Al-Hausawi, Al-Hindawi: Media Contraflow, Urban Communication and Translinguistic Onomatopoeia Among Hausa of Northern Nigeria

Guest Paper Presented to the University of Warsaw, 10th May, 2012, Department of African Languages and Cultures, University of Warsaw, Poland.

Al-Hausawi, Al-Hindawi: Media Contraflow, Urban Communication and Translinguistic Onomatopoeia Among Hausa of Northern Nigeria

Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu

Department of Mass Communications

Bayero University, Kano – Nigeria

(Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria)



Arewaacin Nijeriya


In general, the purpose of translation—searching for cultural and semantic equivalents—is to reproduce various kinds of texts—including religious, literary, scientific, and philosophical texts—in another language and thus making them available to wider readers. However, the term translation is confined to the written, and the term interpretation to the spoken (Newmark 1991: 35). Within this in mind, comparing text in different languages inevitably involves a theory of equivalence.


Equivalence can be said to be the central issue in translation although its definition, relevance, and applicability within the field of translation theory have caused heated controversy, especially as the target text can never be equivalent to the source text at all level. Thus many different theories of the concept of equivalence have emerged, the most notable of which were by Jakobson (1959), Catford (1965), Nida and Taber (1969), House (1977), Baker (1992) and Vinay and Darbelnet (1995).


Catford (1965: 1994), for instance, argues for extralinguistic domain of objects, emotions, memories, objects, etc. features which achieve expression in a given language. He suggests that translational equivalence occurs, when source texts (STs) and target texts (TTs) are relatable to at least some of the same features of this extralinguistic reality. However, according to Jakobson (1959), interlingual translation involves substituting messages in one language for entire messages in some other language. Thus “the translator recodes and transmits a message received from another source. Thus translation involves two equivalent messages in two different codes” (Jakobson 1959: 114).


For Nida (1964) there are two different types of equivalence, formal equivalence—which in the second edition by Nida and Taber (1982) is referred to as formal correspondence—and dynamic equivalence. Formal correspondence 'focuses attention on the message itself, in both form and content', unlike dynamic equivalence which is based upon 'the principle of equivalent effect' (1964:159). Formal correspondence consists of a target language (TL) item which represents the closest equivalent of a source language (SL) word or phrase. Dynamic equivalence is defined as a translation principle according to which a translator seeks to translate the meaning of the original in such a way that the TL wording will trigger the same impact on the target correspondence (TC) audience as the original wording did upon the source text (ST audience). Nida and Taber (1982: 200) further pointed that ‘frequently, the form of the original text is changed; but as long as the change follows the rules of back transformation in the source language, of contextual consistency in the transfer, and of transformation in the receptor language, the message is preserved and the translation is faithful.’

Baker (1992) provides a more detailed list of conditions upon which the concept of equivalence can be defined. These conditions include: equivalence occurring at word level and above word level, when translating from one language into another; grammatical equivalence, when referring to the diversity of grammatical categories across languages; textual equivalence, when referring to the equivalence between a source language text and a target language text in terms of information and cohesion; and pragmatic equivalence, when referring to implication and strategies of avoidance during the translation process.


Finally, Vinay and Darbelnet (1995) view equivalence-oriented translation as a procedure which replicates the same situation as in the original, whilst using completely different wording. This, in a way, is a transmutation of the original into target audience cultural realities. Thus equivalence is therefore the ideal method when the translator has to deal with proverbs, idioms, clichés, nominal or adjectival phrases and the onomatopoeia of animal sounds. Vinay and Darbelnet’s categorization of translation procedures is very detailed. They name two ‘methods’ covering seven procedures: direct translation (which covers borrowing, calque and literal translation) and oblique translation (which is transposition, modulation, equivalence and adaptation).


There are three main reasons why an exact equivalence or effect is difficult to achieve. First, as Hervey, Higgins and Haywood (1995) noted, textual interpretation is dynamic, and thus it is difficult for even the same person to have the same interpretation of the same text. Secondly, translation is often a subjective process—if the objectivity of the text is non- contentious, then the subjectivity of the translator is not. Third, time gap between the original source text and the equivalent translation leaves the translators uncertain about the impact of the original source text on its audience at the time of primary contact.


Religious Text, Hausa Shamanism and British Translation Bureaus

The meaning of a given word or set of words is best understood as the contribution that word or phrase can make to the meaning or function of the whole sentence or linguistic utterance where that word or phrase occurs. The meaning of a given word is governed not only by the external object or idea that particular word is supposed to refer to, but also by the use of that particular word or phrase in a particular way, in a particular context, and to a particular effect

– even if not conveying the same meaning as the source text. This is where onomatopoeia comes in as a handy conceptual framework. According to Hugh Bredin (555-556),


The strict or narrow kind of onomatopoeia is alleged to occur whenever the sound of a word resembles (or "imitates") a sound that the word refers to. The words "strict" and "narrow" suggest that the sense in question is a kind of original usage or practice, in respect of which other senses of onomatopoeia are metaphorical or perhaps extensional enlargements.


In his analysis of onomatopoeia, Hugh Bredin (1996) created three categories of the translation device: direct onomatopoeia (the denotation of a word as a class of sounds, and the sound of the word resembling a member of the class), associative onomatopoeia (conventional association between something and a sound and conventional relationship of naming between a word and the thing named by it), and exemplary onomatopoeia (amount and character of the physical work used by a speaker in uttering a word).


In my use of the word "onomatopoeia", I would want to the word to refer to a relation between the sound of a word and something else, and not connoting the meaning of the base word, or associative onomatopoeia. This same understanding is used by Hausa shamans who started using selected verses of the Qur’an as vocal amulets in ritual healing in Hausa

communities of northern Nigeria. In his work on Hausa shamanism, Bello Sa’id refers to the use of onomatopoeia in religious contexts among the Hausa as “kwatanci-faɗi” (similar utterance). I refer to these religious-sounding utterances as vocal amulets. The following are few examples (after Sa’id, 1997).


Example #1

Vocal amulet for winning a legal case Qur’an (Shura) 42:13.

Original Qur’anic transliteration: SharaAAa lakum mina alddeeni mawassa

Onomatopeic Hausa version: Shara‘a lakum minaddiini maa wassee”.

Original’s translation: “The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah.”


In this vocal amulet, the shaman focuses on two words – Shara’a, and wassee. The first, shara’a, is familiar to Muslim Hausa as referring to Shari’a, the Islamic law; while the second word, wassee, sounds similar to the Hausa words, wasa (playfulness) and wasar (ignore, make redundant). Thus this vocal amulet is meant to scatter any dispute involving the law in which the defendant is not sure of winning the case. The shamans advocate using only part of the original verses to fit in with their perceived properties as amulets. It is clear that the verse refers to a more historical incident; and yet the shamans use the vocal similarities of the shortened verse as an amulet.


Example #2

Vocal amulet for locating a lost goat Qur’an 80 (Abasa). 1, 2

Original Qur’anic transliteration: AAabasa watawalla, An jaahu al-aAAma

Onomatopeic Hausa version: Abasa wa tawallee, An jaa’ ahu la amee.

