This is the proper syntax of the Ayat you quoted:

Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo odkhuloo fee alssilmi kaffatan wala tattabiAAoo khutuwati alshshaytani innahu lakum AAaduwwun mubeenun

The syntax and grammar of your pasting distorts the meaning, which is:

O ye who believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy. (Al-Baqara 2:208; Yusuf Ali Translation).

Note that Islamic scholars, when quoting from the Qur’an, usually translate (not paraphrase) the Ayat; or in many cases, they provide the direct translations, for they don’t need to prove that they know Arabic. So what is devilish about culture and gargajiya in this passage? For some reason – having met me quite late in my evolutionary development – you seem to be relegating me to an entertainment mogul. From your posting, and the sermon, one would assume I run a bar, disco or hotel where we engage in orgies and all night dance parties. Or are we seeing a newer version of Boko Haram?

I do not owe any apologies for what I am or what I have been doing. I believe that in my modest way I have achieved the targets I set out to achieve in my life, and I am quite contented with that. Revolutionizing the society – no matter what meaning you give to revolution – is not a one-person affair. Nor does it mean undertaking violent change. The banal (read, useless) talks, conferences and so on are another route. We are sticking to it.



These are quite interesting perspectives, although they did not alter our original reactions to Muhsin's posting, or our stand on the site and how it gets to where it did. We'are waiting for The Communist Manifesto Part II from you and other northern bashers -- for without a template, there would be no revolution (ask the Russians and the Chinese). It is quite easy to talk hot air and revolutionary rhetoric. It is one thing to outline the Action Plan for change. So next time someone from the south calls me  "indolent", "miserable", "lifeless", "dispassionate", "uncommitted",  and illiterate in information technology, I'd just grin and say "heard that before -- from my fellow northerners, so ya can't hurt me, dude; I am already hurting".

Thus we are patiently waiting for that template from more "pragmatic" minds not focused on useless conferences on culture or shakatawa (although the Chinese and Russians would probably disagree on this, as they used culture as a cornerstone in their revolutions).



Me, befuddled? At only 53.9 yrs? C'mon, still got more kick in me. Now it seems to me you were the one befuddled. Hehehe. I graduated in 1979, did my NYSC, and then started working in BUK as a full-fledged duckling on 16th August 1980. Off to blighty 1981-1983 for the MA-- and actually tried to contact you! So I was taken aback when you popped into the class in 1984 (what a year!, and you are right about that part), with huge glasses, and bigger attitude! Ah, how the years fly, eh? Soon it'd be wam milk and hot water bottles, and no more giving it the old bop at the jukebox!

I can more reliably tell you I am in Department of Mass Communications, in the Faculty of SOCIAL AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES (would you believe?) as a part-time lecturer. I have applied for a formal transfer to Mass Comm from the Department of Science and Technical Education, but the University is yet to approve. So right now I am flitting between the two Departments.

Waiting for you Tuesday for abit of chinwag and updates, now that you know the office!


General Board / Re: Senate reaction to Nigeria's Blacklist by US
« on: January 09, 2010, 12:07:46 AM »
@Muhsin, GGNK

I stand corrected. Apologies.

What on earth would take me to History Department (beside browsing late Phil Shea collection)? Have you forgotten that I am a Scientist (Biologist/Physiologist) Also have you forgotten where you took your Subsidiary classes in 1981 -- when a young Graduate Assistant took the class? And you, just fresh back from Pestalozzi and sassy with it too!

Me DVC? I'd rather have DVDs. They are more fun. I am struggling to download Avatar now -- brilliant film. Nah, I am too shy to hold public office! I am a writer, son of a writer, and father of a writer, brother to a writer! I am happier the way I am -- without the administrative baggage and wahala. I don't even attend Senate Meetings. Too boring by half! BUK has more than 80 native professors (soon you'll be the first Hausa Female Professor of Geography, too!) -- so there is a lot of choice for all sorts of posts; I am contented to be a nobody.

My office is No 2, CBN Block. The office block has no label, and it was unoccupied before you left to eat Seaweed and Shushi for all these years. They pretentiously call it "Professorial Office Block". Near the main library. I am waiting to hear all the latest!


General Board / Re: Senate reaction to Nigeria's Blacklist by US
« on: January 07, 2010, 03:47:45 PM »

How are you "fascinated" by the behavior of a person who wanted to kill himself and other innocent citizens? What is fascinating about this despicable behavior, no matter how "misguided" the boy was? The British Government did not start to intervene in any case until the accused was tried before a competent court and adjudicated as guilty. That is when the diplomatic offensive kicks in. In my view we should not discuss the case since it is on trial -- and discussion ought to be done after he has been tried by court, and then we can discuss the judgment and what lead to his behavior. I am sure there are many places on the Naijaland universe where these things are being hotly debated and discussed. Luckily KanoOnline is not part of Naijaland.



