Ramadan Mubarak!

I pray that we get the full blessings of Ramadan and may Allah (SWT) grant us more blessings in the year to come.
Amin Summa Amin.

Ramadan Kareem,

Main Menu

The Nature and Directions of Hausa Music

Started by Abdalla, October 07, 2002, 09:22:22 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Salaam all

This thread was started by Ali Hamza in the general forum. It generated so much heat that we decided to create a whole forum for it. Anything goes there, but NO FLAMES, please. We want rational discussions on the future directions of Hausa Music.

Let us please respond to the issues and concepts, and NOT to resort to judging people and their tastes.

Let me start by information visitors about the release of IBRO SHATA last week in Kano. This contained an Ibro parody of some of Shata's songs. The one I liked best was the parody of ASHA RUWA BA LAIFI BA NE. In the re-worked Ibro fashion, the refrain was SHI RUWA SHA NAI BABU FAIDA, and he continued telling a tale about how terrible alcohol tasted. I think this is wonderful. We well explore possibilities of sending short MP3 clips of some of the songs we will be discussing.

So c'mon y'all, get rolling.



To all of us lovers of music this is a welcome development. Hausa music to us has been in the doldrum for sometimes and the need to revatilize it has for long been over due.

While we watch how other musical cultures up to and including our northern-most neigbour Niger Republic is transforming, those of us in the hausa region of Northern Nigeria have been behaving 'kamar an kada kuramai rami.'

Abdallah, i am extremely supportive of all your actions and ideas on hausa music and please count me on board. I am presently on a sojourn outside Nigeria since the last three years, but God willing as soon as i am back home in due course, i will avail myself for whatever role you guys have for me in this regards.

My criticism of our music has largely been in the area of dwindling talents and thus the non-availability of new songs, to the lack of introduction and use of more mordern effective instruments. I am also intrested in projecting very very talented hausa singers that existed for decades and some have even died without anybody hearing about them beyond their immediate localities. To mention just a few, we have singers like Audu Mai Bara Birnin-Kebbi and a recent phenomena, my good and childhood friend Aminu Kyuri Birnin-Kebbi, a pure bred fulani of toranke clan, a well educated english teacher currently in Birnin-Kebbi who sings in hausa using a modern guitar purely for the interest of it.



Salamu Alaykum

Dan Sakkwato, I am happy on are on board. Let us hope others will also join. I am really fascinated by the idea of a Toranke (I am one, too, although mixed with Sullube blood from mothers' side!) like Aminu Kyuri Birnin-Kebbi using the electric guitar! Sounds wondeful. Does he sing in Fulfulde like Aichata Sidibe or Saadou or uses Hausa? Has he released any casettes in the market? Being an experimental and adventurous type, I would certainly love to get him in my collection and also we can add him to our small repertoire at (pay a visit again and see if Salisu has incorporated the new MP3s I recently sent).



Assalamu alaikum.
I really support the idea,our children are so exposed to listening of some foreign music,which some times the messages are not encouraging,i therefore recommend the transformation of our own music into the new modern system,idan ana wani sha'ani na biki zaka ga ba yadda zakayi ka hana mata yin raye-raye da kide-kide,so ina ga maimakon mu tsallaka jamhuriyar nijar neman mawaki na biki ko siyasa,ya kamata muma ace zuwa neman namu ake,kaga an huta sadda shugaban kasa neman investors ;D ;D 8)hahahahahhhhhhhhhhh


Well it seems I am getting responses, and that is quite encouraging! We all don't have to agree (it would be boring if we all agreed!) but we can explore various means of expressing our interests to our mutual benefits. So let me provide a sharper focus:

What constitutes HAUSA MUSIC? Is it the instruments, the songs or what? Dan-Sakkwato, if your new friends where you are "sojourning" right now ask you, this question, what would be your response? This is vital so that we can have a common understanding of what exactly is defined as Hausa music.



Assalaam Alaikum!

Abdallah, on Aminu Kyuri, he sings in hausa only. He has not released any commercial music, and like i said, he is not into it for any commercial purpose but purely for the interest.

On the issue of what constitute hausa music. To me, hausa music comprises the instruments, the songs (inclusive the message or themes), the delivery (includes dancing) and up to including the audience. And in all these areas, there is need for improvement.

On the instruments, over the last few days, i hammered on the need for use of modern technology to enhance both the performance and output of the instruments. For instance, there is need to explore, how either Dan Maraya's kuntigi or Haruna Uji's Gurmi could be made to work with electricity. Can you imagine the output? Though i am naive about university set up, but i think our unversities can assist in research in these areas? Not to talk, of use of modern computerize music centers to produce whatever voice, thrill or sound you want to produce. Abdallah, simply what i am advocating is for us to use modern technology to enhance the quality of our music. After all we use this technology in other areas, so why not music?