Original’s translation: (The Prophet) frowned and turned away, Because there came to him the blind man (interrupting).”


The key word in this vocal amulet is amee which vocalized in a high-pitched voice sounded like a goat bleating. The amulet is therefore used to locate a lost goat by being recited over and over again. The word amee is expected to be the main expression that will bring the goat back to its owner by using the sound resonance of the bleat embedded in the word.


Example #3

Vocal amulet for winning a wrestling match Qur’an 105 (Fil): 1:

Original Qur’anic transliteration: Alam tara kayfa faAAala rabbuka bi-as-habialfeeli

Onomatopeic Hausa version: Alam tara kaikayar shi

Original’s translation: “Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant?”


In this amulet the beginning of the expression is taken up to a point where a word appears with a Hausa equivalent, kai (you); the word is shortened only to the point where it bears similarity with the Hausa word, then the shaman adds completely new words to create a meaning, kayar shi (throw him down; defeat him) even though the new words were not part of the original Qur’anic text (one of the many reasons the shamans are shunned by Hausa Islamic orthodoxy). The amulet is used to empower wrestlers any wrestler reciting this over and over during an encounter is likely to win the match by putting a hex on the opponent. A draw will probably result if both opponents recite the same vocal amulet!


It is significant to note that the Hausanized versions of the Arabic words—or associative onomatopoeia (Bredin 560)—used by the shamans are not translations of the original Qur’anic words, but serve “as the nexus of acoustic properties which constitutes them as objects of consciousness for a normal speaker of the language.” (Bredin 557). This is more so

as such onomatopoeia is governed by convention, not just the natural resemblance of the two words. This is illustrated, for instance, by a vocal amulet that serves as a warning to Qur’anic school pupils not to cheat:


Example #4

Vocal amulet to warn against grade skipping in Qur’anic education Qur’an 78 (An-Nabaa): 30 Original Qur’anic transliteration: Fa dhuuquu falan naziyadakum illaa Adhaabaa Onomatopeic Hausa version: Fa zuƙu falam nazida kumu illa azaba

Original’s translation: "So taste ye (the fruits of your deeds); for no increase shall We grant you, except in Punishment”


The keys to this amulet are zuƙu (skip, cheat), and illa (except) and azaba (harsh punishment). The Hausa onomatopeic use of this verse is to discourage Qur’anic school pupils from skipping a portion of their Qur’anic studies (a cheating process referred to as zuƙu), and if they do cheat that way, they will face punishment (azaba). In this amulet two words are actually translated, into the Hausa words illa (except, but) and azaba (punishment) which share the same meaning in both Arabic and Hausa. The Hausa shamans thus shift the focus of translation from source text (ST) to target sound (TS)—for the shamanic rituals are not written but vocalized.


Consequently, common sense dictates that any medicinal value attached to the original expression (if indeed it had any in the context it was quoted by the shaman) would be lost in the re-working of the expression into Hausa shamanistic language since the same meaning is not conveyed in the translation. Thus the Hausa shamans – considered little more than charlatans working on spiritual gullibility of ignorant Muslims, and thus occupying a narrow space in Hausa public discourse resort to vocal interpretations of selected expressions in the Qur’an to create a new meaning not intended by the original source. As Walter Benjamin (1969: 71) argues,


Translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it is essential that they be translated; it means rather that a specific significance inherent in the original manifests itself in its translatability.


The translatability of the shamans’ interpretation of the selected words and expressions in the Qur’an for medicinal purposes in this case appeals to less discerning members of the Muslim Hausa public sphere who accept the shaman’s medicine as curative essentially because it is derived from the Qur’an.


The Colonial Translation Bureau in Northern Nigeria

A second stage that was set for whole scale translations of popular culture in northern Nigeria was the antecedent set up by the British colonial administration. When the British colonized what later became northern Nigeria in 1903, they inherited a vast population of literate citizenry, with thousands of Qur’anic schools and equally thousands of Muslim intellectual scholars. A modern Western-oriented schooling system was created in 1909. However, it lacks indigenous reading materials. To address this problem the British set up a Translation Bureau initially in Kano in 1929, but later moved to Zaria in 1931. The objectives of the Bureau were, amongst others, to translate books and materials from Arabic to English, and later to Hausa. Arabic was chosen because of the antecedent scriptural familiarity of the Hausa with Islamic texts. This saw Hausanized (roman script) versions of local histories in Arabic texts, notably Tarikh Arbab Hadha al-balad al-Musamma Kano, or Kano Chronicles as translated by H. R. Palmer (1908). The Hausa translation was Hausawa Da Makwabtansu.

This was followed by a translation of Arabic Alf Laylah Wa Laylah, a collection of Oriental stories of uncertain date and authorship whose tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad the Sailor have almost become part of Western folklore, and translated into Hausa by Mamman Kano and Frank Edgar.


Similar strategies were adopted by the British in India. Modi (2002), argues that as part of the British East India Company's attempts to propagate western thought and education in the country, three universities were established on western models—in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Through these universities, British drama began to be introduced with an emphasis on the study of Shakespeare whose plays—in English —began to be seen in various parts of India and attracted new audiences. This phenomenon also began to attract the attention of some Parsi businessmen who believed that local adaptations of Shakespeare and even of popular stories could be a source of potential profit. The result was the establishment of several theatre companies—known by all simply as Parsi Theatres because of the Parsi ownership—on a commercial basis. Their model was the many Victorian commercial theatres in operation in England. The first two of these new Indian groups were the Victoria Theatre and the Alfred Theatre, both established in 1871 and both of which ultimately toured widely. Other groups grew from these two including the New Alfred Theatre and the Original Theatre. As audiences increased, Victorian-style theatre buildings soon went up in many of India's larger cities, most of them copies of the Covent Garden and Drury Lane in London.


Thus in India, as in Nigeria, there was a studied attempt to encourage the popular culture of the Other especially through translations, which provided a template for creative writers. In Nigeria, the most exhaustive of the translators in Hausa prose fiction was Abubakar Imam, who translated over 80 books, poems and short stories from Middle Eastern, Asian and European tales into Hausa language in 1936. The result was Magana Jari Ce (talk is a virtue), which became an unalloyed classic of Hausa literature. Malumfashi (2009) provides a close look at how each story was painstakingly transmutated into Hausa to convey not only the realities of Hausa society, but also its cultural parameters in stories that were never probably intended for other cultures.


The original sources of the narratives in both Ruwan Bagaja (a frame novel stitched from 19 different story sources by Abubakar Imam in 1933) and Magana Jari Ce were identified as Alif Laila, or Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (the 1839 edition translated by Sir William Hay MacNaghten, although other editions were also consulted by Imam), Panchatantra (a book of Indian fables and folktales), which came to Imam through the Arabic Kalilah wa Dimnah as translated by Thomas Ballantine Irving (1980), Bahrul Adab, Hans Andersen Fairy Tales, Aesop Fables, The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Tales from Shakespeare, and Raudhul Jinan.