No one is criticizing you. You raised an issue, and expressed your opinion. Others also did the same. Not going along with everything you said does not mean criticizing you. It means there are other ways of looking at what we're looking at. Imagine what the world would look like if we are all the same; for as Allah (SWT) said in Al-Hujurat, 13:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

We are therefore celebrating diversity and choices -- a spritual injunction. You have not offended anyone for you have every right to your opinion. As a marathon poster, you should by now be used to people disagreeing, or at least providing an alternative to your views!

@Dave: the forum will not be closed, insha Allah. We do encourage people to be active in topics they feel strongly about, and if needed we can open daughter-boards to accommodate any other thread not currently provided.


Jama’a, Sallama

I decided to come in to help poor embattled Salisu who seems to be facing fire from all fronts!
It is interesting that we are debating the future of KanoOnline, especially as when we started it in 2001 we did not anticipate the kind of future it had. KanoOnline was basically a combination of desire to “fight back” at the bad Internet press Kano was getting in 2001, and especially during the Shari’a implementation process;  and provision of more structured, if somewhat less academic depository on Kano for researchers outside Kano. We did not anticipate a “chat forum” and initially focused attention on paper, presentations and information about books on Kano. Indeed we had such a grand plan that we even took our proposal for full-pledged site to the Government of Kano in about 2002. We were promised assistance and all sorts of assurances, but none was forthcoming. Kano Forum (Inuwar Jama’ar Kano) did provide financial assistance which was to go towards part upkeep of the site, as well as pay for a series of academic papers to be written about Kano. We commissioned academic experts, but for over five years, we could not get enough of the papers. Further, the main co-ordinator of the program, Mal. Ibrahim Ado Kurawa got involved in politics and became extremely difficult to contact, at least on matters concerning KanoOnline. Happily, though, we are hopeful that a book will be published early this year inspired by KanoOnline initiative of about six years ago.

Our main focus remained providing academic information about Kano (where we encourage academic faculty in all Tertiary institutions in Kano to provide us with their papers). Pressures and requests made us add the “General Board” .  And so the chats began. Over the last few years the Board has grown into an organic whole and created a massive closely-knit online community that makes us feel very proud. We have made it possible to gather many people from different parts of the world together into one community. We even managed to link someone with his family in Kano!

While the Board remained easily the most popular borough of the site, it is inevitable that it often becomes heated with debates that attract opposing views. We (the administrators of the site) do not generally wish to engage in political or religious debates. That does not mean we don’t have political or religious views – we do. However, issues of politics and religion are rarely a matter of right and wrong; they are perspectives and beliefs, and it is quite pointless to try to defend one view over the other. In Islam, for instance, you either believe, or you don’t. It would appear that many of the  topics with Islamic slant were deliberately introduced to provoke Muslims and we studiously avoided either directly participating, or when it gets heated, we simply delete the post and if insults were hurled one way or the other, we ban the poster.  People from Kano, who in their natural habitats, rarely come across your average non-Muslim, and therefore are not used to interfaith debates; they have enough between Tijjaniyya, Qadiriyya, Izala, Sunni, Salafis and Shia to occupy them. And whether the Qur’an is the answer or not (@Dave) is not the issue. The fact is people have religious faith and they believe. A person has every right not to believe, as much as another person has every right to believe. Standing on the high moral ground by both those who believe and those who don’t believe is what we wanted to avoid in the forum by discouraging religious discourse in the open forum – thus a forum for it; which I suspect many of the posters with “heavy attitudes” don’t probably frequent, making it necessary or the agent provocateurs to come to the general board.

Again I emphasize that our initial idea was to make KanoOnline an information depository about Kano – nothing more, nothing less. I in fact opposed the idea of the General Board and the chats totally (I am the shy silent type!). But we forged ahead and here we are now – discontented. There are three factors that lead to this “comatose” state of the site.

First, and most important, the increasing availability of alternative social networking sites (Facebook, Hi5, Badoo and a zillion others which I detest as I don’t belong to any, and I hate being invited to join any). These have succeeded in drawing away a lot of people (and I would venture to say, the younger elements, as the ones who remain are the old codgers!) This effect is across the Internet. I administer about five Yahoo! Groups communities and we noticed the same effect from three years back.  These alternative social networks provide more bang for the buck, with lots of fizz; at least people tend to meet those closer to their ages and tastes (Beyonce and Snoop Dogg anyone?).  I even know of a couple who almost got married simply from having met at Hi5. Mercifully the marriage did not take place – they have never actually seen other, and each has an ulterior motive for the union!

