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Hausa Traditional RAP Musicians (Really!)

Started by Abdalla, November 11, 2006, 01:10:50 AM

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Husnaa notes

Quoteit is up to us the rest of the public to positively encourage, even if this scene is not part of Hausa culture per se and u will eventually find some bigots who will tell u that this is anti Islamic

For some reason, there is no such fear with regards to Hausa music. The Hausa film industry and the Hausa literary circles faced a lot of flak from the culturalist establishment when the industries started. The writers, who arrived first, were accused of encouraging immoral thoughts in the minds of young and impressionable teenagers with their pre-occupation with romantic themes in their novels. They were indeed labeled, Littattafan Soyayya. The Kano State Government actually set up a censorship committee in 1996 to regulate the writers, but they could not do much.

The filmmakers who started in 1990 soon enough faced similar flak from the culturalists, leading to a temporary  ban on the industry in 2001 and the setting up of a censorship board to protect "the morals of our children", particularly from the skimpy dresses the Hausa-speaking girls (lNONE of the the female dancers and singers in Hausa films are Hausa) wear on stage, deliberately chosen to titilate young male audience.

Music, on the other hand, is well protected. How? By the virtue of the fact that religious groups -- Tijjaniya, Qadriyya -- rely heavily on music for their performances, using the frame drum (bandiri) as the main instrument. Now most of them have migrated to using the synthesizer (or what they all call the piano!). If any culturalist attempts to ban music, or if quote religious injunctions against Shaba's music, then they would firing a broadside on the entire spectrum of musical performances and production INCLUDING the Sufi music rituals. And somehow that will not happen.  What they can argue against, though, is the contents of the LYRICS in the performances of modern Hausa musicians -- and so far they have been fairly clean -- intent on getting acceptance by communicating youth awareness and empowerment messages, or just being plain humoruous. There are one or two slips though. If you listen to Abdullahi Mighty's Sanya Zobe, especially the second vocal section (where the girl sings) the first line is direct porn; but it would take a very careful listen to suss it out. The film musicians, on the other hand, are out-and-out porn purveyors in some of their lyrics -- accounting for the counter-culture movement lead by Billy-O to produce lyrics that are clean and with a specific message.

One distinct fear, of course is the possible disappearance of traditional music. But we are working towards ensuring that musicans incorporate traditional instruments as well as their synthesizers together -- as done in Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey; or adopt a variation of the style as done in Mali (listen to Oumou Sangare, Neba Solo and Ali Farka Toure).

But that is not really what I want to talk about (Blimey, he has been going for ages, and he has not even started?!?! :roll: ). I want to draw attention to the fact of Hausa Traditional rap.

Rap is not foreign to Hausa music repertoire. It has been there all along. It did not take off simply because Hausa Traditional Rap artistes do not follow the pattern of other Hausa musicians in being "maroka" -- they were genuine performance artists who subscribe to the inherent beauty and quality of their craft. Since they are not client-focused, unlike mainstream Hausa traditional musicians, they received little support, and eventually the genre among the traditional musicians died.

Let me illustrate with the foremost rap exponent, Bagobiri Sullutu. In a recorded performance at the local university (Bayero, in Kano), sometimes in the 1980s he introduced his craft in the following way:

Bakandamiyar Bagobiri (Excerpt)

Ni ne Yahaya Ladan Bafarawa, Kauye
Mai Wa?azin addinin Musulunci
Shinkafi ta Diso, Kasar Sakkwato
Lakabi Bagobiri Sullutu dan uwan Galaba
Mai baki kamar gadar Gabaci
Wanda hanci nai ya karye, ido suka lotse
Mijin Amina bawan Allah, Amina baiwar Allah
Na san Allah, Ba a gwada min Allah, sai dai a fi ni karatu
Don kuwa Almalikku ya jarraba ni, Anyatul malau surutu!
(Amina) Akalluna!
(Bagobiri) Akalluna?
(Bagobiri) Akalluna mautu
To ?yan makaranta Kwaleji kun ji wannan kalma
Ita ce Bakandamiyar Bagobiri Sullutu
Wanda Amina ta ce Akallu indal mautu, da guda-guda lahira duk za mu
(Amina) Akalluna mautu
Da sunkuya mu yi dagawa gabas da yama dama da hauni
Kudu da Arewa duk mutuwa ce!
(Amina) Da guda-guda
Duk tana binmu, Amina ?yar kan mato
Komai za mu yi mu kama ibada
Mu san zuwa makaranta, tambayar Malamai,
Farilla da sunna da mustahabi, mu ji gyara mu ji barna
In mun jiya mu mu kiyaye
(Amina) Mautu indal Mautu!
(Bagobiri) Mautu indal mautu, kowazzaka duniyarga sai ya barta
Kyaun rayuwa tana tahe da mutuwa, rayuwar da bata mutuwa rayuwar banza ce!