The northern Nigerian translation activities therefore provided a further legitimate bases for translations whether direct, or in equivalence mode of works of popular culture. Subsequent translations included Iliya Ɗan Mai Karfi (translated from Ilya Muromets, a Russian folk poem), Sihirtaccen Gari (from a collection, Ikra, by Sayid Kutub), Abdulbaƙi Tanimuddari (A story of a hero –called Abdulbaqi Tanimuddari) – translated from Arabic, Saiful Mulk, Hajj Baba of Isfahan and the odd English book or so, such as Littafi Na Bakwai Na Leo Africanus (The Seventh Book of Leo Africanus), Robin Hood, Twelfth Night, Animal Farm and Baron Munchausen. Thus translation, whether onomapoeic, equivalent, or regular, is a fully established mechanism in Hausa popular religious, literary, and as we shall now see, popular culture.

Cinematic Antecedents in Northern Nigeria

Having established a translating antecedents in Hausa religious and popular literature, I now turn my focus to global media flows. In his essay on the current epoch of globalization, Modernity at Large, Arjun Appadurai (1996) argues that globalization is characterized by the twin forces of mass migration and electronic mediation, which provides alternative ways of looking at popular consumption patterns. Appadurai posits five dimensions of global cultural flows, referring to them as ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, financescapes, and ideoscapes to connote that these dimensions take the form of roughly fashioned landscapes. It is in and through the disjunctures of each of these dimensions that global flows occur. Mediascape, for instance, points to the circulation and distribution of music media (tapes, CDs, MP3 files), networks of transmission (satellite TV channels for music videos), and the flow of content itself. Consequently, the effect of such transnational sharing is a greater diversity of music cultures, especially in traditional societies.


Appadurai therefore considers the way images—of lifestyles, popular culture, and self- representation—circulate internationally through the media and are often borrowed in surprising and inventive fashions. This is reflected in the popularity of Hindi songs from films shown in cinemas and television stations in northern Nigeria.


Cinema houses in northern Nigeria were established by resident Lebanese merchants who, during the British colonial rule of Nigeria (from 1903 to 1960), screened predominantly American and British films, essentially for colonial officers. Despite being screened in a language few of the local audiences undertood, neverthemeless cinema going became established as a social activity, an experience that was always much more than the viewing of the film itself. This is reflected, for instance, in a letter to the Secretary, Northern Provinces, Kaduna, by the then Colonial Resident of Kano, E.K. Featherstone who noted, while commenting on Film Censorship in Kano:


“Frequently when I see films in Kano which I know are going to be shown on subsequent nights to African audiences I realise how little suited they are to an African public. Among a large youthful class of Kano City, Fagge and Sabon Gari which has money to spare in its pockets it has become the thing to do to go to the Cinema quite regardless of whether they understand what they see and hear or not. For example, the other night I saw a large African audience sitting attentively through an exhibition of “Night Boat to Dublin”. The next day an educated Hausa admitted to me that he had been unable to understand what he had heard and seen in this film but that he went regularly to the cinema to be seen and to see his friends.” E.K. Featherstone, Resident, Kano Province, 13th January 1948 (Kano No G.85/94).


Thus whether they understand the plot of the films or not, the mere process of going to cinema provided urban Hausa youth with a focal point of social convergence that was to make the spectacle of the cinema a central catalyst in the transformation of the popular culture of the Muslim Hausa.


All cinemas in Kano before Nigeria’s independence in 1960 screened American and Europeans films exclusively. No films from either the Middle East or Asia were screened— principally because the initial concept of the cinemas was targeted at Europeans and settlers from other parts of West Africa, who were not interested in non-European films. Thus the standard fare was either war, Roman history, cowboys or historical films.

When Nigeria became independent from British colonial rule in 1960, the Lebanese cinema owners took the unilateral decision to reduce the number of European films and show films from Asia, particularly India. It was not clear what motivated this decision; however, it was likely that this was forced on them by reduced European clientale and more interest from newly independent local residents thus forcing a rethink on the film screening policy.


There was an Indian community of sorts in Kano. However, this remained aloof from the local community, very much unlike the Lebanese who became heavily involved in local commerce and indusry and learnt the Hausa language. The Indian community was predominantly made up of professionals teachers, engineers, doctors imported during the economic prosperity of Nigeria in the 1970s. They were not cultural merchants, and had little interest in the spread of their culture via an independent route to the local community. A few, however, did eventually got involved in retail trading of media products, principally Hindi films on video tapes which they imported from Dubai.


The Lebanese who owned the cinemas in Kano at the time, and who decided what was screened, were Christians, and the few Muslims amongst them were Shi’ite Muslims in contrast to the dominant Sunni Islam of northern Nigeria. The Lebanese thus had little reason to promote Islamic films from the north Africa (especially Egypt). Since the main purpose of setting up the cinemas for the local popular was entertainment, Hindi films with their spectacular sets, storylines that echo Hausa traditional societies (e.g. forced marriage, love triangles of two men after the same girl, or two co-wives married to the same man), mode of dressing of the actors and actresses (hijab and body covering for women, long dresses and caps for men), as well as the lavish song and dances would seem to fill the niche. Rex cinema (established in 1937) led to the way to screening Hindi cinema in 1961 with Cenghiz Khan (dir. Kenda Kapoor, 1957). Thousands of others that follow in all the other cinemas included Raaste Ka Patthar (dir. Mukul Dutt, 1972), Waqt (dir. Yash Chopra, 1965), Rani Rupmati (dir. S.N. Tripathi, 1957), Dost (dir. Dulal Guha, 1974) Nagin (dir. Rajkumar Kohli, 1976), Hercules (dir. Shriram, 1964), Jaal (dir. Guru Dutt, 1952), Sangeeta (dir. Ramanlal Desai, 1950), Charas (dir. Ramanand Sagar, 1976), Kranti (dir. Manoj Kumar, 1981), Al-Hilal (dir. Ram Kumar. 1935), Dharmatama (dir. Feroz Khan, 1975), Loafer (dir. David Dhawan, 1996), Amar Deep (dir. T. Prakash Rao, 1958), Dharam Karam (dir. Randhir Kapoor, 1975) amongst others. From the 1960s all the way to the 1990s Hindi cinema enjoyed significant exposure and patronage among Hausa youth.


And although predominantly based on Hindu culture, mythology and traditions, there were very few Hindi films with an Islamic content which glosses over the Hindu matrix, and which the Muslim Hausa readily identify with. These faintly Muslim films (most adapted from Arabian stories) included Faulad (dir. Mohd. Hussien Jr.,1963), Alif Laila (dir. K. Amarnath 1953), Saat Sawal (dir. Babubhai Mistry, 1971), Abe Hayat (dir. Ramanlal Desai, 1955), and Zabak (dir. Homi Wadia, 1961) among others. Interestingly, despite the strong influence of Pakistani Muslim scholars on Hausa Muslim youth in the 1970s (especially through the writings of Maryam Jameela, Syed Abu A. Maudodi), films from Lollywood (Lahore, Pakistan) were not in much favor, at least in Kano. Thus by 1960s Hindi popular culture, at least what was depicted in Hindi films, was the predominant foreign entertainment culture among young urbanized Hausa viewers, and when the Hindi film moved to the small screen TV, housewives at last became recognized in the entertainment ethos.


