Class delivered to the Introduction to African Literatures, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, United States, 22nd October, 2015.

Transglobal Media Flows and African Popular Culture: Revolution and Reaction in Muslim Hausa Popular Culture

Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu
Department of Mass Communications 
Bayero University, Kano – Nigeria
(Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria)


This essay explores the impact of global trends and flows of popular culture to Muslim Hausaland from 1935 to 2005 in three distinct areas: prose fiction, oral performing arts and video film. The paper specifically analyses the impact of popular culture from the Far East and Asia on the transformation of the identity of creative and performing arts among the Hausa of northern Nigeria. The main work that led the way to such literary influence was Magana Jari Ce, often considered the unalloyed Hausa literary classic. This book, published in 1937, gave birth to a phenomenon of artistic adaptation - or more directly, appropriation - of creative works by the Hausa from countries and cultures deemed to share the same cultural space as the Hausa. Magana Jari Ce, based on extensive re-telling and re- structuring of folk tales from various European, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern cultures laid the foundation of using the cultural identity of other societies in Hausa popular culture. When globalisation became electronic in the form of Hindi cinema, Hausa performance artistes followed the lead of literary adapters of the Others’ literature, and this led to the emergence of oral poets - both in the popular culture and religious domains - who use Hindi film song motifs as a template for their art. This process culminated into the appearance of the Hausa video film from 1990 which is almost exclusively based on the Hindi film concept of storyline and uses the essential features of Hindi film - which was the love triangle, forced marriage and long song and dance routines that focus mainly on the sexuality of the female mime singers. This revolution in mass popular culture was counteracted by a reaction from the Islamic environment in which the “modernising” Hausa popular culture finds itself.

Part 1 – Theoretical Contexts Introduction

Overture to the People’s Concerto

Though much has been written about ‘globalization’, more attention could be paid to the specific ways it works through local African scenes of cultural production and consumption, and to the question of what African audiences actually do with, or make of, imported cultural products.

Karen Barber (1997, p. 7)


When Karen Barber edited Readings in African Popular Culture in 1997, a studied attempt was made to limit the purview of such sub-culture to specific focus areas. As she stated in her introduction,


This volume, then, concentrates on what people in Africa have actually been producing…and what they might mean by it. The emphasis is somewhat biased towards the verbal rather than the visual, and this could be taken as an antidote to the predominant view of Africa as producer of masks, figurines and airport art (Barber 1997, p. 7).


Thus adapting from Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel’s three-stage categorization of popular culture—folk culture, popular culture and mass culture—(Hall and Whannel 1964), Barber extrapolates that popular culture was the product of individual, and often professional culture purveyors—sharing specific values and sentiments to an appreciating audience. Performances in popular culture, therefore, are targeted to a specific niche audience, no matter how determined—not everyone patronizes the “airport art” Barber defines; and the presence of many genres of music ensures specific audience—even if gender or age defined—for each category.


The study of popular culture itself was often the subject of academic uncertainty. For instance, Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson (1986 p.47) noted:


Much more than with most objects of study, a leading question with popular culture has traditionally been whether it deserves serious consideration at all. But an extraordinary new interest in popular culture has emerged in the past two decades in the humanities and the social sciences.


This “extraordinary new interest” in popular culture is further galvanized by the increasing observation of the impact of global entertainment media on more traditional societies. It would appear that two major areas of the impact of media on entertainment and popular culture provide a focus of study. The first looks at the media and how they influence culture and life-world. The second focuses on the interaction of specific social actors that make use of the media. My main concern in this presentation is the second focus; specifically the appropriation of global media in local settings.


Media in all forms, transnational flows of representative identities and the globalization of essentially American entertainment ethos have combined to create a

climate of mistrust for either globalization as a concept, or Americanization of entertainment ethos as a process of entertainment in not only Muslim countries and communities, but also in traditional societies. Thus what is of further significance is the way the media is used to construct identities and share these constructs with communities sharing these identities. Obviously then, the usage of identity-construct kits from different communities may communicate different conceptions of the communities and consequently lead to misrepresentation of identities. And yet, the desire for globalized acceptance—even if the “globalized” is localized to acceptance beyond the immediate community—leads to experimentation of various forms of acceptance of representational identities beyond the immediate localized communities. This is the scenario that creates issues of the role of entertainment in such communities. In my presentation, I look at how these flows and counter flows affect an African Muslim community.


Islamic communities over the last few years have had quite a high global profile in all areas of human endeavor. The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 created a massive seismic impact in most African Muslim communities leading to the emergence of more orthodox interpretations of Islam in those communities—an outcome variously interpreted as Islamism (Rosander 1997, Miles 2003, Laremont and Gregorian 2006, McCormick 2005, Kane 2006) or Reformism (Kane 1993, 2003; Loimeier 1997a, 1997b; Bunza 2002). As Nilüfer Göle (2003, p. 173) further distinguished,


In speaking of Islamism, we are differentiating between Muslim, which expresses religious identity, and Islamist, which refers to a social movement through which Muslim identity is collectively reappropriated as a basis for an alternative social and political project. Thus Islamism implies a critique and even a discontinuity with the given categories of Muslim identity; it is an endeavor to rename and reconstruct Muslim identity by freeing it from traditional interpretations and by challenging assimilative forces of modernism.


Such Islamic militancy is seen in various African countries as having an overt agenda. In The Sudan, for instance, according to J. Millard Burr and Robert O Collins (2003, p. 181),


The “Islamic Civilization Project” of Hasan al-Turabi devoted to the spread of Islamist ideology to Africa accompanied by seminars and conferences for the “Islamisation of Africa south of the Sahara” caused widespread consternation. In Senegal a Sudanese NGO was closed down and its official deported on charges of attempting to destabilize the government. In East Africa Swahili Muslims, who cherished their Islamic heritage identified with the Sudanese Islamists proclamation of a return to Afro-Islamic authenticity.


This lead David McCormack (2005, p.2) to provide an interpretation of Islamism as “a movement intent on bringing society and the state into conformity with radical interpretations of the religion”. Such interpretations were further facilitated by the re- introduction of the Shari’a in most states of northern Nigeria in 2000. With new forces of Islamic thinking in place, including state-instituted machineries for censorship and control, it would only be a matter of time before the globalizing, Westernized popular culture of Muslim Hausa youth comes in direct confrontation with Islam (for a full treatment of how this affects the Hausa video film in northern Nigeria, see Adamu 2004).

A Global Symphony in Five Movements

No social system can remain insulated or isolated from the dynamics of global media eddies, especially a society making a transition from a traditional society to a cosmopolitan one. In studying the eddy of transfusion of media messages from various locations to others, four distinct terms, often used interchangeably, emerge: globalization, transglobalization, transnationalism, and thanks to Roland Robert’s (1995) popularization of the term, glocalization.


Doobo Shim has pointed out that in international communications, research has given the word globalization an everyday feel (Shim 2006 p. 26). Consequently, Globalization and its variants tended to be seen as offshoots of cultural imperialism which sees the dominance of economic and media influences from developed countries—principally the United States (see Schiller 1976, Tunstall 1977, Tomlinson 1991, Boyd-Barrett 1977, Galtung 1979, Mohammadi 1995, Hamelink 1983, McPhail 1987, Sui-Nam Lee 1988, Mattleart 1994 among others for debates on cultural imperialism)—to developing countries. And according to George Ritzer (2003)—in focusing on globalization in the realm of consumption—a number of social theorists have dealt with the growth of globalization (Albrow and King 1990, Roland 1992, Bauman 1998, Tomlinson 1999, Beck 2000, Giddens 2000, Kellner 2002). As he further argued,


The flowering of such theories is a reflection of the fact that globalization is of great concern to, and enormous significance for, much of the world’s population. Globalization is transforming virtually every nation and the lives of billions of people. The degree and significance of its impact is visible everywhere one looks, in the shopping malls that increasingly dot many areas of the developed world, the vast array of franchises found in them, and the goods and services offered by those franchises, as well as in the protests against key international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. The frequency and geographic dispersion of these protests attest to the fact that people throughout the world feel very strongly that they are confronting matters of great importance (Ritzer 2003, pp 189-90).


From this argument it is clear that economic bases—trades and services—dominate the main theoretical and critical thinking about globalization. This is because, as Arjun Appadurai (2000 p. 3) further interprets,


Globalization is inextricably linked to the current workings of capital on a global basis; in this regard it extends the earlier logics of empire, trade, and political dominion in many parts of the world. Its most striking feature is the runaway quality of global finance, which appears remarkably independent of traditional constraints of information transfer, national regulation, industrial productivity, or “real” wealth in any particular society, country, or region.


Closely related to this is Transglobalization, which connotes similar transborder movements, but without the baggage of economic forces. For instance, as Julia Thomas (2001 p. 1) stated in her introduction to Reading Images,


we live in a visualised world, a world in which we are bombarded everyday and everywhere with images that appear transglobal, capable of crossing geographic and racial divides, or as one famous advertisement implied, of uniting, hand in virtual hand, people of different age, sex and ethnicity.