On the message, i want it to ALWAYS be positive, not the kind of crab by Barmini or themes that encourage lewdness and profanity. There are also some songs though on the lighter side of our historical accounts, that tend to emphasise issues that divided our fore-fathers. In this categoryfor example (there are other examples also), are songs deriding the fulani and extolling the virtue of kabawa by Aliyu Dandawo when he was based in Argungu and was the official singer of Sarkin Kabin Argungu. To date where ever, a Bakabe is, when he hears these songs, zai soma tsima. I have lots of friends from Argungu and they can testify to this. Such songs have had their place in history, but do we need songs along such themes now being composed and produced in the present dispensation?I am not sure.

The delivery of hausa music. Do we also need transformation in this area? Of course, i think there is the need. However, i will need members contribution on the following:

a. Any need for dancing to music in hausa culture?

b. If yes, should it be only girls that could dance, or boys too though separately?

c. Is there need or an occasion for females and males dancing together (combine/together only not in a form of blues dance) in a hausa music atmosphere?

I will want members response to these posers before i can conclude my summation of the issue of delivery, and other areas i am yet to touch on.

Abdallah, for your information, i am not a teacher, though you are trying to make one out of me. Ashe haka teaching ya ke? Wallahi, it is not easy and i commend you people.



Alayk As-Salaam

Wow, now that's what I am talking about. A real discourse. I am glad I am not the only one fond of writing essays? Are you sure you don't want to be a teacher?!

I have noted your points and I think I agree with you on many of those points and arguments. However, there are maybe areas of what I call alternative interpretations. If you take Hausa music as a cultural expression, then that fits in with your idea of what constitutes Hausa music. However, there is a point that needs to be further clarified, and that is whether Hausa musicians are being artistic for entertainment purposes (as your Fulbe friend in Sakkwato), or whether they are merely motivated by "roko".

For instance, Dan Anace is possibly one of the greatest Hausa musicians EVER. His classic ADO DAN KORE is absolutely fantastic. Yet within his lyrics he made it clear that he was a "maroki". Similarly, Shata was another classical Hausa singer. Yet a vast percentage of his catalog is "roko" themed songs. There are, of course, many that were pure entertainment such as KUMBO AFOLLO 11, or MATA KUYI AURE.

Other musicians, as you pointed out, focused their attention on court and emirate epics, detailing the glories of past rulers and kings. Some, particularly what can be called "younger generation" may not identify with these epics. Yet still other musicians, are of the "bara" variety - street singers who move from cluster of people to cluster singing and getting few pennies thrown their way. Muhammad Dahiru Daura (go to the audio section of for a sampler) belongs to this category. And hard as it may seem, Barmani Choge's "crap" is adored by many people, and classificationally, she is in the same category as Shata or Dan Anace in the sense that they are all "maroka" and people oriented in their songs. Barmani, like others, had also branched out into the pure entertainment field, by releasing songs like AKAMA SANA'A MATA, WAKAR DA'A, and WAKAR KISHIYA (which she borrowed from Uwaliya Mai Amada).

But you have pointed out a very vital weakness in Hausa music - instrumentation. Hausa music, in my view, is not "music oriented" as such, it is more of a vocal-oriented thing. There is no instrumental vitrosity. The genius of the musician lies not so much in his play of instrumentation, but in his lyrics. Listen to Dan Anace when he says:

"Ni ko na sani Duniya makaranta ce
Na kuma na sani Duniya makabarta ce..."


Yet the instrumentation remains monotonous throughout ALL his songs - just like Shata's songs. Again compare the opening bars of Shata's classic BAKANDAMIYA. Indeed in an interview, Shata himself said he wanted to be remembered with this song. It is pure Hausa brilliance. Yet beside the deafening drumming at the beginning, the rest of the beat settled down to fixed montony.

Now compare these with Danmarya Jos. That is the nearest equivalent of Jimi Hendrix we have! There is a lot of variation in his instrumentation - depending on the song. This style was also used by Garba Sufa, Hassan Wayam, Garba Leo, and Amadun Doka.

But do you notice what connects these last lot? They were singer-players! That is they not only control the tempo, beat and pattern of the music by playing the leading instruments, but they are the lead vocalists - so they give the music its direction. Shata, Barmani, Dan Anace, Dan Dawo, Dankwairo and others are lead vocalists ONLY, and do not play any instrument. For that reason, their music tended to be less melodious than others (or because they are kalangu musicians, whereas others use stringed instruments).

And how do we categorize those musicians who do not use any instrument? Again Muhammad Dahiru Daura, the blind begger-musician who is ignored by many researchers including Prof. Graham Furniss, belongs to this category. Instead of an instrument, his vocalists use their voice in a distored form to lay down a background matrix on which the lead vocalist builds his operatic-style drama.Also when Garba Gashuwa released SANNU DA HIMMA SHUGABAN KASA, BABANGIDA MAI SON GYARA KASATA, it was without any instrumentation. It was later when the song became a hit that he employed three girls to provide chorus, and a kalangu player to join. I prefered the non-musical version!