The increasing exposure to entertainment media in various forms, from novels and tales written in Arabic, to subsequently radio and television programs with heavy dosage of

foreign contents due to paucity of locally produced programs in the late 1950s and early 1960s provided more sources of Imamanci (Abubakar Imam’s methodology of adaptation) for Hausa authors. The 1960s saw more media influx into the Hausa society and media in all forms—from the written word to visual formats—was used for political, social and educational purposes.


One of the earliest novels to incorporate these multimedia elements—combining prose fiction with visual media—and departing from the closeted simplicity of the earlier Hausa novels, was Tauraruwa Mai Wutsiya [The Comet] by Umar Dembo (1969). This novel reflects the first noticeable influence of Hindi cinema on Hausa writers who had, hitherto tended to rely on Arabic and other European literary sources for inspiration. Indeed, Tauraruwa Mai Wutsiya is a collage of various influences on the writer, most of which derived directly from the newsreels and television programming (Abdullahi, 1978). It was written at the time of media coverage of American Apollo lunar landings as constant news items, and Star Trek television series (first created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966) as constant entertainment fodder on RTV Kaduna. The novel chronicles the adventures of an extremely energetic and adventurous teen, Kilɓa, with a fixation on stars and star travel, wishing perhaps to go “boldly where no man has gone before” (the tagline from Star Trek TV series). He is befriended by a space traveling alien, Kolin Koliyo, who promises to take him to the stars, only if the boy passes a series of tests. One of them involves magically teleporting the boy to a meadow outside the village. In the next instance, a massive wave of water approaches the boy, bearing an exquisitely beautiful smiling maiden, Bintun Sarauta, who takes his hand and dives with him to an undersea city, Birnin Malala, to a lavish palace with jacuzzi-style marbled bathrooms with equally beautiful serving maidens. After refreshing, he dresses in black jacket and white shirt (almost a dinner suit) and taken to a large hall to meet a large gathering of musicians (playing siriki or flutes) and dancers.


When the music begins—an integrative music that included drums, flutes, and other wind- instruments, as well as hand-claps; all entertainment features uncharacteristic of Hausa musical styles of the period—a singing duo, Muhammadul Waƙa (actually Kolin Koliyo, the space alien, in disguise) and Bintun Waƙe serenade his arrival in high-octave (zaƙin murya) voices, echoing singing duets of Hindi film playback singers, Lata Mangeshkar and Muhammad Rafi—the Bintun Waƙe and Muhammadul Waƙa of Tauraruwa Mai Wutsiya.


This scene, unarguably the first translation of Hindi film motif into Hausa prose fiction, and which was to give birth to Hindinization of Hausa video films, displays the author’s penchant for Hindi films and describes Hindu temple rituals; in Hausa Muslim music structures, limamai (priests) do not attend dance-hall concerts or participate in the dancing. In Hindu culture, however, they do, since the dances are part of Hindu rituals of worship. Other Hindi films that lend their creative inspiration in the novel’s dancing scene included Hatimtai (dir. Homi Wadia, 1956) and Hawa Mahal (dir. B.J. Patel, 1962) with their elaborate fairytale-ish stories of mythology and adventure.


Starting in 1976, the local TV station, NTA Kano, started showing Hindi films at its “late night movies” slots on Fridays. These films were sponsored by local manufacutirng companies, owned by resident Lebanese merchants, producing essentially domestic goods – detergents, cleaners, food items, bedding materials etc targeted at housewives. Thus a link between Hindi cinema on the small screen and the domestic space of the Muslim Hausa hold was established. Eventually, since Muslim women were banned from going to theaters,

houswives partook in the same urban culture of Hindi cinema as their male counterparts through the small screen medium of television.


Within a year, and spurred by advertising returns, more companies had shown interest in sponsoring the screening of Hindi films as a platform to advertise their products. Thus from 1977 to 2003, Unifoam sponsored the showing of Hindi films on NTA Kano, while Dala Foods Ltd sponsored the Hindi film screenings from 1982 to 1985. Between the two of them, the firms made it possible for NTA Kano to broadcast 1,176 Hindi films through television from October 2nd 1977 when the first Hindi film was shown (Aan Baan), to 7th June 2003.


Hindi films gained greater prominence because they were shown not just for a longer period of time on television, but also on days and times guaranteed to gain maximum audience attention (Fridays and weekends). No films from other parts of Africa (e.g. Senegal with its vibrant film culture) were shown; and other Nigerian features were restricted to the drama series. Ironically enough there was even no attempt by the Lebanese firms (especially Dala Foods Ltd and Unifoam Ltd) who sponsored the airing of the Hindi films (and who also distribute them through other subsidiaries) to encourage showing of the cinema of the Middle East on local channels, especially from Pakistan or Egypt, the latter of which had a vibrant film culture with which the Hausa could identify with, especially with the presence of the Egyptian Cultural Center in Kano. However, as pointed earlier, out that the Lebanese film distributors in Kano were not mainly Muslim; and indeed the few Muslim Lebanese in Kano subscribed to Shi’ite brand of Islam—which further created a religious spasm between their community and the predominanlty local Sunni community. Consequently, the Lebanese had no compelling reason to promote Islamic cinema in Muslim Hausa northern Nigeria.

Westown inn


To further facilitate this Hindinization of Hausa entertainment was the repeated plays of songs from popular Hindi films on Hausa radio request shows targeted at women. Listeners to the programs send greetings to each other and often request for specific songs to be played. The list of the songs played had heavy dosage of Hindi film and Sudanese music—along with Hausa music, giving legitimacy to the view that Hindi, Sudanese and Hausa music are all the same. No music from southern Nigeria is played in these shows.


Screen to Street—Hausa Adaptations of Popular Hindi Film Music

Hindi films became popular simply because of what urbanized young Hausa saw as cultural similarities between Hausa social behavior and mores and those depicted in Hindi films. Further, with heroes and heroines sharing almost the same dress code as Hausa (flowing saris, turbans, head covers, especially in the earlier historical Hindi films which were the ones predominantly shown in cinemas throughout northern Nigeria in the 1960s) young Hausa saw reflections of themselves and their lifestyles in Hindi films, far more than in American films. Added to this is the appeal of the soundtrack music, the song and dance routines which do not have ready equivalents in Hausa traditional entertainment ethos. Soon enough cinema-goers started to mimic the Hindi film songs they saw and hear during repeated radio plays.


Four of the most popular Hindi films in northern Nigeria in the 1960s and which provided the meter for adaptation of the tunes and lyrics to Hausa street and popular music were Rani Rupmati, Chori Chori (dir. Anant Thakur,1956), Amar Deep and Kabhie Kabhie (dir. Yash Chopra, 1976).

The first of this entertainment cultural leap from screen to street was made by predominantly young boys who, incapable of understanding Hindi film language, but captivated by the songs in the films they saw, started to use the meter of the playback songs, but substituting the “gibberish” Hindi words with Hausa prose. A fairly typical example of street adaptation was from Rani Rupmati, as transcribed in Table 1.