Thus Transglobal focus suggests a “phenomenon that spans the gaps of distance, culture, race, language, economics, and heritage. It is a tale of twentieth century cultures mixing with each other in an unprecedented way” (Karin Evans 2000, 3, in Helena Grice 2005 p. 125). Thus while George Ritzer’s “globalization of nothing” (2003) had a firm economic base in globalization, transglobal provides clues to other forms of engagement across cultures and societies beside economic forces. Indeed Karin Evan’s “unprecedented way” of “cultures mixing” provides avenues for consideration of media parenting of popular culture from developed countries to developing countries; for as Raka Shome (1999 p. 601) argued, in presenting a case for a diasporic “cultural intersection”,


with the softening boundaries and the growth of global economy, we are all in some way cultural hybrids (although some of us more than others) influenced by transglobal movements of media, of ideas, of peoples, of cultures.


Indeed such cultural intersections were midwifed by transglobal broadcasting channels that transcend national—and cultural—boundaries—bringing media models and matrixes to societies often radically different from their starting points. In this case then media itself becomes a diasporic element.


Transglobalization at the same time differs from Randolph Bourne’s (1916) popularization of Transnationalism, a concept which focuses on the heightened interconnectivity between people—rather than just messages created by people and shared across the world as in transglobalization—all around the world and the loosening of boundaries between countries—a focus which had a main emphasis on migrations and creation of new social clusters as a result of this interconnectivity. This concept was further fully explored in the edited works of Smith and Guarnizo (1998) and lends further credibility to the idea of cosmopolitanism of transnational concepts. And as Michael Peter Smith noted in the Introduction to Transnationalism from Below (1998 p. 3),


Transnationalism is clearly in the air. Expansion of transnational capital and mass media to even the remotest of hinterlands has provoked a spate of discourses on “globalization,” “transnationalism,” and the “crisis of the nation state.” A core theme in these discourses is the penetration of national cultures and political systems by global and local driving forces. The nation- state is seen as weakened “from above” by transnational capital, global media, and emergent supra-national political institutions. “From below” it faces the decentering “local” resistances of the informal economy, ethnic nationalism, and grassroots activism. These developments are sometimes viewed in celebratory terms. For some they bring market rationality and liberalism to a disorderly world “from above.” For others they generate conditions conducive to the creation of new liberatory practices and spaces “from below” like transnational migration and its attendant cultural hybridity.


These new “liberatory practices and spaces” as well as the cultural hybridity mediated by the flow of media images and forms across the borders were promising enough to many developing countries as catalysts of new media identities which hybridizes a global pattern with a local flow. Theorists such as Appadurai (1990, 1996), Buell (1994), Clifford (1992), Bhabha (1990) and Hannerz (1996, 2000) have explored this extensively. Thus:


Transnational calls attention to the cultural and political projects of nation-states as they vie for hegemony in relations with other nation-states, with their citizens and “aliens.” This cultural-political dimension of transnationalism is signaled by its resonance with nationalism as a cultural and political project, whereas globalization implies more abstract, less institutionalized, and less intentional processes occurring without reference to nations, e.g. technological developments in mass international communication and the impersonal dynamics of global popular and mass culture, global finance, and the world environment (Kearney 1995, p. 549).


Lending force to the critical discourse was the emergence of Glocalization, a social and cultural technique that seemed to have been germinated on the pages of Harvard Business Review in the late 1980s; for as the most cogent priest of the concept recalled:


Now, to go back to the Harvard Business Review. The articles written in that period of the late ‘80s by Japanese economists sometimes employed the word “glocalization,” which is usually rendered in Japanese—and excuse my pronunciation—as dochakuka. This is a word, incidentally, which has played an increasingly important part in my own writings, recently, about globalization. Because “glocalization” means the simultaneity—the co-presence—of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies (Robertson 1997).


This early application of an essentially industrial marketing process to cultural discourse by Robertson was further elucidated by subsequent writers, including Wayne Gabardi who further argues that


“[Glocalization is marked by the] development of diverse, overlapping fields of global-local linkages ... [creating] a condition of globalized panlocality…what anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls deterritorialized, global spatial ‘scapes’ (ethnoscapes, technoscapes, finanscapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes) … This condition of glocalization…represents a shift from a more territorialized learning process bound up with the nation-state society to one more fluid and translocal. Culture has become a much more mobile, human software employed to mix elements from diverse contexts. With cultural forms and practices more separate from geographic, institutional, and ascriptive embeddenness, we are witnessing what Jan Nederveen Pieterse refers to as postmodern ‘hybridization.’” (Gabardi 2000, pp, 33-34)


Yet still other perspectives provide bases for a new interpretation of media messaging in traditional societies; in effect, Glocalization forces. For instance, Pico Iyer reminisces in Video Nights in Kathamandu that:


While traveling through Nepal and Thailand earlier this year, I was stunned by how odd bits of Western culture had been filtered and absorbed into the body of Asian culture. I saw Rambo posters tacked to the walls of mud-and-thatch huts by the banks of the Indrawati. At a Nepali wedding, the music alternated between a local marching band and U2 bootleg cassettes. In Thailand, Levis jeans were such a status symbol that the price of black-market knock-offs had risen to around $80, almost four times the price of real Levis” (From Richard Kadrey’s review of “Video Night in Kathamandu”, Whole Earth Review, Winter 1989).


These incidences of essentially consumer cultural grafting lend support to the globalization agenda as examples of the pervasive intrusion of Western society in the economic ecology of developing countries. Yet my main focus is not economic, but media cultural engagement; in particular how media messages from one locale are reproduced in another, radically different, locale. Arjun Appadurai, noting from Pico Iyer’s cultural travelogue through much of Asia, suggests caution in interpreting the impact of transfusion of Western material culture in indigenous communities. For instance, commenting from Iyer, he notes that in the process of Philippine popular art purveyor’s rendition of American popular songs, and in their attempt to be disturbingly faithfully to the original than they are in the United States today, an entire nation seems to have learned to mimic Kenny Rogers and the Lennon sisters, like a vast Asian Motown chorus (Appadurai 1996 p. 29).


He thus cautions that

Americanization is certainly a pallid term to apply to such a situation, for not only are there more Filipinos singing perfect renditions of some American songs (often from the American past) than there are Americans doing so, there is also, of course, the fact that the rest of their lives is not in complete synchrony with the referential world that first gave birth to these songs (Appadurai 1996, p. 29, second emphasis added).


It is clear therefore that more than material artifacts are needed to complete the global hybridity of media products; and that indeed a base resistance is in place to limit the extent of the hybridity. Aping American popular culture is not quite the same as being American. It is for this reason that I prefer the phrase Media Domestication as more reflective of the process in which transglobal media messages provide a matrix for reenactment of the same messages in traditional societies, especially when such reenactment limits itself to sensual stimuli of the messages, devoid, if possible, from the spiritual antecedents of the original.


Media domestication is not necessarily a new concept in media studies; there are at least three ways it has been used as a process of media adaptation to local circumstances. Lee et al (2000 p. 297) used the term to refer to the view by Gans (1979) that the foreign news stories in the United States are sifted to make them relevant to Americans or American interests, with the same themes and topics as domestic news; “when the topics are distinctive they are given interpretations that apply to American values”. Media domestication is an integral part of the international political economy (see also Jinquan Li et al, 2002, p. 5).


Further, Sun Sun Lim (2006) used the term to refer to ownership of information and communication technologies by essentially younger people as part of the domestic consumer culture in Singapore, China and South Korea. This view of media domestication is also shared by Thorsten Quandt and Thilo Van Pape (2006) who studied the role of Information and Communication Technologies in mediating social shaping in Germany.


However my main focus is on how media messages from both global and intra- national sources were appropriated and domesticated by Hausa popular culture purveyors for local consumption—specifically in literature, music and film. In this, I focus on the catalytic role played by media technologies—not just the messages—in this process of appropriation; for as Seán Ó. Siochrú (2004, p.1) pointed out:


The electronic media and communication sector, which ranges from telecommunication networks and the Internet, through to radio, television and film, is itself among the most active in the current drive for the globalization of production, markets and trade. Although varying among the subsectors, its rate of expansion has been phenomenal, the centralization of ownership has been among the most marked, the transition from national public ownership to global private ownership is almost total and international trade (facilitated by the rebranding of telecommunication services as “tradable goods”) has expanded apace. This has been accompanied by the reorganization of hardware, software and content production, and the global redistribution of activities.

The role of the media in the transglobalization of popular culture in indigenous societies became all the more important after independence in many African countries. As Charles Ambler (2001 p. 5) noted,


Researchers have focused (instead) on the post-independence emergence of local filmmakers and indigenous cinema and on the representation of Africa in films, but the important body of work they have produced does not, for the most part, touch on the impact of Hollywood films, or other forms of popular media, in African communities or other societies shaped by colonialism.