The issue of boys and girls dancing, of course, does not arise in a traditional Muslim society such as the Hausa society. That does not mean they don't do it; but certainly no Hausa musician would seem to be encouraging that. However, the classic kalangu players who used to play in clubs (and shown on Radio Television Kaduna's KADE-KADENMU) usually had a combination of boys and girls dancing in a choreographic set. But the typical impression of such dancers among many people was that they were "yan iska"! At ceremonies, boys dance separately in a very energetic end of the day dance routine called, Kombo (if I recall), while girls dance earlier before this thrasing about by boys charged with lots of hormones!

So what are the areas of transformation of Hausa music?

1. I agree with the need to revist the instrumentation. But Dan Sakkawato, most of our musicians cannot play modern instruments, and they just would not be bothered to learn them. Like you, I detest these Casio-manufactured sounds used in creating the song soundtracks for Hausa home videos; but this is all they have at the moment.

2. The vocals. We need to start focusing on issues, not praise singing. Hausa music is predicated on PRAISE SINGING. There is no running away from that. However a brilliant move along opposite direction is by a young Kano musician called Sadi Sidi who mimics the voice of one of the more popular Hausa home video actors, Dan Ibro (Rabilu Musa). Sadi's parody of some well known musicians (especially Awilo and Shata) is fantastic because he takes their theme and beat, and CHANGES their lyrics to something more positive. I wish it were possible to make attachments to these postings, otherwise, I would have attached small MP3 clips of examples.

3. Dancing? Well, do whatever take your fancy! Why not? It is the issue of mixed gender dancing that will need to be religiously and culturally negotiated; and I don't think it can be allowed. That was the stand of the Kano State Censorship Board on this issue when they banned mixed gender dancing in films produced in Kano.

I am posting this, and soon will start a thread on HAUSA POETS.

Salaam all



da Hunniez Gettin Money Playin Niggaz Like Dummy



Another thing that has been puzzling me is the geographical spread of Hausa musicians, and I hope Dan-Sakkwato can shed light here. Why is it that the classical musicians and poets are from the Sakkwato basin area? Virtually the antecedent Hausa musicians were or are Sakkwatawa? What is the magic, or the trick?

Secondly, despite their Fulani antecedent origin, how come is it that none of these classical musicians sang in Fulfulde?



Assalaam alaikum!

Well, i will seek for more accurate answers to your posers Abdallah. However, i will like to offer my personal thoughts on the issue. As a matter of fact, there are one or two people who can outrightly give us answers to all your posers because they have researched the issue very very well and are authorities.

Let me start this way. The medium of preaching islam to congregations in Sakkwato area i have observed from childhood and while growing up, differed greatly from other areas in northern nigeria, that, i came to be acquinted with later in my life. But note, this difference i am going to share with you has fast disappeared i think due to our communities coming closer ?(do i say due to globalization?), but seriously due to advent of izala and such other islamic groups. In the whole of sakkwato area in those days, mode of preaching was mostly through poetic songs where congregations listened in rapt attention on all facets of islamic life. For example, in Birnin-Kebbi in those days. An hour or more before the start of juma'at prayer, a poet would stand in front of the congregation and would be reciting poetic islamic songs and every body would be pitched silent listening with some people close to or even shading tears. And the reciting of the poetry was only stopped when the Imam was ready to start hudba.
Also all over the town mostly in the night, in a locality/unguwa, it was not uncommon to find the whole community, males and females all gathered to listen to poetic songs preaching islamic virtues and what have you. I think why they did it in the night, with the benefit of hindsight now, was to give the women folk the opportunity to come out and listened. Remember, then, there was no electricity and thus no streets lights. I can still remember as a young kid any time i attended such sessions with my late grand-mother, when we came back home i would observe she became very very sober and reflective. The songs entered deep into the minds of people and they started soul searching. Even we as kids then, we would start thinking of the hereafter after every session. Also as a young man in a group of friends, when we were passing an area where a session was going on, we instantly and automatically all kept quite till we were out of the range of the area before we resumed our bantams i:e if we did not sit down to listen. As the poet was (do i say singing or reciting?) you would see people walking quitely and soberly to his front to drop sadaka. Please further note that, we don't even call this poetry songs as SONGS, but in Sakkwato we called it and still do WA'AZU from Wa'azi. Wa'azu was regarded with serious reverence and listening to it, was elevated as an act of worship. My late grand mother was always happy when i told her that, i was passing by so so area and heard wa'azu going on and i stopped to listen to the end.