Table 1 Itihas Agar Likhna Chaho Transcription


Itihaas     Agar…     (Rani Rupmati)

English Translation

Hausa playground version


Itihaas agar likhana chaho,

If the chronicles

Ina su cibayyo ina sarki

Where are the warriors and the King

Itihaas agar likhana chaho

If the chronicles

Ina su waziri abin banza

Where are the warriors and the King

Azaadi ke mazmoon se

of the freedom of our land are

to be recorded

Mun je yaki mun dawo

We have been to

the battle and return

(Chor) Itihaas agar likhana chaho

(chor) If the chronicles

Mun samu sandan girma

We have come back with a trophy

Azaadi ke majmoon se

…of the freedom of our land are to be recorded

Ina su cibayyo in sarki

Where are the warriors and the King

To seencho apni dharti ko

Then be ready to give your lives

Ina su wazirin abin banza

Were is the Vizier, the useless cad!

Veeroon tum upne khoon se

To your land



Har har har mahadev

Let each of us sacrifice ourselves to Mahdeev

Har har har Mahadi

Har har har Mahadi

Allaho Akubar

Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar

Allahu Akbar

Har har har mahadev

Let each of us sacrifice ourselves to Mahdeev

Har har har Mahadi

Har har har Mahadi

Allaho Akubar…

Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar…

Allahu Akbar…


The Hausa translation—which is about returning successfully from a battle—actually captured the essence of the original song, if not the meaning which the Hausa could not understand, which was sung in the original film in preparations for a battle. The fact that the lead singer in the film and the song, a woman, was the leader of the troops made the film even more captivating to an audience used to seeing women in subservient roles, and definitely not in battles.


A further selling point for the song was the Allahu Akbar refrain, which is actually a translation, intended for Muslim audiences of the film, of Har Har Mahadev, a veneration of Lord Mahadev (Lord Shiva, the Indian god of knowledge). Thus even if the Hausa audience did not understand the dialogues, they did identify with what sounded o them like Mahdi, and Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest, and pronounced in the song exactly as the Hausa pronounce it, as Allahu Akbar) refrain—further entrenching a moral lineage with the film, and subsequently “Indians”. This particular song, coming in a film that opened the minds of Hausa audience to Hindi films became an entrenched anthem of Hausa popular culture, and by extension, provided even the traditional folk singers with meters to borrow.


Thus the second leap from screen to street was mediated by popular folk musicians in late 1960s and early 1970s led by Abdu Yaron Goge, a resident goge (fiddle) player in Jos. Yaron Goge was a youth oriented musician and drafted by the leftist-leaning Northern Elements

People’s Union (NEPU) based in Kano, to spice up their campaigns during the run-up to the party political campaigns in the late 1950s preparatory to Nigerian independence in 1960 (for more on Abdu Yaron goge and other fiddlers, see DjeDje 2008).


A pure dance floor player with a troupe of 12 male (six) and female (six) dancers, Abdu Yaron Goge introduced many dance patterns and moves in his shows in bars, hotels and clubs in Kano, Katsina, Kaduna and Jos—further entrenching his music to the moral “exclusion zone” of the typical Hausa social structure, and confirming low brow status on his music. The most famous set piece was the bar-dance, Bansuwai, with its suggestive moves—with derriere shaken vigorously—especially in a combo mode with a male and a female dancer.


However, his greatest contribution to Hausa popular culture was in picking up Hindi film playback songs and reproducing them with his goge, vocals and kalangu [African drum] often made to sound like the Indian drum, tabla. A fairly typical example, again from Rani Rupmati, was his adaptation of the few lines of the song, Raati Suhani, from the film, as transcribed in Table 2.


Table 2 Raati Suhani Transcription


(Raati Suhani)


Hausa adaptation (Abdu Yaron Goge)



Music interlude, with tabla, flute, sitar


Music interlude, with tabla




Mu gode Allah, taro

People, let’s be grateful to Allah


Mu gode Allah, taro

People, let’s be grateful to Allah

Verse 1




Raati suhani,

In the beauty of the night

Duniya da daɗi,

This world is a bliss

djoome javani,

My maidenhood gently sways

Lahira da daɗi,

The afterworld is also a bliss

Dil hai deevana hai,

My heart boils with love

In da gaskiyar ka, Lahira da daɗi

If you are truthful, the afterworld will be a bliss


Because of you

In babu gaskiyarka, Lahira da zafi

If you’re not truthful The afterworld will be hell


The Hausa lyrics was a sermon to his listeners, essentially telling them they reap what they sow when they die and go to heaven (to wit, “if you are good, heaven is paradise, if you are bad, it is hell”). It became his anthem, and repeated radio plays ensured its pervasive presence in Muslim secluded households, creating a hunger for the original film song.


In both the adaptations of the lyrics, the Hausa prose has, of course, nothing to do with the actual Hindi wordings. However the meter of the Hindi songs became instantly recognizable to Hausa audience, such that those who had not seen the film went to see it. Since women were prohibited since 1970s from entering cinemas in most northern Nigerian cities, radio stations took to playing the records from the popular Hindi songs. This had the powerful effect of bringing Hindi soundtrack music right into the bedrooms of Hausa Muslim housewives who, sans the visuals, were at least able to partake in this transnational flow of media.


Such popularity eventually found its way even into Hausa religious space, and Hindi film songs became easily adaptable to local song meters and patterns, especially by religious poets

who were conviced that they can substitute the Hindi references to Hindu gods in Islamic- themed replacements praising Prophet Muhammad. In this way, the first to appropriate Hindi film songs were Islamiyya (modernized Qur’anic schools) school pupils, who started adapting Hindi film music. Some of the more notable adaptations are listed in Table 3:


Table 3 Islamic Hindinization of Hindi film soundtrack songs

Song from Hindi Film                                      Hausa Adapted Islamic Song

Ilzaam (dir. Shibu Mitra, 1986)                         Manzon Allah Mustapha [Messenger of Allah,


Rani Rupmati (1957)                                          Ɗaha na Ɗaha Rasulu [Muhammad the Pure] Mother India (dir. Mehboob Khan 1957)                                Mukhtaru Abin Zaɓi [Muhammad the Chosen One]

Aradhana (dir. Shakti Samanta, 1969)              Mai    Yafi    Ikhwana?    [What    is     better    than


The Train (dir. Ravikant Nagaich 1970)           Lale Da Azumi [Welcome, Ramadan]

Fakira (dir. N.N. Sippy, 1976)                           Manzo na Mai Girma [My Reverred Prophet] Yeh Vaada Raha (dir. Kapil Kapoor 1982)                          Ar-Salu Maceci na [The Prophet, my savior] Commando (dir. Babbar Subhash, 1988)                              Sayyadil Bashari [Leader of the People]

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (dir. Mansoor Khan. 1988)

Sayyadil Akrami [Reverred Leader]

Yaraana (dir. Rakesh Kumar, 1981)                 Mu Yi Yabon sa Babu Kwaɓa [Let’s Praise him purely]

Dil To Pagal Hai (dir. Yash Chopra, 1997)      Watan Rajab [The month of Rajab]


These adaptations, which were purely vocal, without any instrumental accompaniment, were principally in the 1980s and 1990s during particularly religious resurgence in northern Nigeria post-1979 Iranian Islamic revolution which provided a template for many Muslim clusters to re-orient their entire life towards Islam in Muslim northern Nigeria. Entertainment was thus adapted to the new Islamic ethos. Thus while not banning watching Hindi films – despite the fire and brimstone sermonizing of many noted Muslim scholars – Islamiyya school teachers developed all-girl choirs that adapt the Islamic messaging, particularly love for the Prophet Muhammad, to Hindi film soundtrack meters. The basic ideas was to wean girls and boys away from repeating Hindi film lyrics which they did not know, and which could contain references to multiplicity of gods characteristic Hindu religion.