Subsequent development and the intrusion of global entertainment formats across the world clearly reveal impacts on many levels on the local entertainment ecology. Thus additional source of learning—and subsequent glocalization—is media bombardment. In northern Nigeria, this was almost right from the start of the literary experience of the Hausa educational systems. The British educational system as operated in northern Nigeria from 1910 created a catalytic facility which saw a continuous broadcast of foreign media literary cultures, especially from Asia and Middle East. This bombardment often comes in the way of cross-border free flow of packaged media products that enable Hausa public intellectuals to absorb (but not export) media re- enactment of popular cultural forms of other societies which the British—and to some extent, the Hausa intellectuals themselves—perceived as being similar to Muslim Hausa cultures. Thus globalization and the break down of the invisible communication barriers has ensured a steady flow of transnational ideas that does not respect boundaries or mindsets.


This is more so as within the context of Hausa popular culture, glocalization resonates with the strategy adopted by Abubakar Imam to “transmutate” (Abdallah 1998) various Asian and Middle Eastern stories into Hausa versions and published in Magana Jari Ce (Speech is an Asset) in 1937. The Imamian paradigm of adaptive translation soon enough found favor with subsequent Hausa prose fiction writers of the 1940s and 1950s, who due to their exposure to Arabic sources were able to cull a story here and there—thus media availability became an important factor—and re-cast it as a Hausa tale. This was subsequently applied across the board to subsequent literary development, music and video film.

Part II – Eastern Focus in Hausa Prose Fiction Rites of the not-so Ancient Mariners

Antecedent Global Literary Tradition among the Hausa


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.1 Since it was clear that it would be against the grain of British colonial ethos to encourage Islamic scholarship, a way had to be devised to slow down the progress of Islamic education. That way was simply the forceful intrusion of the Roman alphabet into a newly created education system in 1909, at the expense of Ajami, the adapted Hausa language Arabic script. As Crampton (1975 p. 99) notes,


As early as 1900 Lugard was debating the question of whether to use Roman or Arabic script in the official Hausa orthography. Although some of his officials would have preferred Arabic script, Lugard chose the Roman. Had he chosen Arabic it would have made it harder for the pupils to learn English later on in their school careers and would have further widened the gap between the educational systems in the North and south of Nigeria.


Subsequently, the colonial administration, in cohort with Christian Missionary agents ensured a lesser role for Hausa domesticated indigenous script. Crampton (1975) further records that


(Rev.) Miller said that in an interview with Lugard in 1900 he strongly urged him to adopt the Roman script because he felt that the scholars of the future would thus be drawn to the ‘endless storehouse of Western literature’, and the ‘priceless heritage of Christian thought’ rather than ‘the somewhat sterile Muslim literature and the religion of Islam’ (p. 99).


The opportunity to draw Hausa audience into the ‘endless storehouse of Western literature’ in the form of substituting Romanized script to replace Arabic (and ajami) came


On August 2nd, 1902, even before the conquest of Sokoto, Lugard asked the missionary Dr.

W. R. S. Miller to translate proclamations into Hausa for use by his administration. Miller expected English and Roman letters to replace Arabic and Ajami.’ He also thought that the liquor and trees proclamations could not be translated into Hausa, only Arabic. Therefore he submitted translations of the sections “that can be thought by a Hausa”. Who, if not educated Hausa scholars, was supposed to understand the Arabic versions Miller did not say, and it is likely that Miller’s own Hausa was more at fault than the language itself. Still, it should perhaps be remembered that Arabic was the language of law and administration in the Caliphate, and that the idea of translating proclamations into written Hausa was very new and strange to local scholars as well. As late as the 1950s Arabic was the only language most Shari’ah court judges read or wrote and they tended to “think legally in it.”“ Hausa would need more development and would need particularly to acquire more vocabulary, both from English and from. Arabic as it was used for administration in Northern Nigeria (Philips 2000 p. 32).


Thus, as Nikolai Dobronravine (2003) pointed out,


The “medieval” tradition based on Arabic was to be completely replaced with modern written culture relying on the vernacular. Of course, the Hausa literature was expected to follow the British model or, better to say, the British model as adopted by Rupert East and a few other

colonial bureaucrats. The new “Istanci” or “Gaskiyanci” Hausa was directly related to the language of missionary publications in Hausa. It is rarely mentioned in the Hausaist publications that a missionary was directly involved in the production of Roma-script Hausa books in Zaria.


When Hans Vischer took over as the Director of Education and established the first western school in Kano in 1909, he ensured further that ajami was not to be taught in any government school. His main arguments against using ajami were articulated in his position paper written in March 1910 where he stated, inter alia,


1.       …I have no hesitation at all in recommending that the Government should confine its efforts entirely to spreading the knowledge of writing in the Roman character for the following reasons.

2.       By encouraging the study of the Arabic Alphabet the government would be actually assisting in the propagation of the Mohammadan religion.

b)       The Arabic alphabet is suited to the Arabic language but is essentially unsuited to represent graphically the sounds of any other language. An English or Hausa word can nearly always be spelt in two or three different ways in Arabic character and it is hard to say which of these ways is right. (In point of fact when they write “Ajami” (i.e. Hausa in Arabic character) the Mallamai do frequently spell the same word in different ways in the same page.)

c)       The Roman alphabet can be acquired by a Mallam in about a month, and by a boy who does not know Arabic in about two months. It takes the later more like two years to learn the Arabic character. (The rapidity with which small boys at Sokoto have learned to read Hausa in Roman character has astonished me).

d)       It is very expensive to print the Arabic character (especially if the vowel points have to be added as is necessary when Hausa is written in Arabic character). The publishing of text books in Arabic character would be difficult and expensive.

e)       Comparatively few Political officers have mastered the Arabic character (the running hand). 2


Vischer’s point 2 (b) above was aimed at emphasizing the lack of standardization of Ajami across the various Hausa dialects, and which encouraged the myth of “ajami gagara mai shi” (ajami difficult even to the scripter). The British, of course, given the point indicated in 2 above—about encouraging “Mohammedan religion”—had no intention of encouraging the standardization of Ajami, and instead prefer to replace it with the Roman script which had to be learnt from scratch.


Thus with the coming of the British colonial interregnum from 1903, the scriptural ownership of the Muslim Hausa was eroded. Those who acquired education through the Islamic education medium became relegated to the background and in Nigeria’s development literature became labeled “illiterate”. Those who acquired the new Roman-based literacy gained ascendancy and became leaders of thought and development in Nigerian modern sector economy. Romanization became the new panacea for development, while the development needs of millions of Muslim Hausa who became educated daily through the maktab and madrassa Islamic schooling systems were ignored.


Translation Bureau and Eastern Focus in Hausa Prose Fiction


In 1929 the colonial administration set up a Translation Bureau initially in Kano, but later moved to Zaria in 1931 and which became the Literature Bureau in 1935 (Hayatu 1991). The first Director of the Bureau was Mr. Whiting, although he was replaced later by Dr. Rupert East. The objectives of the Bureau were:

§  To translate books and materials from Arabic and English

§  To write books in Hausa

§  To produce textbooks for schools

§  To encourage indigenous authors


Mr. Whiting’s tenure saw the Hausanized (Roman script) versions of local histories in Arabic texts, notably Tarikh Arbab Hadha al-balad al-Musamma Kano, Anon, the oft quoted Kano Chronicles as translated by H. R. Palmer and published in the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol 38 (1908) pp. 59-98 and re-published in his Sudanese Memoirs (3 volumes: London, 1928), 3: 92-132. The Hausa translation was Hausawa Da Makwabtansu (East 1932).


The establishment of the Translation Bureau ensured, through a literary competition in 1933, that a whole new set of reading materials, and consequently literary style, was created for the Muslim Hausa. This yielded the first clutch of now Hausa boko (modern writing in Roman alphabet) literature written in classical Hausa (Ruwan Bagaja, Shehu Umar, Gandoki, Idon Matambayi, Jiki Magayi) published in 1935. Since the scholastic tradition of the Hausa has always been the preserve of the mallam (teacher, scholar) class; consequently even in popular literature the fountainheads, being carved out of that class, reflect their antecedent scholastic traditions. Consequently, these novels were written mainly by scholars, some, like Abubakar Imam who wrote Ruwan Bagaja, were young (he was 22 when he wrote the novel), with deep Islamic roots (who actually took some convincing to even agree to write in the boko—Romanizedscripts in the first place, considering such activity as a dilution of their Islamic scholarship). As Dr. Rupert East, the arch-Svengali of the Hausa classical literature, exasperatedly noted,


The first difficulty was to persuade these Malamai that the thing was worth doing. The influence of Islam, superimposed on the Hamitic strain in the blood of the Northern Nigerian, produces an extremely serious-minded type of person. The art of writing, moreover, being intimately connected in his mind with his religion, is not to be treated lightly. Since the religious revival at the beginning of the last (19th) century, nearly all the original work produced by Northern Nigerian authors has been either purely religious or written with a strong religious motive (East 1936, pp 351-352).