Second, the strict monitoring of this site to avoid “contentious” topics – such as the mainly inflammatory religious posts usually from non-Muslims who are bent on provoking Muslims. This has a tendency to put people off – either way; and consequently reduce patronage. Further, latter entrants to the Board, raised on the solid fare of Facebook mentality find the regulation difficult to deal with – so they either leave, or gripe.

Third, restricting membership (@gogannaka). As Salisu explained, we are too prone to attacks by hackers and spammers advertising all sorts of junk. Why would we be hacked? It Is not that we share some secret documents or recipes! Perhaps our high ranking in Google means we are victims of random attack of the first on the list? In any event, we simply can’t afford to allow these retards to spoil what has been a clean site. Those with more honorable intentions are of course welcome to apply and get admitted – a practice that is common on millions of boards across the Internet.  But as Salisu said, if there is any volunteer out there ready to spend 24/7 on Internet monitoring traffic to the site, we would appreciate it.

I have heard so much “northern-bashing” (@Muhsin). We have been called all sorts of names – lazy, ignorant, dirty,  illiterate, no-focus, etc. And by fellow northerners. Been there, done that. I have been hearing this for the last 40 years. I am not bothered anymore.  The “Naija” sites may be administered and visited by super-intelligent beings who hold the keys to happiness and prosperity, and issue free One Terrabtye iPhones to every one millionth post; as far as I am concerned, they can all shove it. I have been to the sites. Shallow, inward looking, guttersnipe, trailer-trash kind of mentality. Thanks, but no thanks. They are good if you want to improve on your pidgin English, reduce your IQ and acquire more “northern-bashing” cudgels. More talk about corruption, Niger Delta, “northern fanatics and fundamentalists”,  etc etc. Talking loud and saying nothing, really. But then that’s the beauty of diversity and choice. As Salisu said, people are free to pick and mix (Woolworth’s anyone?) their choices. Some sites have it all, others have none. The choice is yours.  Incidentally, there are other Arewa-theme sites (e.g. ArewaOnline); so it is not as if KanoOnline is the only one.

Probably part of the “death knell” of the site is the issue of the Get Together. This has evoked so much debate this time – and less than the usual animated responses, such that it makes quite a few people sad (annoyed?).  The lack of response, in my view, was not because of lack of interest, but simply pre-occupation. Dan Borno, a prime mover, was away on the Hajj. Salisu and I can’t do much because we are simple spectators, rather than prime movers.

 However, based on my experience  with Yahoo! Groups, the very act of an online community getting together is itself an anomaly. Online communities work precisely because they are invisible. That is in fact why many onliners refuse to identify their real names, or post their actual pictures – giving themselves readily available handles and avatars. The spatial nature of the locations of various members makes it difficult to decide on a central location for meetings. In the Yahoo! Groups we came up with the idea of “local chapters”, especially when members from Katsina insisted that one of the Sallah meetings should be held in Katsina. We thought that was good – but who’d take care of the logistics both in Katsina and from where people are coming from. The online communities are not prescription-based communities, so there are no “annual dues” or membership fees; thus no petty cash to do these kinds of things. So a local chapter is the best way for people within the same locality to get together, identify each other and form sharing networks at the local level. The Gizago Club of Aminiya newspaper (Kano, Nigeria) is an excellent example of this. The club started as a satire in the center pages of the newspaper – and within two years had developed a vast network of state-based clusters that meet every now and then and discuss issues of common interest. So it can be done, and has indeed been done; but at a different strategy level.

Thus meetings at level being suggested require an enormous amount of time (and resources) and I applaud those who take it upon themselves to organize such.

KanoOnline is a home to many people. Many others also benefit from its existence. We will therefore keep it going for as long as it is possible.  To be frank, we discussed recently the possibility of closing the Board down and going back to the original website as a depository with PDF links to various (possibly boring) papers on Kano and cultural ethnography. This is not because of what people say, but because of the daily grind involved in maintaining the site, as well as trying to keep the body and soul together. After many hours of discussion, we decided to continue as we are. We hope that people understand and appreciate that we cannot force them to be “lively” if they have other places to be more lively. We are not competing with those places – the Naija sites, Facebook sites, etc – for each of us has something to offer, and the combination of variety makes your life easier.  We don’t want to project an image of dour sourpusses; but at the same time we welcome suggestions on how to improve things – remembering that this is YOUR forum, not ours.

If you have skimmed the posting to read this last bit, apologies for the long post – but please go back to the beginning and read it, as it explains so much!