Having perfected the system that gets children to sing something considered more spiritually meaningful than the Hindi words in Hindi film  soundtracks,  structured  music organizations started to appear from 1986, principally in Kano, devoted to singing the praises of the Prophet Muhammad. These groups using the bandiri (frame drum) are usually led by poets and singers, and they are collectively referred to as Ƙungiyoyin Yabon Annabi [Groups for Singing the Praises of the Prophet Muhammad]. The more notable of these in the Kano area include Ushaqul Nabiyyi (established in 1986), Fitiyanul Ahbabu (1988), Ahawul Nabiyyi (1989), Ahababu Rasulillah (1989), Mahabbatu Rasul (1989), Ashiratu Nabiyyi (1990) and Zumratul Madahun Nabiyyi (1990). All of these  are  led  by mainstream Islamic poets and rely on conventional methods of composition  for  their works, often performed in mosques or community plazas (Isma’ila 1994). Most are vocal groups, singing a capella, although a few have started to use the bandiri (frame drum) such as Rabi’u Usman Baba, and Yamaha piano-synthesizer, such as Kabiru Maulana, as instruments during their performances.


The most unique, however, is Ƙungiyar Ushaq’u Indiya [Society for the Lovers of India] (Larkin 2004). Although they are devotional, focusing attention on singing the praises of the

Prophet Muhammad, they differ from the rest in that they use the metre of songs from traditional popular Hausa music and substitute the lyrics of these songs with words indicating their almost ecstatic love for the Prophet Muhammad. However, upon noticing that Islamiyya school pupils were making hits, as it were, out of Hindi film soundtrack adaptations, Ƙungiyar Ushaq’u Indiya quickly changed tack and re-invented itself as Ushaq’u Indiya, focusing its attention on adapting Hindi film music and substituting the Hindi lyrics with Hausa lyrics, praising the Prophet Muhammad.


Notably, the Ushaq’u Indiya singers rely significantly on onomatopoeia to appropriate equivalent elements from the Hindi film songs to adapt via Hausa poetics. For example, ‘Kuchie-Kuchie’ from the film Rakshak became ‘Kuci Muci’ in Hausa [you eat, we also eat]. Like the Hausa shamans who create new translations of the Qur’an by adapting it into Hausa vocal amulets, the Ushaq’u Indiya singers and poets also use vocal harmony to create equivalent renditions of Hindi film songs in Hausa. These renditions, of course, are not ‘direct’ in the sense that there is no semantic relationship between the Hausa versions and the Hindi originals — in fact Ushaq’u Indiya were not trying to ‘translate’ the Hindi songs; rather, they exploit the metres and sounds of Hindi songs and lyrics to publicize their art among an audience already enamoured with Hindi film songs. Table 4 is a small sample from over 200 Hindi film song appropriations by  the group, based on intertextual analysis of their archival recordings obtained during fieldwork.


Table 4 Hindi film appropriation by Ushaq’u Indiya (Lovers of Indiya).


Hindi Film

Film Song

Ushaqu Indiya Hausa Appropriation

Rakshak (dir. Ashok Honda, 1996)

Koochie Koochie

Kuchi Muchi

Rakshak (dir. Ashok Honda, 1996)

Sundra Sundra

Zahra-Zahra gun ki nazo bara

Yash (dir. Sharad Saran, 1996)

Subah-Subah Jab kirki kole

Zuma-Zuma mai garɗi

Lahu ke do Rang (dir. Mehul Kumar, 1997)

Hasino Ko Aate Hai

Hassan da Hussain Jikokin Nabiy na

Dil (dir. Indira Kuma, 19900

Humne Ghar Choda Hai

Manzon Allah Ɗahe

Anari (dir. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1959)

Diwana me Diwana

Rasulu Abin dubana

Kala sona (dir. Ravikant Nagaich, 1975)

Se Sun Sun Kasam

Sannu Mai Yassarabu ɗan Kabilar Arabu

Coolie No 1 (dir. David Dhawan, 1995)

Goriya churana mera jiya

Godiya muke wa sarki ɗaya

Ragluveer (dir. K. Pappu, 1995)

O Jaanemann Chehra Tera

Na zo neman tsari ceto

Johny I love you (dir. Rakesh Kumar, 1982)

Kabhi-Kabhi Bezubaan Parvat Bolate

Kabi kabi Annabi mu in ka ki shi za ka sha wuya

Boxer (dir. Raj N. Sippy, 1984)

Janu Na jaane kab se Tujhko pyar

Yanu-na yanu na ba wani tamkarka

Hum (dir. Mukul S. Anand, 1991)

Jumma Chumma Dede

Zuma- zumar bege mun sha

Abe Hayat (dir. Ramanlal Desai, 1955)

Main gareebon ka dil hoon

Na gari mu ke yabo Shugaban Al’umma

Shaan (dir. Ramesh Sippy, 1980)

Janu     meri     jaan     metere kurbaan

Jani babuja ba tamkar kur’an


Like all the other songs in their repertoire, the songs are not based on attempts to translate the original meanings of the titles of the Hindi film songs; rather refrains, chorus, and main lines are identified and their Hausa substitutes used in rendering the original song. Thus the double meaning of ‘interpretation’ (Newmark 1991, 35), which is both the technical term for spoken translation but also hints at the act of transformation that occurs in the example I have given here,  comes to the fore in  the Ushaq’u  Indiya singers’ translations of Hindi film songs.

The Hausa youth obsession with Hindi language and culture was further illustrated by the appearance, in 2003 of what was possibly the first Hausa-Hindi language primer in which a Hausa author, Nazeer Abdullahi Magoga published Fassarar Indiyanchi a Saukake Hindi Language Made Easy as shown in Fig. 1.


Fig. 1 Hausa-Hindi Phrase Books


The author is pictured wearing Hausa cap among Bollywood super stars on the covers of the books. Like most Hausa, the author equates “Hindi” with Indian, not acknowledging that India is a political expression comprising many ethnic and language groups. For instance, 14 languages are mentioned in the constitution of India. There is thus no singular “Indian” language as such., much as there is no singular “Nigerian” language.


These books become all the more significant in that they are the first books in Hausa language that show the vivid effects of media parenting. It is thus through the books that we learn the meanings of some of the titles of 47 popular Hindi films such as Sholay (Gobara, fire outbreak), Kabhi-Kabhie (wani sa’in, other times), Agni Sakshi (zazzafar shaida, strong evidence), Darr (tsoro, fear), Yaraana (abota, friendship), Dillagi (zaɓin zuciya, heart’s choice), Maine Pyar Kiya (na faɗa cikin soyayya, fallen in love) and others. Volume 1 also contains the complete transliteration of Hindi lyrics translated into Romanized Hausa, of Maine Pyar Kiya and Kabhi-Khabie.