The main focus of the Translation Bureau was just that—translation of literary works using the sparkling brand new Hausanized Roman script. It was only when Dr. Rupert East took over in 1932 that it acquired the persona of what Nikolai Dobronravine (2003) refers to as Istanci and became devoted to wholesale translation of works from far and near (although the further, the better because nearer literary communities, both geographically and culturally such as The Sudan and Egypt were ignored) into Hausa in order to generate reading material, more essentially to enable colonial officers to polish their practice of Hausa language for communication, than to empower the “natives” with enriched literary heritage. As Yahaya (1989 p. 80) apologetically argued,

The decision to set up a translation Bureau was probably informed by the general belief that translating from other languages into a given language enriches the lexicon of the language, its literature and culture.

It was this obsession with translation of carefully selected works, rather than fully encouraging local indigenous initiatives into literary explorations that earned this era of Hausa literary development the epithet of Istanci—principally due to the forceful nature of the Rupert East, its main protagonist.


The most outstanding of the five Hausa novels published in 1935, to Rupert East, was Abubakar Imam’s Ruwan Bagaja (The Healing Waters). However, it was clear from the plot elements and general thematic structure of the novel that it was not a Hausa tale, unlike others that had clearly identifiable Hausa settings. Abubakar Imam, in an interview with Nicholas Pwedden (1995, p.87) stated that he was “inspired” to write Ruwan Bagaja after reading Muqamat Al Hariri. In giving his account of the birth of Imamanci, Abubakar Imam further told Pwedden (1995, pp 12 and 14):

In that story (Ruwan Bagaja) there were two characters—Abu Zaidu and Harisu—with one trying to defeat the other through cunning. I also used two men, on the basis of that technique, but I used the Hausa way of life to show how one character (Abubakar) defeats the other (Malam Zurke).”3 (emphasis mine).


It was this “inspiration” that was to become the root of the glocalization of foreign media by the Hausa performing artistes, which was heavily promoted by the British. In effect, Abubakar Imam and the British had planted a Trojan Horse within the entertainment mindset of the Hausa.


The Maqamat, translated in English by various authors as The Assemblies of Al- Hariri: Fifty Encounters with the Shaykh Abu Zayd of Seruj Maqamat was written by Abu Muhammad al-Qasim Hariri (1054-1121) and was widely available among Muslim scholars and intellectuals of northern Nigeria in its original Arabic as set reading material for the advanced course of Arabic grammar after the completion of the Qur’anic phase of a Hausa Muslim’s education. Plate 1 shows the cover art work of the two tales:



Ruwan bagaja

Maqamat Al-Hariri: “Ruwan Bagaja”— Original

Ruwan Bagaja—Transmutated Hausa Version

Plate 1: Global and Glocal versions of Maqamat Al-Hariri


Thus even the cover artwork was designed to imitate the original—setting the pace for artistic and literary adaptation among the Hausa. However, other sources used in writing Ruwan Bagaja included the core plot element from The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (especially The Water of Life from where the book derived its title) Sinbad the Sailor, and stories from Thousand and One Nights. Thus Ruwan Bagaja actually marked the transition from Istanci—direct translations of other works into Hausa—to its adaptive variety, Imamanci—the “transmutation” of transnational literature into Hausa mindset. Imam revealed he was taught this art of literary transmutation by Rupert East who:


…taught me many dos and don’ts. For example, he taught me never to allow a miscreant to triumph over a good character in any fictional story, such as a cheat or a fraud, even if he appears to be winning in the beginning and he is being highly respected and praised. That it is better to make him the loser at the end…On translation, he said if someone utters something nice, either in English or in Arabic, or any other language, when translating it into Hausa you shouldn’t be enslaved to the wordings of the statement, trying to act like you’re translating the Koran or the Bible. What you’re supposed to do, as long as you fully understand what the man said, is to try and show genius in your own language just as he did in his, i.e. yours should be as nice in Hausa as his was nice in English. That way Dr. East kept teaching me various techniques of writing until I understood them all (in Pwedden 1995, p. 87 ) (emphasis added).


Rupert East was thus the originator of Imamian transmutative strategy—genius in your own language—while Abubakar Imam was its script reader. It is from this transmutated strategy of Abubakar that we received the term Ofishin Talifi, for the Translation Bureau (instead of its original translation of Ofishin Juye-juye), and later, Majalisar Dinkin Duniya for United Nations.


Imamanci as a literary technique and an emergent media technology device worked brilliantly because of the skills of the adapter, Abubakar Imam. However, Imam was to acknowledge the Svengali in Rupert East, when the latter recruited him, albeit temporarily, to work on producing more reading materials along the mould of Ruwan Bagaja and using its adaptive literary technique for the newly re-named Literature Bureau. According to Imam,


From then on he (East) assembled for me many story-books in Arabic and English, especially Iranian texts. Fortunately I knew Arabic because I had learned it right from home. That’s why I could understand the Arabic books unless if (sic) the language was too advanced. I read all of these books until I understood the techniques of established writers. When Dr. East realised that I had finished he told me what to do and I set out to write. The first book I wrote was Magana Jari Ce (Speech is an Asset)(in Pwedden 1995 p. 88).


It is this book, Magana Jari Ce that became the unalloyed classic of Hausa literature, despite the heavy dosage of foreign elements it contained from books as diverse as Alfu Layla wa Laylatun, Kalilah wa Dimnah, Bahrul Adab, Hans Andersen Fairy Tales, Aesop Fables, The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Tales from Shakespeare, and Raudhul Jinan (Abdallah 1998).


Magana Jari Ce is composed of about 80 stories—mainly narrated by a parrot, Aku (although joined in a competitive mode by another parrot, Hazik) to various audiences and settings. In an interview, Abubakar Imam stated that he had taken the figure of

the parrot and its technique of storytelling from a Persian book (Wali, 1976), most likely Tuti-Name (Book of Parrot)(Jez 2003 p. 11) written by Zia ul-Din Nakhshabi (Kablukov 2004 p. 1). Indeed further analysis of Magana Jari Ce (Jez 2003, pp 24- 28) revealed the following as its source material:

 11 stories from Thousand and One Nights

2 stories from the Indian collection Panchatantra

2 stories from a Persian version of the Indian collection Sukasaptati

1 story that is of Persian origin

14 fables from the Brothers Grimm 2 fables from Hans Andersen

7 short stories from Decameron by Boccaccio

1 based on a Biblical story (from Old Testament)

1 based on a Greek myth about the king of Macedona 1 based on a fable by W. Hauff

14 stories were either original or derived from unknown sources.

The narrative style adopted in Magana Jari Ce was closely patterned on Thousand and One Nights in that the narrator relates a series of stories to delay the departure to war of a very strong-willed prince; whereas in the original Thousand and One Nights, the narrator created the stories to delay the execution of a stubborn princess.


Imam’s transmutative genius is illustrated, for instance, in his interpretation of the Robert Browning poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The Hausa version appeared as Labarin Sarkin Busa (The Story of a Master Piper), one of the stories in Magana Jari Ce, Volume 3. In the original German story from Brothers Grimm’s collection of German legends, a magic flutist charmed away the children from a village over breach of contract for a job duly done—which was getting the village rid of rats. One of the children who was left behind recounted his sadness in a poem which was also recorded in the original tale. The original poem and Imam’s transmutation— glocalization—including the illustrations that follow the stories are shown below.



Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,                                             Ku zo ga daula wa zai ki

And flowers put forth a fairer hue,                                                           Alo alo mu ci dadi

And everything was strange and new;                                                     Tuwo nama sai mun koshi

The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,                                    Alo alo mu ci dadi

And their dogs outran our fallow deer                                                     Zagi mari mun huta shi

And honey-bees had lost their stings,                                                      Alo alo mu ci dadi

And horses were born with eagles’ wings;                                              Siliki ran salla ba datti Alo alo mu ci dadi

 The Hausa version was not a direct translation of the original stanzas. However, since the whole essence of the original poem was to convey childish joy and celebration of life, this was perfectly captured in Imam’s Hausa adaptation with a refrain of alo alo mu ci dadi (roughly, “hey, hey, let’s party”).


The pattern adopted by the British in creating globalized literature for indigenous African audiences seemed to have been generic to all parts of Africa. For instance, in East Africa the British colonial administration followed a close strategy of educational development as that of northern Nigeria. Thus when Tanganyika became part of the British empire in 1919, the school system was modernized and the Swahili language was then standardized in 1925—30. In the following years, there was a need of Swahili materials for reading matter and also as a medium to propagate the modern way of life in a world widely ruled by Britain.