Thank you for your understanding.


General Board / Re: Paradigm Shift in the Historiography of the Hausa
« on: November 14, 2009, 12:45:20 AM »

"Banza" in the Hausa historical context simply meant "not-Hausa", but "muna Hausa"; i.e. absorbed Hausa.

I never believed in the Bayajida stuff -- there were so many contradictions to make it credible. What annoys me, though, is how historians always painted Bayida as the "founder of Hausa people" An example of such rubbish is given at This is utter and absurd rubbish -- the Hausas are negroid, Bayida was supposed to be an Arab. He arrived in Daura, met some people there, married a Queen -- so clearly there WERE people when he came. But there is nothing in the histories of Baghdad to indicate such a person existed.

But his legend provides a nice identity focus for the RULING houses of the Hausa kindgdoms, and for lack of anything better, we hang on to it. It makes a nice story!


General Board / Re: Paradigm Shift in the Historiography of the Hausa
« on: November 10, 2009, 09:35:56 PM »
Salisu has just copied the image -- and HE was having difficulties in posting it (plus a slow connection). But he is going to upload it soon.


General Board / Paradigm Shift in the Historiography of the Hausa
« on: November 09, 2009, 07:41:32 PM »
Jama', Sallama

I am not sure if those resident in Nigeria noticed it, but on Saturday 31st October 2009, there was a major paradigm shift in the historiography of the Hausa. This shift was brought about by a new Royal Charter from the kingdom of Daura, in northern Nigeria.
On that historic day, His Highness, the Emir of Daura Alhaji Faruk Umar Faruk appointed the first ever Walin Hausa, Alhaji Umar Faruk Abdullahi. In the process of the appointment, His Highness issued a new Royal Charter in which he re-designated the historic references to the Hausa people in history. The traditional reference clusters of Hausa Bakwai and Banza Bakwai have been abolished. It is now Hausa Bakwai and 'Yan Uwa Bakwai. The Hausa Bakwai (claimed to be the "original" Hausa States) are Daura, Katsina, Kano, Rano, Gobir, Zaria and Garun Gabas (near present day Auyo in Jigawa State). The 'Yan Uwa Bakwai (formerly Banza Bakwai, or "fake-Hausa States") are Zamfara, Kebbi, Yawuri, Ilorin, Nupe, Gwari and KWararrafa. His Highness emphasized that he made the appointment of Walin Hausa in full consultation with the rulers of the 14 Hausa states - further reaffirming the "'yan uwaness" of all the 14.
There are of course historians who never accepted even with a pinch of salt the "Banza Bakwai" as being vassal states of the Hausa. The Hausaness of Banza Bakwai was really more by association, than genetic or linguistic factors. And even then, one would have found it difficult to claim that Zamfarawa are not really Hausa (and they are not!).
The new Royal Charter would mean that history books would have to be re-written to reflect a new Hausa history that has become not only politically correct, but also increasingly aware of a more multicultural configuration of contemporary Hausa social realities. Thus while still accepting a non-Hausa is non-Hausa, nevertheless he is a "brother" -- someone to cherish. I like it. My only modification of His Highness' charter would have been to include Garun Gabas in the 'Yan Uwa Bakwai to make them 'Yan Uwa Takwas (and Hausa Shida), for Garun Gabas does not historiographically belong to Hausa Bakwai. It was added by the authors of the Girgam (the Hausa Chronicle).
The full details are in Aminiya and Hausa Leadership of 6th November 2009. Get them. They are historical masterpieces -- and it is not everyday that one gets to see history written. I have scanned the Aminiya portion of the story and have a attached it to this post.
Long Live the King! Long Live 'Yan Uwa Bakwai! Long Live Hausa Bakwai!


General Board / Re: Preserving Traditional Hausa Musical Heritage
« on: October 14, 2009, 03:09:49 PM »
Thank you GoodFella for your observations also.

I thought I did answer Muhsin's observation -- by referring to the fact that I am focused on preservation of heritage. Ever wonder why people still bother to preserve ancient Egyptian writing? If we have discarded it as useless because no one understands it, then we would not have a civilization to refer to, would we? Ever wonder why Abubakar Imam's translations and rendering of Arabian and European literary texts into Magana Jari Ce still remains classical -- because the Hausa used in the translations reflect heritage Hausa-- and even if we don't understand it now, we would not want it to disappear in the clouds of literary modernity of GSM urbanized Hausa. A people without heritage are no-people. Heritage is not about being "hip" and "cool". It is not about azz-down hip hop trousers and 2Pac. It is not about hugging your iPod and miming to Beyonce. It is about identity. Whilst living in London ages ago, I have attended a Heavy Metal concert at Hammersmith Odeaon (Thin Lizzy), as well as a rendition of Beethoven's 5th Symphony at Chelsea Town Hall. Opposite ends of the musical divide -- but still co-existing. That is why I am trying to get at.