The delivery was rapid-fire rap in perfect rhythm -- although there was no musical accompaniment. Strikingly and innovatively, during his performances he was always accompanied by his wife, Amina, who provides a sort of kick-starter for him; she will mention a word or a phrase and he will elaborate on that. Unusual in that only one other Hausa traditional performing artiste incoproated the opposite sex as part of the performance. This was Uwaliya Mai Amada (Ahayye Yaro). One of her calabash musicians -- the only MALE in an all female orchestra -- was her HUSBAND!

Bagobiri consistently maintained his rap performances throughout northern Nigeria, but as I said the fact that he was not client-focused, but issue-based, tended to mean less patronage. One of his classics was the lyrics he performed for living in a village, titled, Kauye. Here is an excerpt:

Kauye Rap (Excerpt)

(Amina) Sullutu dan uwan galaba
Mai baki kamar gadar Gabaci
Hanci ya karye, ido sun lotse
Garin mu Bafarawa kauye,
Haihuwa at-tilas, ba zama na can ba!
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Keya!
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Yunwa!
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Radda!
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Rangwamen Addini!
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Ba mu da kudi a sha fura ba nono tsamiya aka dama!
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Ba kunu mai zaki
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Ba ruwa mai sanyi irin ruwanga na firinji
(Amina) Kauye!
(Bagobiri) Sannan babu lataro babu waya babu kokakola dan zuman zamani!

Of course Bafarawa, the butt of his derision, has significantly improved now, considering that the current Govenor of Sakkwato is from Bafarawa!

I am going to upload a portion of Bagobiri Sullutu's performance to the server, and Salisu will send the links eventually. This is for everyone, but dedicate to Dan Kauye who yearns for traditionalism!

Nor was Bagobiri the only Hausa traditional rap artiste. Making rounds around markets in various cities in northern Nigeria was a man who pioneered a unique category of Hausa performance art which I call MABARATA. They sing, rap-like, no instruments, and non-client focused. They are also issue-focused, but mainly operatic. The biggest exponent of this genre of Hausa traditional performance is Muhammad Dahiru Daura, a blind ministrel. His most famous performance is IDI WANZAMI, for which here are excerpts from the composition:

Nine fa Muhammadu Dahiru Daura
Nine na Binta baban Audu
Da bara aka sanmu
Ga kuma Audu da Audu

Maganar Idi Wanzami
Na tashar Gagawa
Askinsa ya fi fida ciwo!

Idi Wanzami,
Kaji yana yin askin
Kamar ana fidar dan taure!

Idi Wanzami,
Aska da tausayi, shi babu!

Wai wanzaman kirki,
Suna yawo da badira
Idi Wanzami,
Sai ya zubo su a sanho

Askansa guda hudu
Ko wacce aska ga sunanta:
Daya ?kura kya ci da gashi?,
Daya ?ladanki na jikin ki?,
Akwai wata ?wa aka samu??
Sannan ga ?kare dangi?
Amma ita ?kare dangi?,
Idan ta fito daga sanho
Rannan mutum dubu sa kare!

Wanzaman kirki,
Kowa yana mawashin aska
Idi Wanzami,
Da dutsin nika yake askawa!
Na tashar gagawa,
Ko kuwa ya sami bulo na sumunti!

Sannan wanzaman kirki
Suna yawo da kaho,
Idi Wanzami,
Bakin garwa aka fafe
Makyangama ita ce ?yar tsagu!

Idi Wanzami,
Ga shegen karfi a gurin sa
In ya yi kahonsa ya kare
Idan ya je zuka,
Sai ya fito da autar hanta!

Definitely hilarious, especially if you hear him perform it live (and we have a copy of his particular performance at Dandali, seek, and ye shall find!). As I said, he does not use any instrument, but a chorus group -- made up of two males, who are similarly blind, who distort the chorus such that their vocals sound like a vocoder. Despite his brillance and skill with words, Muhammad Dahiru is still a begger -- and still in Kano. We have been trying to link up with the Office of the Special Adviser on Disabled in Kano to see if we could get them to accept a proposal to harness his skill (and those similarly gifted), but so far we have drawn blank. Sigh.

The political era -- what they call "First Republic" in Nigeria -- also threw up a few rap artistes in the traditional sector, although the only one who survived was Abdu Gula, aka Hececi from Tsibiri, near Maradun in Sakkwato. His dialogue was more like a story, but in a rap prose form, rather than metrical verses.