Magoga started working on the first volume, Fassar Indiyanchi in 1996, and when the Hausa video film boom started in 2000 he published the book. He has three others planned; a second volume of the books in which takes the language acquisition to the next level—focusing on culture and customs of India (or more precisely, Hindu). The other two books, still planned are “song books”, Fassarar Waƙoƙin Indiya (Translations of Hindi Film Songs) in two volumes.

In an interview I held with Magoga on March 19, 2004 in Kano, northern Nigeria, the author narrated how he became deeply interested in learning the Hindi language from watching thousands of Hindi films, and subsequently conceived of the idea of writing a series of phrase books on Hindi language. In 2005 he was given a one-hour slot on Radio Kano FM during which he presents Mu Kewaya Indiya [let us visit India], a program in which he translates Hindi film songs into Hausa. His fluency in Hindi language was such that in 2007 it attracted BBC World Service, London, which held a live-on-air interview with him about his life with an Indian journalist, Indu Shekhar Sinha, in Hindi. This attracted so much attention in India that the BBC Delhi office sent a crew to interview Magoga in Kano in July 2008. The crew was led by Rupa Jha who recorded the entire interview in Hindi language at the Tahir Guest Palace hotel in Kano and which was broadcast in India. Subsequently Magoga became a singer in Kano, holding concerts (‘majalisi’) during which he sings the praises of venerated Sufi saints as well as local politicians in Hindi (often dressing in Indian clothes). He was also given a slot at Farin Wata, an independent Television Studio in Kano during which he presents a ‘request program’ in which viewers request for historical details of a particular film and request a particular song. The screen shots in Fig. 2 shows how Magoga dresses for the part.


Fig 2. Nazeer Magoga Presenting ‘Bollywood Stan’ in a Local TV Studio


By 2012 Magoga has been given a series of slots in various radio and TV stations across northern Nigeria where he translates Hindi lyrics into Hausa and holds continuous fluent conversation in Indi with phone-in listeners. He also became a singer, releasing an album in September 2012 which contain various Islamic devotional and political songs in Hausa and Hindi.


Hausa Appropriations of Popular Hindi Film Music

Hindi films became popular simply because of what urbanized young Hausa saw as cultural similarities between Hausa social behavior and mores and those depicted in Hindi films. As Brian Larkin (2004, 100) noted,


Many Hausa, for instance, argue that Hausa and Hindi are descended from the same language—an argument also voiced to me by an Indian importer of films to account for their popularity. While wrong in terms of linguistic evolution, this argument acknowledges the substantial presence of Arabic and English loanwords in both languages, a key factor in creating this perceived sense of similarity and which helps many Hausa “speak Hindi.”

Bettina David (2008) records similar observations about the cultural relationships between Hindi films and Indonesian public culture, where she notes that for many Indonesians, “Bollywood still seems to represent something similar to their own culture in being distinctively non-Western.” (183).


Further, with heroes and heroines sharing almost the same dress code as Hausa (flowing saris, turbans, head covers, especially in the earlier historical Hindi films which were the ones predominantly shown in cinemas throughout northern Nigeria in the 1960s) young Hausa saw reflections of themselves and their lifestyles in Hindi films, far more than in American films. Added to this is the appeal of the soundtrack music, the song and dance routines which do not have ready equivalents in Hausa traditional entertainment ethos. Soon enough cinema-goers started to mimic the Hindi film songs they saw. The next nexus of Hausa popular culture to adopt the Hindi film format therefore was the Hausa video film.


Screen to Screen the Hausa Video Film Soundtrack

Hausa video films as a major entertainment focus started with the production of the first Hausa film on cassette in March 1990. It was Turmin Danya (dir. Salisu Galadanci). The first Hausa video films from 1990 to 1994 relied on traditional music ensembles to compose the soundtracks, with koroso music predominating. The soundtracks were just that – incidental background music to accompany the film, and not integral to the story. There was often singing, but it is itself embedded in the songs, for instance during ceremonies that seem to feature in every drama film. However, the availability of the synthesizer keyboards such as the Casiotone MT-140 and Yamaha PSR, as well as pirated music making software such as FruityLoops Reason 3.0, and editing software such as Cool Edit and Adobe Audition, the Hausa video film acquired a more transnational pop focus and outlook creating what I call Hausa Technopop music – a genre of music that departed considerably from its antecedent African acoustic roots, and embraced Hindi film melodies exclusively, if retaining Hausa language lyrics.


This follows a trajectory similar to the evolution of Indonesian popular music, dangdut, “a hybrid pop music extremely popular among the lower classes that incorporates musical elements from Western pop, Hindi film music, and indigenous Malay tunes” (Bettina David 179). In Indonesia Hindi films were shown after independence in 1945 as entertainment for Indian troops that were part of the English contingent. Subsequently, the films were shown massively on local television and thus the eventually served as a model for the development of Indonesian films just as the Hausa video filmmakers adopt Hindi film templates in their films, in addition to appropriating many Hindi films directly into Hausa language versions.


While a lot of the songs in the Hausa video films were original to the films, yet quite a sizeable are direct appropriations of the Hindi film soundtracks even if the Hausa main film is not based on a Hindi film. This, in effect means a Hausa video film can have two sources of Hindi film “creative inspiration” a film for the storyline (and fight sequences), and songs from a different film. Table 5 lists the Hindi inspirations for few of the 128 Hausa video films appropriated from Hindi films. This was based on analysis of 615 Hausa home videos and discussions with producers, cast, crew and editors from 2000 to 2003 during fieldwork for a larger study.

Table 5 Inspirations from the East: Hindi as Hausa Film Songs


Hausa Film

Playback Song

Hindi Film

Playback Song


Zo Mu Sha Giya

Gundaraj (dir. Guddu Dhanoa, 1995)

Mena Meri Mena Meri


Duk Abin Da Na Yi

Suhaag (dir. Balwant Bhatt,1940)

Gore Gore Gore Gore


Sha Bege

Mann (dir. Indra Kumar, 1999)

Mera Mann


Tunanin Rai Na

Mann (dir. Indra Kumar, 1999)

Tinak Tini Tana


Suriki Mai Kyau

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (dir. Karan Johar, 2001)

Surat Huwa Mat Dam


Don Allah Taho Rausaya

Angrakshak     (dir.      Ravi     Raja Pinisetty, 1995)

Ham Tumse Na Hi


Na Fi Ki Yi Haƙuri

Darr (dir. Yash Chopra, 1993)

Jadoo Tere Magal


Laila Laila Laila

Zameer (dir., Ravi Chopra, 1975)

Lela Lela Lela

Gudun Hijira

Ga Wani Abu Na Damun Shi

Josh (dir. A Karim, 1950)

Hari Hari Hari


Gamu Mu Na Soyayya

Josh (dir. A Karim, 1950)

Hari HariHari

Gudun Hijira

Ina Ka ke Ya Masoyi Na

Mast (dir. Ram Gopal Varma, 1999)