I did agree to the problem of praise-singing in traditional Hausa music, and it is for this reason that I formed Gari Ya Waye Ensemble -- three soloists performing instrumental music without any vocal -- whether praising or condemning. Just plain beautiful music. That is why I call it Improvisations in Hausa ART Music -- reflecting a changing perception that would see the musician as an artist, and more universal. Go to the World Music catalog of Amazon or CDUniverse and you will see where my experiments with Hausa traditional musics could fit in.

As said earlier, Beethoven has been dead -- and you can't be more outdated than dead! -- for more than 180 years; yet his music lives on. Why? Because it is heritage. It lives alongside Heavy Metal, Jazz, Hip Hop, Progressive Rock, Country, Reggae, etc. The stand taken by Muhsin, which reflects the increasing tendency in the north of Nigeria, is that the old musicians are dead -- let's bury them. The new musics are better than the old. If we go along this direction, we will end up with darkness behind us, without any reference point. So keep your Nanaye, glorify it, excel in it -- but be aware that it is just ONE genre out of many possible genres; our modern "musicians" (praise singers themselves mainly -- note the most outstanding of them are those who praise one politician or other; or condemn one politician or other) would seem to prefer us to to obliterate our past simply because it is gone.


General Board / Re: Preserving Traditional Hausa Musical Heritage
« on: October 13, 2009, 07:10:01 PM »

Of course you make sense! The whole idea behind the posting is to generate discussion-whether on or offline,  and I am very happy you have started the trend. The issue of "modern" versus "old" or as you stated, "outdated" is rather complicated. But you seem to miss a vital point--wished you had read the whole posting more thoroughly, rather than "hastily" as you put it. Let me quickly rehash. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 1770 and died March 1827. He was a classical composer and one of the best the world has ever known. In all he composed nine symphonies, plus many other sonatas and concertos. His records are still being sold now, despite being dead for 182 years. His music -- and others like him -- are considered heritage not just of European civilisation, but of human race. Closer home to Africa, you cn see how even modern heritage musicians could survive in their works long after they are dead. Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Ali Farka Toure spring to mind. Heritage, Muhsin, is not about being dead or old or outdated. It is about preservation of encoded values. So sure, Jankidi and Shata and others are, to people of your perception outdated; but they are not useless because they encode a whole range of linguistic, cultural and performative aspects of community identities. They may not rhyme with today's teen brigade -- but try to accept the fact that there are quite a few human beings aged 30 and above, and many would probably prefer these dead and outdated musicians.

Hausa Modern music -- the fiyano synthesizer music so loved by Hausa youngsters -- is not music, but doodling of sound samples without any recourse to paritcular rules of composition. Its derivative roots in an alien (specifically Indian) culture could not give it the community responsibility the "outdated" music of Ali Makaho and others has.  Do you recall Raining Season by Billy-O? Well not many people do now -- it has already faded from memory, simply because it is not a music form meant to last, but meant to serve a particular aural pleasure and fade away. But no worry, the same thing happens to European pop music too -- unless it is seen as encoding a particular tradition, e.g. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones who refused to go away.

You raised the point of my relationship to modern musicians. Not being its fan does not mean I have to hate it!The scholar in me recognizes its significance as a contemporary phenomena. Don't forget, I am a media anthropologist -- so anything the Hausa do with media is of immense interest to me. So let me put it this way. I collect Nanaye as a preservative action -- for one day it will just disappear to be replaced by new forms. I made this mistake when the Hausa video film started. I ignored it to my cost, because we don't have the early tapes now to analyze the trend and see how it started. However, I don't listen to Nanaye as a matter of routine, not because it is not nice (there are very few instrumentalists among them who know the rules of composition and produce good output,e.g. Paul Eni and Naziru Hausawa) but because it is simply not music -- it is too vocalized; the instruments follow the melody of the voice, which is simply redundant -- a process called heterophony. But it is an opinion, and a matter of taste. If you like it and think it is the best, fine. Just don't force any genre down anyone's throat -- as Nanaye musicians are trying to do from the various interviews they have been giving. I for one would never insist that we should all listen to the dead and outdated musicians. I got this from my dad. When I was child we used to go to Musa Zamani Record store in Fagge, Kano, Nigeria, and purchase records. He would buy Narambada for himself, and James Brown for me. No hassle, no wahala!