An important medium in this respect was the monthly journal Mambo Leo (Today’s Affairs), founded by the Education Department in Dar es Salaam in 1923. Besides essays and news of all kinds, the journal also contained entertaining texts, among them translations of foreign literature. These were usually issued in serialized form. Issues from the initial period of 1923—32 include adaptations of literary tales such as “The Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor” (1923—24), “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” (1925—26), “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” (1926), Longfellow’s Tale of Hia-watha (1927) or Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1928). All of these stories were published without any introduction, source reference or further comment. Further translations included Stevenson’s Kisiwa chenye hazima (Treasure Island; 1929), Haggard’s Mashimo ya Mfalme Sulemani (King Solomon’s Mines; 1929), Kipling’s Hadithi za Maugli, Mtoto Aliyelelewa na Mbwa Mwitu (The Story of Mowgli, the Child Who Was Raised by a Wild Dog, The Jungle Books; 1929), Swift’s Safari za Gulliver (Gulliver’s Travels; 1932) among others (Thomas (2004, p. 252).


In northern Nigeria, the various changes that the Literature Bureau underwent subsequently, and the need to increase the number of reading materials for burgeoning primary and secondary school student population encouraged other authors to begin their writing. The works that emerged in the early 1950s included Ilya [an Mai {arfi (Ahmadu Ingawa, 1951), Gogan Naka (Garba Funtuwa, 1952) and Sihirtaccen Gari (Ahmadu Katsina, 1952). Perhaps not surprisingly, these latter novels also used Imamism as their literary templates. For instance, Ilya Dan Mai Karfi was an adaptation of a Russian byliny (narrative poetry) transmitted orally. The oldest Russian byliny belong to a cycle dealing with the golden age of Kievan Rus in the 10th-12th century. They center on the deeds at the 10th-century court of Saint Vladimir I of Kiev. One of the favorite heroes is the independent Cossack Ilya Muromets of Murom, who defended Kievan Rus from the Mongols (Sceglov in Pilaszewicz (1985 p. 224). Unlike the aristocratic heroes of most epics, Ilya was of peasant origin. He was an ordinary child who could not walk and who lived the life of a stay-at-home, sitting on top of the stove until he was more than 30 years old, when

he discovered the use of his legs through the miraculous advice of some pilgrims. He was then given a splendid magic horse that became his inseparable companion (in the Hausa version, the horse is called Kwalele), and he left his parents’ home for Vladimir’s court. There he became the head of Vladimir’s retainers and performed astonishing feats of strength. He killed the monster Nightingale the Robber and drove the Tatars out of the kingdom. His legend was the basis of the Symphony No. 3 (1909- 11; Ilya Muromets) by Reinhold Glière. Plate 2 shows the cover artwork of the two literary materials to emphasize that even in cover artwork, attempts were made to reenact the original.

Iliya dan mai karfi

Plate 2: Galloping similarities: Ilya Dan Murom


A more direct link between the Russian tale and Hausa version was made by Yu. K. Sceglov “…who identified Waldima (in Ilya Dan Maikarfi) with Prince Vladimir, and the mysterious town of Kib with Kiev.” (Pilaszewicz 1985, p. 224).


And while it was not clear which literary work “inspired” Gogan Naka, it is equally evident that the tale also borrowed heavily from Eastern sources, since the hero— Abdul Bakara, or Bokhara, India—after gallivanting all over Asia, ended up as a king of Egypt. Sihirtaccen Gari, however, was different from the other two in the sense that it was not even an Imamian adaptation; it was a direct translation of an Arabic language collection of short stories, Ikra by Sayid Kutub, as revealed by the author in a brief introduction to the book. It is an instructive coincidence that Imamanci was created in Katsina College in early 1930s, and the subsequent novelists who promoted it were indigenes of Katsina!


Other Hausa prose fiction outputs in both the 1950s and 1960s continued the Imamian adaptive strategy, often adapting a foreign tale to a Hausa mindset, or directly translating from foreign sources. It became almost an article of faith that any Hausa prose fiction produced in the period must be an adaptation of a foreign tale. Thus Robin Hood, Twelfth Night, Animal Farm, Saiful Mulk, Tanimuddari, Baron

Manchausen, Hajj Baba of Isfahan were all directly translated from their original sources to Hausa with varying degrees of Imamism.


More significantly, the “famous five” 1933 Hausa novels provided templates for subsequent Hausa authors to recast the same stories in different formats. Almost all the five were thematically copied—media rip-off—by subsequent authors by merely changing the names and settings, but retaining the central core of similarities with the earlier tales—creating templates for internal globalization. Thus Nagari Nakowa (Jabiru Abdullahi, 1968) harked back at Shaihu Umar, while Tauraruwar Hamada (Sa’idu Ahmed, 1965) could be called Ruwan Bagaja Part II if it were a film. Similarly Da’u Fataken Dare (Tanko Zango, 1952) built up on the plot elements of Idon Matambayi (Muhammadu Gwarzo, 1934) tale of brigandage, and Dare Daya (Umaru Dembo, 1973) with Jiki Magayi. Thus it started becoming clear that a new path to globalization was already emerging—intra-national influences; where a locally produced popular culture became appropriated and reenacted in the same locality. This, however, did not diminish the forcefulness of the global influences. Graham Furniss notes that the early Hausa novels were:


not facing West; if they face anywhere they face East, to India, Ceylon, Egypt, the Red Sea, and the lands where famous warriors travel on elephants into battle. It is there that the popular imagination goes transported by these stories, not as allegories of nation, but as extensions of and challenges to the notion of community (Furniss, 1998, p. 100).


This “eastern posture” remained consistent in the subsequent development of Hausa contemporary literature from 1980 when new Hausa writers emerged. With the vibrancy of revolutionary global popular culture in the 1960s and 1970s, it was only a matter of time before the wind of transglobal media forces—especially new Hausa literature, music and film—would be felt on Hausa popular culture, effectively revolutionizing entertainment in a traditional society. It started with the new Hausa novelists.


Media Technologies and Literary Appropriations


After the turbulent years of the 1990s (see Adamu 2000, 2006 and Malumfashi 2005 for this turbulence), the 2000s brought with them newer Eastern focus to Hausa youth literature—midwifed by Eastern popular culture, especially Hindi films—in a number of ways. First, some of the writers who had hitherto used only general matrix of Hindi films rather than the film’s storylines directly, started appropriating specific Hindi films as the storylines of their novels. Table 1 shows some of the Hausa novels and their transglobal sources.

Table 1: Appropriated Hausa novels


Novel (author)

Media (type)



Hindi Films


Soyayya Gamon Jini (Ibrahim Hamza Bichi)

Ek duje Le Leye


Sarkakkiyar Soyayya (Mairo Yusuf)

Yeba da Raha


Rashin Sani (Bala Anas Babinlata)



Alkawarin Allah (Bilkisu Ado Bayero)



Raina Fansa (Aminu Abdu Na’inna)



Wa Ya San Gobe (Bilkisu Ahmad Funtuwa)



Anisa (Abubakar Ishaq)



Novel (author)

Media (type)


Labarin So (Zuwaira Isa)



Hamida (Maryam Kabir Mashi)

Dillage Liya Ke


Kawaici (Sadiya Garba Yakasai)







Southern Nigerian Films


Biyu Babu (Abdullahi H. Yerima)

The Child


Kallabi (Maje El-Hajeej)







American Film


Mazan Fama (Shehu U. Muhammad)

Clash of the Titans






James Hadley Chase


Sharadi (Auwalu G. Danbarno)

I Hold the Four Aces


Idan Rana Ta Fito (Maimunatu Yaro)

A Lotus for Miss Blandish


Kai Da Jini (Nazir Adam Salih)

The Fast Buck


Bakar Alaka/Mugun Aboki (A. G. Danbarno)

Come Easy, Go Easy


Aci Duniya Da Tsinke (Zuwaira Isa)

Death is Women






Sidney Sheldon


Wayyo Duniya (Hafsat C. Sodangi)

If Tomorrow Comes

Source: Inuwar Marubuta (Kano, Nigeria) No 2 February 2005, p. 13.


Secondly, book covers—themselves a source of religious condemnation (see Danjuma-Katsina 1993)—which in the early years (1985 to 1995) had more or less an idealized drawing of Hausa young women, started to show photos of either Hindi female film stars, or Chinese female models. This was actually stimulated by the open practice of appropriating Hindi films by Hausa video film industry—a process which Hausa novelists felt they could replicate on their book covers at least, if only to draw attention to the novels.


Third, in the new wave of Hausa literary Eastern focus, stories started to appear from 2000 with “sword and heroics” templates. Indeed almost all the stories in this sub- genre were direct translations of Persian epic tales. Typical examples of books covers reflecting this newer Eastern focus are shown in Plate 3.


Littattafan Hausa 1

Littattafan Hausa 1

Plate 3: Eastern focus in modern Hausa book cover art


Subsequent global political tensions and the Middle East simmering conflict had the tendency to push Hausa authors towards the East for literary inspiration; coupled with the belief in sharing similar spiritual, if not cultural, spaces with Eastern cultures and peoples, no matter how “East” is defined.