Ruki Ruki

Gudun Hijira

Gudun Hijra

Dhadkan (dir. Dharmesh Darshan, 2000)

Dil Ne He Ka Ha He Dil Se

Ibro Dan Indiya

Sahiba Sahiba

Rakshak (dir. Ashok Honda, 1996)

Sundara San

Tasiri 2

Kar Ki Ji Komai

Wardaat (dir. Ravikant Nagaich, 1981)

Baban Jayi


Ina Wahala

Mohabbat (dir. Reema Rakesh Nath, 1997)                  ,

Mohabbat Ti He


Ni Na San Ba Ki Da Haufi

Major Saab (dir. Tinnu Anand,


Ekta He Pal Pal Tumse


Duk Girma Na Sai Kin Sa Na Yi

Hogi Pyaar Ki Jeet (dir. P. Vasu, 1999)

Ho Dee Bana


Ni A’a

Ayya Pyar

Jodi Pyar


Ayyaraye Lale

Ram Balram (1980)

Ka Ci Na Gari Mil Gay


Ai Na San Mai So Na

Lahu Ke Do Rang (1997)

Awara Pagal Dibana


There is a radical difference in the translation styles used between Ushaqu and Hausa video filmmakers. Whereas the Ushaqu singers attempt a poetic vocal harmony between the source sound and treating it as text, and target sound, Hausa video filmmakers use only the musical harmonies of the source sound, ignoring its textual properties. In fact in my repertoire of over 50 re-renderings I could locate only one track from the Hindi film, Zameer (dir. Ravi Chopra, 1975) which had onomatopoeic property with its corresponding Hausa version, as highlighted in Table 5. Leila/Layla are both common female names among Muslim Hausa. In a way, therefore, the Hindi film songs in Hausa video films are cover versions rendered locally. The originals do not simply disappear because a local one is available—for the purpose was not to displace the transnational originals; but to prove prowess in copying the transnational songs. The Hindi originals are increasing becoming available on DVDs stuffed with often over 100 songs in MP3 format and sold for less than US$1 if one bargains hard enough from street media vendors selling them in push carts and wheel barrows.


Thus besides providing templates for storylines, Hindi films provide Hausa home video makers with similar templates for the songs they use in their videos. The technique often involves picking up the thematic elements of the main Hindi film song, and then substituting with Hausa lyrics—creating translation equivalency. Consequently, anyone familiar with the Hindi film song element will easily discern the film from the Hausa home video equivalent. Although this process of adaptation is extremely success because the video film producers

make more from films with song and dances than without, there are often dissenting voices about the intrusion of the new media technology into the film process, as reflected in this letter from a correspondent:


I want to advise northern Nigerian Hausa film producers that using European music in Hausa films is contrary to portrayal of Hausa culture in films (videos). I am appealing to them (producers) to change their style. It is annoying to see a Hausa film with a European music soundtrack. Don’t the Hausa have their own (music)?...The Hausa have more musical instruments than any ethnic group in this country, so why can’t films be produced using Hausa traditional music? Umar Faruk Asarani, Letters page, Fim, No 4, December 1999, p. 10. (My translation of original Hausa language source).


Interestingly, other musical sources are often used as templates. Thus a Hindi film template can often have songs borrowed form a totally different source. Ibro Ɗan Indiya (pr. Nasiru ‘Dararrafe’ Salisu, 2002) for instance, with had an adaptation of a song from Mohabbat (1997, dir. Reema Rakeshnath) contains an adaptation of a composition by Oumou Sangare, the Malian diva, Ah Ndiya (Oumou Sangare 2003). This was appropriated as “Malama Dumbaru” in the Hausa video film version, and remains the only African rendering that I am aware of.



In this paper I looked at three styles of vocal performances in the domestication of transnational source text into Hausa. The first was the onomatopoeic use of selected Qur’anic texts by Hausa shamans for their public culture clients who seek cure for one problem or other. In the second and third instances, this provided a ready template for the use of both onomatopoeia and equivalence as translation devices by purveyors of the Hausa popular culture industries in musical performances and video films in their appropriation of transcultural entertainment products, which they rework for their local clients. However, a transitory route was via official translation of selected Middle Eastern stories into Hausa language—thus conferring on Hausa popular culture a transcultural base.


In trying to determine what constitutes global culture, John Tomlinson (1999, 24) argues that


The globalised culture that is currently emerging is not a global culture in any utopian sense. It is not a culture that has arisen out of the mutual experiences and needs of all of humanity…It is, in short, simply the global extension of Western culture.


The problem with this view, as argued by J. Macgregor Wise (2008, 35) is that it assumes that


the process of globalization is a one-way flow: from the West (read: America) to the rest. Especially in the 1970s, media scholarship supported this view, giving evidence of how the West dominated the global film and television industries as well as the international news services such as the Associated Press and Reuters…It also assumes that this process is uniform and occurs in the same way everywhere. That is, it assumes that the world will become homogenized, that it will look the same wherever you go.


However, there are other mediascapes besides Western. In South America, the Brazilian Telenovelas were spectacularly successful within not only South American continent, but also across the world. As Benaivdes (2008, 2) suggested,


It is a testament to the telenovela’s success that many of the plot lines are reused or that a telenovela will be rebroadcast in different countries after being adapted to their national language and cultural

configuration. This transnational element is only heightened by the incredible export success of telenovelas throughout the Americas (including the United States) and all over the world. Latin American telenovelas have been exported, with extraordinary cultural implications, to Egypt, Russia, and China, as well as throughout Europe.


In a similar way, Hindi films have provided powerful alternatives of imagined realities to Western mediascape (e.g. Vasudevan 2000, Kripalani 2005, Mehta 2005, Larkin 2003). Thus, for many non-Western countries,


Over the decades, Hindi films emerged as an accessible, visual and ideological alternative to prescriptive, evolutionary patterns of development advocated by some Hollywood films and other select First World countries. (Shresthova, 13).


In Indonesian popular culture,


Contemporary Indonesian public culture increasingly reorients itself, looking to other non-Western social, cultural, and religious forms as alternatives in the struggle to define a modern identity without becoming totally “Westernized.” (David, 195).


In Africa, the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, has emerged in recent years as a powerful pan-African film industry not only in the individual countries of Africa, but in Black diaspora (see for instance, Ebewo 2007, Haynes, 2000, Haynes and Okome 1998, McCall 2004, Offord 2009, Omoera 2009, Postcolonial Text, “Nollywood: West African Cinema,” Vol 3, No 2, 2007, and Film International #28, “Welcome to Nollywood: Africa Visualizes,” August 1, 2007).


Consequently, as Arjun Appadurai (1996) also argued, globalization is not a single process happening everywhere in the same way. Thus globalized culture does not always have to mean Western culture, especially as the influence does not have to be vertical (from North to South), but could also be horizontal (from South to South). In northern Nigeria, as indeed in other countries sharing similar postcolonial experiences, the transcultural flow is in a different direction. It is this multidirectional flow of transnational media influences that see the ready translation—using as many devices as possible—of transnational popular culture into Hausa urban public culture.



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