If you noticed, I encouraged only modern musicians who can FUSE with traditional artists. There are many I did not even bother to contact during the various concerts with the British Council. And even then, including the modern musicians in my conerts was a way of acknowledging diversity in musical tastes and therefore appealing to younger ones --BUT showing them their heritage by marrying the modern sounds with traditional instruments. This has worked well in our experiments. As I said in the post Mezcal Jazz Unit of France has also done this with Shantu.

Thanks for the views, and keep them coming!


General Board / Preserving Traditional Hausa Musical Heritage
« on: October 12, 2009, 07:12:10 PM »
Jama'a, Sallama

It's been quite a while since I appeared on the board -- and as regulars would note, my musings are mainly about the muse in Hausa popular arts. I am afraid all the other "big" topics are way beyond my ken, so I prefer something less cerebral!

I have just returned from Abu Dhabi, UAE, where I participated in an expert's  meeting on Why Preserve our Musical Heritage for the Future? The  meeting was at the instance of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage,  ADACH, and mediated by Maison des Cultures du Monde of Paris. It is the first  of a series of start-up activities that will eventually lead to the establishment of the Ai Ain Center for the Study of Music in the World of Islam. The Center will serve as an international repository of musics from different parts of the Islamic world.

Perhaps I should point out that an earlier meeting to establish the Center in Assilah, Morocco in 2006, and of which I was also a participant, established  right away that the focus of the Center will not be on the theological debates  about the position of music in Islam. Suffice to say that Muslims perform  musics, even if unintentionally, e.g. when doing the call to the prayer, or  reciting the Qur'an in a melodious manner. What is the timber, quality, pitch  of these "performances", how does the idea of Muslim identity shape these  unintended performances? Further, the Center is not intended to be a place to  study only Islamic musical performances -- e.g. Sufi bandir (frame drum)  performances. So long as you are a Muslim and engage in music or performance within the  social space of your culture, your activity becomes a focus of the  Center.  With a proviso -- it must be heritage music; i.e. traditional. So hip-hop,  Nanaye (Hausa Technopop), disco etc, even if performed by Muslims, is out of  the purview of the center.  

As a result of the Morocco meeting, in July 2008 a group of seven experts were  convened at Al Ain, a beautiful city about 150 km away from Abu Dhabi to brainstorm and come up with a master plan for the Center. It was held in Abu  Dhabi because the emirate has agreed to establish the center as part of its  long-range plans of engagement in cultural discourse, which was signaled by  the establishment of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH).  I was one of the seven, and we had a thoroughly engaging time and came up with  a blueprint after two days. The recent meeting at Abu Dhabi on 3rd and 4th October  2009 is the first in a series of start-up activities to actualize the center,  which will open in Abu Dhabi in 2011. It is therefore critical that the first  item on its agenda is to question its own existence -- why preserve our  musical heritage?

A total of 19 papers were presented from various parts of a large swathe of the Muslim world. Mine was the only from Africa. The core of my presentation revolves around the fact that traditional musics  all over the world are in danger -- and more so in Hausa societies where the  encroachment of transnational musics -- rap, disco, reggae, Black  electrotechno, etc -- sees the acquisition of Yamaha series of soft- synthesizers by Hausa "musicians" who doodle out tunes to the voices of boys  and girls patterned around Hindi film soundtrack singers. Most of the old  classical traditional Hausa musicians are dead -- Jankidi, Narambada, Dan  Anace, Shata etc. Most of the living -- e.g. Gambu, Wayam, Dan Indo, Ahmadu  Doka, etc -- don't want their children to succeed them, or they have  "repented" (Gambu and Doka) from music altogether because they consider it  bad. The new transnational Hausa sound, "Nanaye" or Hausa Technopop with its  girl-choir and Indian superstructure is fine and good. It is simply another one  of the evolving genres of music in developing countries. I state this in case  someone would consider me a boring old fogey interested only in kalangu, and therfore “not modern”. I  have extremely eclectic musical tastes -- and have a 180 GB collection of  musics from all over the world and in all genres (I particularly love rap!).  

However, it is this eclecticism that drove me into the traditional musical  heritage lane. Our music is dying and is being replaced by non-music; for no  matter how hard you try to justify it, Nanaye is not music, but just doodling;  it is not based on any specified musical theory or direction. But since they  are set on it and see it as "modernity", fine, it can be continued, for I care  less about it -- and not because it is a threat to the traditional musics, but  simply because it is horribly composed and for the most part, tuneless. Again regulars to this board will remember how the British Council enabled me to experiment with fusion music – often combining Hausa rap lyrics with traditional ensemble. We did that with Amada Ra (Barmani Choge), Kukuma Rap (Arewa) and Pulaar Rap (Naziru Hausawa). The purpose was to show that modern and traditional can co-exist.