Part III Hindi Film, Media

Technologies and Hausa Music The Children of the Revolution: Music Maestro, Please

As in literature and video film, the modernization of Hausa music—as distinct from the indigenous acoustic instrument-based traditional music—owes a lot to catalytic forces outside the ethnic mainstream of Hausa traditional societies. The success of Hausa as a cosmopolitan language throughout Nigeria created, for performance artistes, a desire to reach Hausa audiences in their acts. The rationale for this was explained recently by Tony Tetuila, a Nigerian “Afro hip-hop” musician who explained:


I play Afro hip-hop. That is hip-hop from the African perspective. Why I play this type of music is because it is the music of my own generation. The only way our own kind of hip-hop can be accepted here is by infusing our own culture into it. That is why some times you hear us singing in Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, so that people here can understand what we are saying. That is why we call it Afro hip-hop (Interview published at


Such strategy had been as early as modern music in Nigeria, introduced into the Nigerian music scene by non-Hausa artistes such as I.K. Dairo and His Blue Spots (Tuwo Da Miya, Mu Tafi Damaturu) in the 1960s. In Sudan the Hausa diva, Aisha Fallatiya, demonstrated the power of women in modern Hausa music with Muna Maraba da Sardauna Sakkwato, a welcome song composed for the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto on a State Visit to the country. Backed by the “sound of Sudan”—predominantly string quartet of sorts with an accordion, and as popularized by Sudanese male singers such as Hamza Kalas—Fallatiya’s lyrics—sung in Hausa, found a ready niche in the radio plays and urban clubs of northern Nigeria. Some musicians merely use Islamic iconography to appeal to Muslim Hausa club punters. For instance, Ofo & The Black Company’s Allah Wakbarr (sic) as well as I.K. Dairo’s Hungry for Love endeared themselves to Hausa Muslim listeners due to their use of religious expressions. Ofo’s composition consists of repeated chanting of “Allah Akbar” accompanied by a scintillating funk guitar rhythm, while Dairo’s more sober high-life approach was captured in the initial start of Hungry for Love with the lyrics, “Wayyo Allah (Hau. Oh my God), I feel hungry, not for food, but for love” repeated over and over.


The 1970s brought more Hausa modern music principally from Ghana and Niger Republic. In Ghana Sidiku Buari—trained as a professional musician in the U.S.— pioneered the Hausa disco sound as in his debut album Buari—a composition straight out of Kool and the Gang, Ohio Players, The Fatback Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic and Brass Construction disco sound of the 1970s. This was sustained much later by Maurice Maiga with {udan Gida (Hau. housefly) employing disco and highlife sound of Ghana and Togo. In Niger Republic Saadou released Bori (Hau. spirit possession) in 1992—earning him a name, as he subsequently became Saadou Bori. It was a mega success in northern Nigeria. Filled with heavy disco and Jazz rhythms, and with tracks sung almost entirely in Hausa language, it proved for Hausa musicians on both sides of the postcolonial divide that Hausa music can be “modernized”, indeed evidenced by the fact that in 1994 Saadou teamed up with Moussa Poussy and released an extended version of Bori as Niamey Twice.

In northern Nigeria modern Hausa music was pioneered by Hausa Christian entertainers such as Bala Miller & The Great Pirameeds of Africa and Sony Lionheart. With extensive Church training in the use of guitars and the organ, their preferred musical language was Hausa, if only to indicate that not all Hausa are Muslim and not all Hausa musical entertainment is based on Hausa indigenous instruments. Bala Miller’s compositions such as Sardauna Macecinmu (Sardauna our Savior) and Karya Bata Ta Shi (The lie does not last) and Sony Lionheart’s Zaman Duniya (This life) became club anthems particularly in Kano, Kaduna and Jos. These modern Hausa musical traditions were sustained in clubs by small bands around Jos and Kaduna such as The Elcados and Super Ants who although predominantly singing in English, nevertheless forayed into Hausa lyrics—all using what can be called domesticated Hausa soul music, with not a single indigenous instrument in sight.


The mainstream Hausa youth soon became consumers to these globalizing currents, preferring them, in most part over “the real” music from African American stars. This was caused by two factors. The first was the religious and cultural divide. The modernized “Hausa” music of non-ethnic Hausa was seen predominantly as “Christian” and “southern” Nigerian (kade-kaden ‘yan kudu). Secondly, such musical adaptation appealed basically to club circuit patrons—an exclusive class of civil servants far removed from the street level reality of urban youth.


With “classical” Hausa musicians dead or dying (e.g. Shata, Dan Anace, Dan Kwairo, Jankidi, Narambada) and no heirs to take over their craft, a vacuum was created for the musical entertainment of Hausa youth. This, coupled with the fact that Hausa traditional music is seen as a lowbrow profession, made it almost impossible for new generation of young Hausa musicians to emerge, for as Smith (1959, p. 249) observed, the Hausa system of social status has:


three or four ‘classes’. Sometimes the higher officials and chiefs are regarded as constituting upper ‘class’ by themselves, sometimes they are grouped with the Mallams and wealthier merchants into a larger upper class. The lowest ‘class’ generally distinguished includes the musicians, butchers, house-servants and menial clients, potters, and the poorer farmers who mostly live in rural hamlets. The great majority of the farmers, traders and other craftsmen would, therefore, belong to the Hausa ‘middle-class’


Thus musicians occupying a lowbrow status as maroka (praise-singers) had the effect of discouraging the musicians from either training their own children into the craft— for it is considered an occupational craft—or even encouraging “students” to learn the craft and sustain it. A typical example is this response by Alhaji Sani Dan Indo, a kuntigi musician who responded to a question on whether he wanted his children to succeed him:


Unless it is absolutely necessary. I definitely don’t want my son to become a musician. I have seen enough as a musician to determine that my son will really suffer if he becomes a praise- singer. You only do praise-singing music to a level-headed client, and it is only those who know the value of praise-sing that will patronize you. Those times have passed. I certainly would not want my own son to inherit this business. I would prefer he goes to school and get good education, so that even after I die, he can sustain himself, but I don’t want him to follow my footsteps, because I really suffered in this business. Therefore I am praying to Allah to enable all my children to get education, because I don’t want them to become musicians like me. (Interview with Sani Dan Indo, a Hausa popular culture kuntigi musician, Annur, Vol 1, August 2001, p. 48).

The arrival of African American youth popular music provided a musical focus for high school students in search of something more soulful, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. Leading the pack was disco. Starting as another variant of funky rhythm & blues, which had never lost its links to the dance floor, disco became the accepted alternative entertainment for increasingly urbanized Hausa youth. A few Motown hits pointed the way: Eddie Kendricks’ Keep On Truckin’ in August 1973 and Boogie Down (a key disco concept) in January 1974, plus The Jackson 5’s Dancing Machine a month later. The first disco hit as such was probably Rock The Boat by the Hues Corporation in April 1974. George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby in June was masterminded by KC (Harold Wayne Casey), who with his Sunshine Band would, starting in 1975, become the first disco superstar. The first hit actually to use the word “disco” in title or artist name was Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes’ Get Dancin’, late in 1974.


With Van McCoy’s The Hustle providing the first disco dance craze in early 1975, the trend accelerated. German productions Fly Robin Fly by Silver Convention, Love To Love You Baby by Donna Summer, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, were massive hits. Other stars that led the way from African American urban invasion to urban city clusters in Nigeria in the 1970s included Chic, Sister Sledge, Kool and the Gang, Ohio Players, Fatback Band, and The Meters. By 1980 the trend had started to fade, but most of the artistic works were still making rounds in radio stations throughout the country. In Kano various dance clubs emerged with the sole aim of reproducing the antics of Flashdance. In 1986 Creative Dancers of Kano emerged as dancers with street credibility mimicking the break-dance acrobatics shown on Soul Train and other African American flavored music programs. However, all this “Americanism” made the culturalist establishment uncomfortable, and this was reflected in the Kano State Government’s reaction to the airing of the American music show, Soul Train in 1983. A newly elected Governor of Kano State immediately banned the State-owned Television Station (CTV 67) from airing the show after being sworn-in on 1st October 1983. About three months later, on 31st December 1983, there was a military coup in Nigeria which toppled the civilian administration. That very night CTV 67 reinstated the airing of Soul Train!


The fairly hostile attitude towards American entertainment ethos by the Muslim Hausa cultural establishment, and the open tolerance of Hindi films was responsible for providing young Hausa popular culture purveyors with the opportunity to appropriate Hindi popular culture into Hausa. Certainly American music would have been almost impossible to “clone”, principally because it requires musical skills with real instruments—a process almost impossible in Muslim Hausa societies as music is not in anyway, part of the curriculum or civic education. Creating the “Hindi” sound of multiple instruments was made possible by the availability of cheap synthesizers in the late 1980s. The path to this journey, however, started in playgrounds across northern Nigeria.