Thus the close connection between verse, meter and narrative discourse of rap artistes has always been part of the repertoire of performances of Hausa traditional music genre. What Shaba and Billy-O are doing is taking it to the next level. Even in the US, the antecedent rap format owes alot to the poetic powers of Gil-Scott Heron (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). Compare, for instance, the planes at which Heron's lyrics and those I quoted for Hausa musicians operate. Here is an excerpt from Heron:

The revolution will no be televised
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

Thus the biggest challenge for Hausa ethnomusicologists is to trace, record and document traditional Hausa rap music for comparision with its modern variant. I will post more on this when I visit my recordist tomorrow, insha Allah!



What a wonderful?

One of my friend vehemently disbelieved that Prof. Abdallah's initial field of study isn't Hausa 'cuz of this well written thread about Hausa music Prof. had done. Sincerely, Prof. is being doind a relenteless work just for promoting this language, and we, our work is to support him with every possible inch of help we can offer i.e to appreciate his work etc. More grease to your elbow Professor Abdallah.

Wallah, before readind this post, I don't know exactly what some of these musician are saying in their songs. And, broadly speaking, this site has planted a love of such music in me, which before as a youth I had none. We, nowadays boys & girls don't have an appetite to listen to these by looking those doing so as unsophisticated or fuddy-duddy elemets. Thanks to Prof. Abdallah, members of kanoo...and kanoonline Site entirely. Allah ya taimaka-Ameen.
Get to know [and remember] Allah in prosperity & He will know  [and remember] you in adversity.


All hail the Prof., thisis an excellent research, more grease to your elbow. I just got one question sir, how do u share your time with other school commitments, you are either at this Mass communication conference, or in this PMAN musical inauguration, how do u do it sir?
...He begot not, nor is He begotten!


Quote from: "*~MuDaCriS~*"All hail the Prof., thisis an excellent research, more grease to your elbow. I just got one question sir, how do u share your time with other school commitments, you are either at this Mass communication conference, or in this PMAN musical inauguration, how do u do it sir?

Well, what can I say? I have boundless engergy (I am a young man of only 50 years), I have massive support from my family (wife and three wonderful kids (two teenage girls and one pre-teen boy) -- all into rap, would you believe!), as well as community support; and most significantly, I have insatiable appetite for cultural anthroplogy.

I do wish I had studied Hausa right from the start, instead of Education. It is a wonderful discipline, but given wrong emphasis in my view in our universities. But having been promoted to Professor of Science Education in 1997, I decided to focus my research energies in cultural anthropology of the Hausa, and from 1999 started my studies with Hausa literature (you know, the "soyayya" novels everyone loves to hate!); moving to Hausa video films in 2002 (culminating in a book to be hopefully published in the US soon), and now 2006 I am noving into Hausa music, and by 2007, insha Allah, it would be Hausa Arabs (where I look at the markers of identity when two races converge together ina project called Race, Culture and Identity).

A periscopic overview of my analyses of the various facets of Hausa popular culture is available at It is the Mary Kingsley Zochonis Lecture for the African Studies Association UK 2006 conference which I was priveleged to deliver at School of Oriental and African Studies on 12th September this year. If you donwload it (it is HUGE with lots of photos and also 71 pages) you get more stuff on Hausa popular culture.

As for PMAN (Performing Musicians Employers of Nigeria) and others, I am happy to be a mentor and patron to any group that promotes their culture (not necessarily Hausa). But enough about me, I am boring enough as it is! (but in case you have insatiable apetite for boredom, go to  // for more punishment!).

I have just uploaded the excerpt of Bagobiri Sullutu rap to the server and by mid-next week, insha Allah, it would be available for download. I am trying to trace the A ALURA DA DUNIYA rapper and give more info on him. So watch this space.


dan kauye

Alright,I got my eyes on this space.Can't wait for the files to be uploaded.. :D
Dan-Kauye's Artist Of The Week;Robin Thicke


One can only marvel at the passion and dedication with which you devote to your time and resources to Hausa cultural anthropology. Allah ya ba ka magada a waanan fanni, amin. Is/are there others (your students may be) trying to follow in your footsteps? Finding people like you who are genuinely interested in cultural upliftment is very indeed. I can only wish the people of Kano in particular and Hausaland in general know how lucky they (we) are to have someone like you.


Quote from: "Abdalla"
Thus the biggest challenge for Hausa ethnomusicologists is to trace, record and document traditional Hausa rap music for comparision with its modern variant. I will post more on this when I visit my recordist tomorrow, insha Allah!

Documenting these traditional Hausa music is very essential.
Some years back a brother of mine asked me to get him some songs of Dankwairo,Shata e.t.c on c.d which they would use to celebrate Nigeria's independence in another country.To my surprise i couldnt easily get the C.D's. I only got Dankwairo from Alh Musa Mai casette at an exorbitant rate and with a very poor audio quality.
With time if care is not taken all these songs (even though they dont interest most people) will be lost.