My argument for the preservation of Hausa traditional musics therefore  revolved around the strategy of transforming the genre. By "transforming" I  mean dislocating it from its standard perception of "roko" praise-singing, and  elevating it to a start of artistic expression. Doing this requires  a  revolutionary approach that needs a whole range of skills. I created a  blueprint for this. But I went one step further by actually forming a  traditional band, and RECORDING their music. The band is called "Gari Ya Waye"  (start of new day), while the first album, which we recorded last year, is  called "Alfijir" (dawn) -- both the names were written in Ajami and English on  the cover of the CD. Sorry, but for some bizarre reason, I can't post the CD covers with this post. In fact the whole posting kept jiggling up and down and it is tough enough to get a word in edgeways. Sigh.

Alfijir, the CD, is a the first in an anticipated series  of improvisations in Hausa Traditional Music. Volume Two will feature the  solos of the instruments used in Volume One (Alfijir).  

Alfijir is made up of four tracks. These are: Alfijir (15.11), Karen Mota  (14.33), Arziki (14.39) and Shauki (3.00). Three soloists were combined  together in a single performance. These are Suleiman (flute), Auwalu (duman  girke bongo drums) and Aliyu (gurmi, long-necked lute). I hope to upload a  small sampler of the CD (containing the first five minutes each of the main  tracks) to YouTube (check under my alias, zoborodo, and see what else I have  uploaded!). But this will be, insha Allah, next month (November) when I hope  to be in Cologne, Germany, and where the bandwidth is faster. When I do the  upload, I will post in this forum. Sorry, but I can't upload the Emirate or  Shantu CDs (see below) because they are copyrighted. But as I said, you can purchase them  online, and at Amazon you can actually purchase selected MP3 tracks only.  

The performances on this CD are revolutionary for three reasons: first,  instruments not used to being in concert with others (except perhaps the duman  girke) are combined together. I was a bit nervous initially because I insisted  that each instrument should be recorded ALONE. It was only later that we mixed  the three recordings together into the finished tracks (with of course makes  it possible to produce a second CD containing the original solo performances).  We deliberately did not want the musicians to be affected by the performances  of one another -- thus they were recorded individually. They were a bit  unsettled themselves because they are used to hearing each other -- so alone,  with only a headphone and being asked to play for as long as they can was new  to them. Thanks to Naziru Hausawa of Golden Goose Studios, Kano, Nigeria, for  this revolutionary strategy!

Secondly, the tracks are long - the main tracks lasting more than 14 minutes.  We stopped at 15 minutes simply because the recording studio was HOT! There  was no AC or fan! Otherwise my intention was to record each track for 35  minutes. This differs from the three to four minute track length of  traditional Hausa musics (with of course few exceptions either Bakandamiya or  some of Shata's longer expositions of on one person -- e.g. Habu Na Habu).  

Thirdly, there are no vocals at all on any of the tracks - unusual feat in  Hausa music which is vocal-focused; in fact Hausa music does not really exist  as such, it is more of Hausa poetry or vocal performance. Can anyone recall  the music or its significance in any of Shata's composition? Few, probably.  But everyone remembers the SONGS because of their poetic quality and  excellence. Well in Gari Ya Waye -- indicating a new direction for Hausa music  -- our focus is on showcasing the playing instruments and their harmony,  rather than the singing of anyone or what they will say in the songs.  

I presented this CD at the end of my presentation as an example of a proactive  strategy to preserve and SUSTAIN Hausa music -- I also played exercepts. I  went with 10 copies thinking maybe three or four people might be interested. I  was literally mobbed for all the 10, with more people asking for their copies!  Most of the audience have never heard music from Africa in this format! I also advocated another strategy of sustenance of Hausa traditional musics,  this is reproduction. Often you hear critics of Hausa traditional musics  saying that "it is dead" because the practitioners are dead. So are Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, Bach, Stravinsky, Chopin and whole host of other classical composers. Yet their CDs are being produced every day -- CDs of the same symphonies, concertos, sonatas, etc. We could do the same with Jankidi's music -- reproducing it with young traditional musicians (who exist -- just attend the Wedding Fatiha of any "big man" in Kano, and you will see them). That way, we keep Jankidi forever in people's memory, just like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony remains everlasting in Europe.  