Hindi Film Factor in Hausa Popular Music


The next revolution in the globalization of the Hausa popular culture came with the introduction of the cinema in large urban clusters of Kano, Kaduna and Jos in northern Nigeria. Before the advent of commercially available Hausa video films in 1990, the main cinematic interest of the Muslim Hausa of northern Nigeria was Hindi cinema brought to northern Nigeria by Lebanese distributors after independence from Britain in 1960.4 From 1945, when the first cinema, Rio (often called Kamfama, after the fact of its being located initially in a former French Military Confinement area, now Hotel De France) was opened in Kano, to 1960, film distribution was exclusively controlled by a cabal of Lebanese merchants who sought to entertain the few British colonials and other imported non-Muslim workers in northern Nigeria by showing principally American and British films.


Despite strict spatial segregation (from 1903 when the British conquered the territory to 1960), the British did acknowledge that the locals (i.e. Muslim Hausa) maybe interested in the new entertainment medium, and as such special days were kept aside for Hausa audience in the three theaters then available. The British, however, were not keen in seeing films from either the Arab world, particularly Egypt with its radical cinema, or any other Muslim country that might give the natives some revolutionary ideas. Indeed there was no attempt to either develop any local film industry, or even provide African-themed entertainment for the locals.


After 1960s there were few attempts to show cinema from the Arab world, as well as Pakistan, due to what the distributors believed to be common religious culture between Middle East and Muslim northern Nigeria. However, these were not popular with the Hausa audience, since they were not religious dramas, but reflect a culture of the Arabs. And although the Hausa share quite a lot with the Arabs (especially in terms of dress, food and language)5, nevertheless they had different entertainment mindsets, and as such these Arab films did not go down well.


The experimental Hindi films shown from November 1960 proved massively popular, and the Lebanese thus found a perfect formula for entertaining Hausa audience. Subsequently, throughout the urban clusters of northern Nigeria, namely Kano, Jos, Kaduna, Bauchi, Azare, Maiduguri, and Sokoto, Lebanese film distribution of Hindi films in principally Lebanese controlled theaters ensured a massive parenting by Hindi film genre and storyline, and most especially the song and dance routines, on urban Hausa audience.


Thus from 1960s all the way to the 1990s Hindi cinema enjoyed significant exposure and patronage among Hausa youth. Thus films such as Raaste Ka Patthar (1972), Waqt (1965) Rani Rupmati (1957), Dost (1974) Nagin (1976), Hercules (1964), Jaal

(1952), Sangeeta (1950), Charas (1976), Kranti (1979), Dharmatama (1975), Loafer (1974), Amar Deep (1958) Dharam Karam (1975) and countless others became the staple entertainment diet of Hausa urban youth, as well as provincial cinemas. It subsequently provided a template for future young filmmakers.


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 the paucity of locally produced programs in the late 1950s and early 1960s provided more sources of Imamanci (Imam’s methodology of adaptation) for Hausa authors. The 1960s saw more a media influx into the Hausa society and media in all forms—from the written word to visual formats—were 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 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 as constant entertainment fodder on RTV Kaduna. The novel chronicles the adventures of an extremely energetic and adventurous teen, Kilba, 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 sinks 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 Waka (actually Kolin Koliyo, the space alien, in disguise) and Bintun Wa}e serenade their arrival in high-octave (za}in murya) voices, echoing singing duets of Hindi film playback singers, Lata Mangeshkar and Muhammad Rafi—the Bintun Wa}e and Muhammadul Wa}a 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 and participate. In Hindu culture, however, they do, since the dances are part of Hindu rituals of worship. Plate 3 shows the poster of one of the Hindi films that inspired the novel, as well as the cover of the novel itself.

Tauraruwa mai wutsiya

Plate 3. Early Hindi inspiration in Hausa novels


Other Hindi films that lend their creative inspiration to the novel’s dancing scene included Hatimahai (1947) and Hawwa Mahal (1962) with their elaborate fairytale- ish stories of mythology and adventure.6


However, although the Hindi cinema was popular, the actual process of going to the cinema to watch it was still associated with a furtive activity. In the first instance, and for some reasons undefined, the Muslim Hausa conservative society considered cinema going a roguish activity that only the rowdy and troublesome (‘yan iska, which include drug users, prostitutes, loiterers, and other underbelly of the society) go to (Larkin 2002). Women were—and still are—definitely excluded; and if a woman did attend, then she was seen as a prostitute. Women and girls therefore had no entertainment except at home. This all changed, however, when in mid-1976 a television station, the Nigerian Television (Network) Authority’s NTA Kano, was established. The network was also established in other States of the Nigerian federation.


Subsequently, the biggest boom for Hindi cinema in Northern Nigeria was in the 1970s when state television houses started operating and became the outlet for readily available Hindi films on video tapes targeted at home viewers. For instance, the NTA Kano alone screened 1,176 Hindi films on its television network from 2nd October 1977 when the first Hindi film was shown (Aan Bann) to 6th June 2003.7 At the time of starting the Hindi film appearance on Hausa television houses, young school boys and girls aged 7 or less became avid watchers of the films and gradually absorbed templates of behavior from screen heroes they thought share similar behavioral patterns. By early 1990s they had become novelists, moving to the home video arena towards the end of the decade.

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 (e.g. coyness, forced marriage, gender stratification, obedience to parents and authority, etc) 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 the 1970s, and which provided the meter for adaptation of the tunes and lyrics to Hausa street and popular music were Rani Rupmati (1957), Chori Chori (1956), Amar Deep (1958) and Khabie Khabie (1975), whose posters, as sold in markets across northern Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s, are shown in Plate 4, with the stand-out songs from the films.

Finafinai 1

Finafinai 1

Plate 4. Creative Inspirations for Hausa filmmakers

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 (1957), as shown below:


Itihaas Agar… (Rani Rupmati)             Hausa playground version

Itihaas agar likhana chaho,                      Ina su cibayyo ina sarki

Itihaas agar likhana chaho                       Ina su waziri abin banza

Azaadi ke majmoon se                             Mun je yaki mun dawo (Chor) Itihaas agar likhana chaho                                           Mun samo sandan girma

Azaadi ke majmoon se                 Ina su cibayyo in sarki To seen khoo upne Dharti ko                                                   Ina su wazirin abin banza Veroo tum upne khom se

Har har har mahadev                              Har har har Mahadi

Allaho Akubar                                          Allahu Akbar

Har har har mahadev                              Har har har Mahadi

Allaho Akubar…                                      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 Akubar refrain, which is actually a translation, intended for Muslim audiences of the film, of Har Har Mahadev, a veneration of Lord Mahadev (Lord Shiva, god of Knowledge). Thus even if the Hausa audience did not understand the dialogues, they did identify with what sounded to them like Mahdi, and Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest, and pronounced in the film

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.


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 the 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 (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 shown below:


Hindi lyrics from Rani Rupmati (Raati Suhani)

Hausa adaptation (Abdu Yaron Goge)



Music interlude, with tabla, flute, sitar

Music interlude, with tabla


Mu gode Allah, taro Mu gode Allah, taro


Raati suhani, djoome javani,

Dil hai deevana hai, Tereliye…


Taali milale, Dunia basale,

Dil hai deevana hai, Tereliye,


Ooo Raati suhani…



Duniya da dadi, Lahira da dadi, In da gaskiyarka, Lahira da dadi

In babu gaskiyarka, Lahira da zafi…


The Hausa lyrics was a sermon to his listeners, essentially telling them that 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.

Another song, Phool Bagiya, from the same film was to be adapted by other folk musicians, as exampled by Ali Makaho in the following example:


Phool Bagiya                                          Hausa adaptation (Ali Makaho)

Phool bagiya main bulbul bole              Za ni Kano, za ni Kaduna (to rhyme with Pyar karo…) Dal pe bole koyaliya                                                  Mu je Katsina lau za ni Ilori

Pyar karo                                                 Na je Anacha

Pyar karo rukhi pyar ki yaare                Hotiho hotiho

Hann ruth kehiti he kalya                      Hotiho hotiho

Hojiho, hojiho                                        Ni ban san kin zo ba

Hojiho, hojiho                                        Da na san kin zo ne

Da na saya miki farfesu Pyar to he salwa rukhi har rukhi                                        Ni ban san ka zo ba Pyar ki mushkil he kaliya                                                       Da na san ka zo ne

Pyar mera daaba bari bangaye               Da na saya maka funkaso Raat ke raat ke savaliya                                                   Za ni Wudil,

Hojiho, hojiho, hojiho                            Za ni Makole

Hojiho, hojiho, hojiho                            Na zarce Gogel, Za ni Hadeja

Na kwan a Gumel


Even cultured Hausa poets were not aversive to borrowing a Hindi film meter to compose Hausa songs to make them more palatable to their audience. A further example is an adaptation of Panchi Banu from the Hindi film, Chori Chori, by a noted and well-respected Hausa political poet, Akilu Aliyu, as shown below.