Next interesting thing on this issue, was that, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, Abdullahi Ibn Fodio, Sultan Bello and Nana Asmau and many others of that generation were the architects of wa'azu and have composed poetrys that are still used for that purpose. There is a famous poet whom to date you hear even on radio kaduna whose specialty is singing Usman and Abdullahi fodio's songs/wa'azi. His name is Umaru Gandu (don't confuse with Gwandu). I have many of his songs (Usman's and Abdullahi's) which are presently in Nigeria. The songs were initially in fulfulde but translated into hausa. Many of these songs were in fulfulde but translated into hausa, i think for the benefit of more people since majority in the population were hausas. Here in the States, i have been able to secure some materials that would shed light into the exploits of these jihadists in poetry that was used for sermons, which may be responsible for the excelling of sokoto area in this genre.

Like i said however, when i later became more northernized and visited kano, zaria and kaduna, i saw for the first time, the kind of preaching by kalarawi or izala groups up to ?including in the mosques before hudba on juam'at days. And as years went by, i started to live away from home, in kaduna for 3 years, zaria 3 years and lagos for many many more years, then i came to the reality that, things have changed. In Birnin-Kebbi, i observed virtually no wa'azu sessions were going on the way it used to be. I started to ask myself many questions. Could it be due to electricity all over the town and husbands were'nt ready to allow their wives to come out? Also at the juma'at prayers, things were not what they used to be. In the sahu where i was sitted, i could count more than ten preachers all sermoning (not poetry) at the same time as if competing with each other at the highest pitch of their voices, some with personal address systems/battery powered loud speakers and one could hardly concentrate and follow a theme. Changing times?

As regards the supremacy of Sakkwato area in the production of hausa musicians, could it be due to the religious background i may have provided above? in this regards, can we relate it, to the emergence of many african american singers who started from church choirs and later transformed into the commercial world? Wallahi, i don't know.

Abdalla this is my personal perspective. Wether it fits and make sense honestly i don't know. But i hope to share these ?thoughts with experts and authorities on the issue and see wether it does make sense.

Thank you very much.

ma'assalaam, Dan-Sokoto


Dan Sakkwato

Let me begin with the last, first. Your exegis about Sakkwato (not SOKOTO!!!) musicians and poets made a lot of sense to me, and I can easily see the parallels with African American choir musicians (such as Millie Jackson, Isaach Hayes, The Staple Singers) who transformed into mainstream musicians. I wish someone would do a comparative study of these trends and patterns, although the main limitation would be documentation of the Sakkwato musicians. This would help us to determine how such patterns emerged and how they can be rekindled where they are gone.

Your explanations of Wa'azu as providing the basis for mass participation in music/poetry sounds reasonable and logical, and would seem to partly explain the preponderance of vocalists from Sakkwato basin (and I thought it was always because Sakkwatawa talk too fast and too much!). The world's foremost expert on Hausa poetry and music is Professor Graham Furniss of the University of London. I will try to see if I can get him to join this forum for more scholarly and empirical insights into the issue.

In the meantime, can you (or someone) explain the transmutation from Wa'azu into Court Praise Singing? This is because almost all the famous Mawakan Fada are from Sakkwato basin. WHAT transformed the process into court and occupational singing? (e.g. Dan Anace) from a religious (and as you recalled, sober) experience?

You did mention singing in Fulfulde (btw, can you SPEAK the language, or are you like me who can't go beyond JABBAMA?!?)

Come on, jama'ar Hausawa da waninku. I know you are out there! About 54 people read these posts, and yet only I and Dan Sakkwato are talking about it. Don't feel shy or intimidated by the academic-sounding nature of the discussion. Be as brief or detailed as you can, but remember, this is YOUR MEDIUM to express your views about Hausa music and hopefully educate the world about it.

OR do you prefer the situation where only orientalists can come to our communities and become experts on our culture, when we have just as articulate views as they have on these issues?

So please, I am requesting all to join in providing their own perspectives on Hausa music.



Assalamu alaikum,
    Haba proffessor and dan sakkwatawa,with this your grammertical gan-gan-gan, ;D ;D ;Dhow do you expect to get much response,afterall i think the idea is to enlighten hausa people on their culture?amma kun buge da kwararo mana manya manyan luggogi, :P :Pzamu bada gudumowa amma sai an yi mana fassara, 8) 8)sannan ni na dauka sakkwato da kano kam sune asalim haiusa amma kuma mu 'yan katsina gashi muna hausa ku kuma kuna  :D :D :Dkai har na rasa mai zance,amma da gaske muna so in zai yiwu ayi da hausa,proffessor gaskiya kana kokari,Allah ya taimaka amin.


  zaiyi kyau sosai in hausa music yayi developing , sai dai  i doubt if the poetry can move forward saboda this generation  especially in terms of Hikima da fasaha .