In order to be provide an institutional backing for all these proactive  measures, I also formed an NGO, Foundation for Hausa Performance Arts, which  hopefully will serve as an Africa nucleus of the Center for the Study of Music in the World Islam. I avoided government because I know I would be wasting my time. The NGO is composed of many local ethnomusicologists and researchers with a practical focus to solving community problems.  In additional to Alfijir CD, there are other exciting recordings that showcase the preservation of Hausa traditional musics. The first is a CD titled Nigéria. musique haoussa, traditions de l’Emirate de Kano, which was recorded in France after a festival, and features Nasiru Garba Supa, Dankaka Rogo, and women shantu musicians. It is available at Amazon for less than eight dollars.

The CD was a joint venture between Maison des Cultures du Monde and the Alliance Francaise, Kano. Ironic -- despite our resources, we had to rely on outsiders to preserve our heritage.  

The second CD is even more experimental than Alfijir. It is a FUSION music CD  -- the first in traditional music history. Some of you might remember a Music  Festival held December 2007, at Alliance Francaise, Kano, Nigeria. Well one of  the bands that performed that night was Mezcal Jazz Unit. This is a group of  four French jazz musicians who came for the festival, and later recorded a CD  with Shantu musicians. Shantu music is a female music performance using an  aerophone (shantu) made from a gourds. It is dying performance -- but thanks  to the Kano State History and Culture Bureau, it is kept alive in  international performances (alas, not national due to the various problems  that relate to public performances of music, especially by women). Here is the  description of the CD:

“Following their first meeting during the Nigerian Festival of Kano, the Kamfest 2008, French jazz group Mezcal Jazz Unit and traditional hausa group  Shantu met again in Kano for a joint project of musical creation. This creation  must be seen as a real bridge between the two cultures via both authentic and  peaceful exchanges, through music. Two cultures, two countries, one music! Mezcal Jazz Unit, whose identity is maintained by regular confrontation with  musical groups from all horizons, is one of the rare groups capable of  engaging in artistic collaborations so smooth and fluid that they appear  spontaneous. Their quartet is based on the clearly established principle of  openness, allowing for a continuous invitation of "jazz" and "non jazz"  artists. Shantu draw his inspiration from everyday life, aware of the  important role music plays in hausa society, where they often bring popular  aspirations before an enlarged audience. Consequently, they celebrate, turn by  turn, the big and the small events. To give rhythm to their words, they sit  right on the ground close to one another in a crescent, tapping long and  strange hollowed out and decorated calabashes called "shantus". In their songs,  the tone of the voice, in accordance with the themes and the target, conserves  its natural accent. Yet the two groups drink from the same spring of melodies, sometimes simple sometimes sophisticated, fragrance of past songs, melodies of  yesterday. “

Thus Shantu (the CD) provides a gender balance by addressing music performance  of women, and for women (men allowed, though!) -- a rare feat in traditional  society, especially considering that only Barmani Choge is still chugging it  out. It is available all over the place, but mainly at CDUniverse at about  $17, but at Amazon it is about $19. . You can actually watch some of the festival fusion 12 minute performance at Mezcal Jazz Unit invites SHANTU , or

These same Shantu musicians were actually invited to play at the Emirates  Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi on 1st October 2009 in preparation to the conference on  preservation of musical heritage. I was with them backstage and did some video  recordings as well as extensive interviews with them -- and Nasiru Garba Supa,  who also performed. I am planning to produce a short documentary on  preservation of traditional musical heritage through my production company,  Visually Ethnographic Productions. So watch this space!


General Board / Re: Rapacious Rap
« on: November 17, 2008, 04:24:55 PM »

Well, I can't remember where exactly but I once heard (overheard?) you saying that you were going to rather denounce their (both A Zango and K-boys') actions, for the way all the 'incident' went was quite ammoral, for example there is use of vulgar, abusive and offensive language. Yet I didn't see any where where that is mentioned, which it, I reckon, very applicable here.

Muhsin, I am not sure I understand exactly what you are saying! Are you expecting me to condemn both Zango and K-Boyz? I am afraid I don't have that luxury of passing an opinion as a researcher. I have access to K-Boyz and I told them abusing anyone's mother is bad enough. I don't have access to Zango. In any event, as I said in the posting, using an invective -- insult or abuse -- in literature is an old art, going back to the Greeks. That it is old doesn't make it right. But it does happen. Artists who see differently have always used the medium of music to exercise their creativity in insulting each other. It is particularly seen as bad in Hausa societies because such societies are didactic -- they expect any literary form of expression to be "meaningful" and educative -- witness the furor against Hausa fiction and Hausa video films which are all seen as immoral and not geared towards any moral messages. In other societies the wordings used in the invectives alone are units of analysis! But as they as they, "different strokes, for different folks".

Salisu will be uploading the link to the songs, so people can download and see what they make of them.


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