I thank God that some modern Hausa musicians like Sadi Sidi Sharifai(who sings the Ibro songs) have started remixing some of the traditional songs and i believe this will help in the sustenance of the songs.

A timeline(prefarably electronic) should be produced which will show the transformation of not only the traditional Hausa rap but also the different genres of Hausa music.This will show the clear influence of the globalisation,transglobalisation,transnationalisation and glocalisation on the Hausa music industry.

I believe radio Nigeria Kaduna and pyramid FM Kano can help.They seem to have a great collection of the songs.

More grease to your elbows Prof. and we still await the uploads.
Surely after suffering comes enjoyment


ina prof ne? gaskiya ya kamata a kirkiro mana wata
rapaciou rap mu chashe kadan
"My mama always used to tell me: 'If you can't find somethin' to live for, you best find somethin' to die for" - Tupak


jama'a, wanda yaga prof, ya gaya masa dan-borno yana nemansa
gaskiya muna bukatan a hada mana rapacious rap.
"My mama always used to tell me: 'If you can't find somethin' to live for, you best find somethin' to die for" - Tupak


I shall help you with that, DB. Amma, why do you, seemingly desperately, want that rap stuff?
Get to know [and remember] Allah in prosperity & He will know  [and remember] you in adversity.


maganar gaskiya ina son in dan girgije kadan, the last time
i enjoyed was during a friend's marriage aka gayyato yan
wasa musa dan chashe - waiting for your reply muhsin, tell
him i am speaking on behalf of the committee of the whole
house, including your aunty.

waiting for rapcious rap season two
"My mama always used to tell me: 'If you can't find somethin' to live for, you best find somethin' to die for" - Tupak


Girgijewa? A'uzu billah. :o Spare my auntie from that shameful act.  ;D

On a serious note: Prof. once told me that the "financial year" (or what he calls it?) has ended. They, hence, now don't have sponsorship. It was Standard Chartered Bank, if I recall aright, that sponsored it initially, but with changes in the marketing world things out of the blue also changed. Kuma ka san organizing din things like this cost huge monies.

Moreover, the British Council doesn't support gatherings like that any more since the departure of Gealian Belbel and Sue Mace, two former Directors, who have keen interest on "promotion" of Hausa culture.

Kai, waka daga bakin mai ita tafi. Lets wait for the Professor to come.
Get to know [and remember] Allah in prosperity & He will know  [and remember] you in adversity.


Quote from: Dan-Borno on May 20, 2010, 10:24:05 AM

waiting for rapcious rap season two

I am sorry, Dan Barno, to have not replied earlier. It seems I've been virtually written off for I can see you saying, "tell him" if I am too distant! I am quite close by, but as an almajiri, I am always on the road, moving from one tilawa to the next.

I am afraid things have virtually stopped still on the Rap front. The main reason is because British Council, which used to sponsor the events, had been transformed into a new version that excludes cultural diplomacy. And as you all know, the current climate in Kano makes it difficult for any other group to support such events; even the traditional one supported by Alliance Francaise was canceled by the government. I had wanted a venue where a whole family can come and be entertained in the evening -- as attested by the five or six concerts we did with the British Council. I suppose we could still do the concerts in the same VENUE (as they don't do anything there, and could use the bit of money you have to pay for the theater), but paying the artistes means CHARGING for entrance; a process that is too complicated to handle, especially with our kind of crowd.But even then, this would require a full concert promoter, and I simply don't have the time to do that. Don't forget the concerts were SUBSIDIZED by the British Council, with the Council making sure the artistes get paid quite a handsome amount of money. Maybe if many people PETITION the British Council to bring back the Concerts, that might enable them to seek sponsorship to do so (they were sponsored by Chartered Bank to sponsor the last two concerts we did). We have a lot of footage of the videos and the music, and when I get more slack, I might edit the lot and release them as individual DVDs and CDs; you never know. So it saddens me that there are many talents out there, but no outlet for either live performances or CD releases.

However, a CD might be released this year (2010) in the US which contains modern Hausa rap music which I selected. The CD will be part of a film RECORDING A REVOLUTIOIN - THE STORY OF MUSLIM HAUSA RAP MUSICIANS which was recorded by two filmmakers from the University of Florida at Gainesville. It will be premiered in San Francisco in November 2010. The CD would be the soundtrack with recordings of Ziriums, K-Boys, Kano Riders and others. So Dan Barno, get your dancing shoes ready, you might give it the old bop sooner than you think!




Dear Professor, please I have a question. As a follow-up to your classification of the works of Sullutu & Co as Traditional Hausa Rap, what do you suggest we classify Gambara music? Is it Traditional Hausa Country music or pop?