Panchi Banu (Chori Chori, 1956)


Hindi lyrics                                                              Hausa Adaptation, Akilu Aliyu (Poet) Panchhi banu udati phiruu mast gaagan mei                                           Sun yi shiri sun yi mitin sun hada kwamba Aaj mein azaad huun duniya kii chaman mein                                  Wai za su kashe NEPU a binne su ci gumba Panchhi banu udati phiruu mast gaagan mei                                           Sun yi kadan basu da iko su kashe ta

Aaj mein azaad huun duniya kii chaman mein       NEPU dashe ne wada Allah Ya kafata hillorii hillorii …) o oho                                                                     Masu kufurtu su yi noma su yi huda

hillorii hillorii …) o oho                                     Sai kaga an bar su wajen bare takanda


The same soundtrack song was also adapted by Abdu Yaron Goge, the fiddler:


Hindi lyrics                                                              Hausa adaptation (Abdu Yaron Goge), Fillori

Panchhi banu udati phiruu mast gaagan mei          Mai tafiya za ka ina za ni Ilori, Aaj mein azaad huun duniya kii chaman mein                                           Zani sayan goro da taba da turare Panchhi banu udati phiruu mast gaagan mei                                           Mai tafiya za ka ina za ni Ilori, Aaj mein azaad huun duniya kii chaman mein                                           Zani sayan goro da taba da turare hillorii hillorii ...) o ... oho                                                                         Ilori, lorri lorri, Ilori8


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 the 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 effects 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. It is hardly surprising, therefore that Hausa housewives became the most avid watchers of the Hindi films when they became available on video cassettes in the late 1970s.


A Paradox: Islamic Hindinization of Soundtrack Music


As noted earlier, the leap from screen to street was made predominantly by boys who often get to sneak into the theaters (which allowed an extremely flexible interpretation of “adults” only) and watch the films. Girls had to rely on radio stations playing the soundtracks, and soon enough predominantly girl pupils from Islamiyya Schools (modernized Qur’anic schools) also started adapting Hindi music. However, instead of using the meter to sing usual playground plaza songs, they decided, at the instances of their teachers, to adapt the meters to singing the praises of the Prophet Muhammad in Hausa language. Some of the more notable adaptations are listed in Table 2:


Table 2: Islamic Hindinization of Hindi film soundtrack songs



Song from Hindi Film

Hausa Adapted Islamic Song


Ilzaam (1954)

Manzon Allah Mustapha


Rani Rupmati (1957)

Dahana Daha Rasulu


Mother India (1957)

Mukhtaru Abin Biyayya


Aradhana (1969)

Mai Ya fi Ikhwana


The Train (1970)

Lale Da Azumi


Fakira (1976)

Manzona Mai Girma


Yeh Wada Raha (1982)

Ar-Salu Macecina


Commando (1988)

Sayyadil Bashari


Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

Sayyadil Akrami


Yaraana (1995)

Mu Yi Yabonsa Babu Kwaba


Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Watan Rajab


Thus Islamiyya Schools predominantly in Kano started using the meter of popular Hindi film soundtracks onto religious songs.9 An irony, considering that a lot of the Hindi songs they were adapting were tied to Hindu religion, with its multiplicity of gods, as opposed to the monotheism of Islam. These adaptations, which were purely vocal, without any instrumental accompaniment, were principally in the 1980s during particularly the 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. 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 away girls and boys 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 meaningful than the substitution of Hindi words from 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 (tambourine)—were usually lead by poets and singers.10 They are collectively referred to as Kungiyoyin Yabon Annabi (Groups for the Singing of the Praises of Prophet Muhammad). The more notable of these in the Kano area included Usshaqul 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 these were lead by mainstream Islamic poets and rely on conventional methods of composition for their works, often done in mosques or community plazas (Isma’ila 1994). Most were vocal groups, although a few started to use the bandiri (tambourine) as an instrument during their performance in Kano (Larkin 2004) and Sokoto (Buba and Furniss 1999). The bandiri itself has a special place in Hausa Muslim Sufi religious performances, a practice that often leads to controversies about the use of music in Islam, as well as the use of music in mosques during Sufi religious activities. As Brian Larkin (2004 p. 97) noted,

Bandiri music grew and developed in an arena of overt conflict. Those who perform bandiri realize this is a controversial activity and that, as one told me, “You know religion in our country, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.” While many people are for it, others are bitterly opposed. This conflict does not just derive from the software of bandiri (the songs and the borrowing of them from Indian films) but the hardware itself (the use of the bandir drum) and its position as a symbol of Sufi adherence. The identification of bandiri with Sufism has made it deeply controversial in Nigeria, piggybacking onto the wider religious conflict that has pitted established Sufi orders against the rise of a new Islamist movement—Izala—and its intellectual leader, Abubakar Gumi.


The one group, however, that stood out in Kano was Kungiyar Ushaqu Indiya (Society for the Lovers of India). They are also devotional, focusing attention on singing the praises of the Prophet Muhammad, using the bandiri to accompany the singing. They differ from the rest in that they use the meter of songs from traditional popular Hausa established musicians, and substitute the lyrics with words indicating their almost ecstatic love for the Prophet Muhammad. Upon noticing that Islamiyya school pupils were making, as it were, a hit, with Hindi film soundtrack adaptations, they quickly changed track and re-invented themselves as Ushaqu Indiya and focused their attention on adapting Hindi film soundtracks to Hausa lyrics, singing the praises of the Prophet Muhammad.11 Some members of these groups migrated into the home video production. They included Dan Azumi Baba, Mudassir Kassim, and Sani Garba

S.K. They became midwives to the use of Hindi film soundtracks in the Hausa home video film.


The Hausa youth obsession with Hindi films 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.12 The cover of the book is shown in Plate 5.


Littafin koyon Indiyanci

The covers of the books show the picture of the author, with Hindi film stars— including Amitab Bachan and Dhramendra— all in a montage within the map of India in the background. In the preface, the author, Nazeer Abdullahi Magoga, of Kano, states his reasons for writing the phrase book:


After expressing my gratitude to Allah, the main objective of publishing this book, Fassarar Indiyanchi A Saukake was because of how some Muslim brothers and sisters, both old and young, voice phrases and songs in Hindu language, not knowing some of these words were blasphemy and a mistake for a Muslim to voice out…Because of this, the author tries to remind and guide fellow Muslims, through research and consultations with experts in the Hindu language, in order to understand each word written in this book, so that people would be aware of the meanings of the words they voice out in Hausa language.


This book became all the more significant in that it is the first book in Hausa language that was the result of media parenting. It is thus through the book that the Hausa know the actual translation of some of the titles of 47 popular Hindi films such as Sholay (Gobara, fire outbreak), Kabhi-Kabhie (wani sa’in, sometimes), Agni Sakshi (zazzafar shaida, strong evidence), Darr (tsoro, fear), Yaraana (abota, friendship), Dillagi (zabin zuciya, heart’s choice), Maine Pyar Kiya (na fada cikin soyayya, I’ve fallen in love) and others. It also contains the complete transliteration of Hindi lyrics translated into Roman Hausa, from popular films such as Maine Pyar Kiya and Kabhi-Khabie.


In an interview 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. He 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 in

the making are “song books”, Fassarar Wakokin Indiya (Translations of Hindi Film Songs) in two volumes. Yet despite the availability of easier access to Hindu language, Hausa video film practitioners were more interested in using motifs and thematic structures from Hindi films, rather than learning what the Hindi words mean, so there was little working relationship between Magoga’s work and the Hausa video film industry.


Screen to Screen—the Hausa Video Film Soundtrack


The Hausa video film industry started in 1990 with Turmin Danya from Tumbin Giwa drama group. Over the last 16 years (1990-2006), Hausa video films evolved three main characteristics, all borrowed heavily and inspired by Hindi cinema. In this way they differ remarkably from southern Nigerian films whose main focus was rituals, political corruption in the polity, Christianity, social problems such as armed-robbery, and political issues such as resource control (Owebs-Ibie 1998, Haynes 2006).


The first motif in Hausa home video film is auren dole, or forced marriage. In these scenarios—reflecting outdated customs in a contemporary society, but nevertheless providing a tapestry to provide a good story—a girl (or in a few of the films, a boy) is forced to marry a partner other than their choice. This is a practice that is fast disappearing in Hausa traditional societies, especially with increase in a more strict interpretation of Islam brought about by post-1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which had deep echoes in Muslim Northern Nigeria. This had led to the emergence of Islamic groups with a more orthodox, rather than traditional interpretation of Islam in modern African societies (Kane 1994, 2003).


The auren dole theme, however, remained a consistent feature of social life in the Middle East, Asia, including India as well as among Hindus in the diaspora, often leading to honor killings if family members suspect a daughter (rarely a son) has violated the family honor by co-habiting (no matter how defined) with a person not of their race, religion or class. It is because honor killings remained a strong force in Hindu life that Hindi film makers consistently latched on the forced marriage scenarios in their films to draw attention to the phenomena. Since it is a strong social message, Hindi filmmakers had to embellish their messaging with a strong dose of song and dance routines to create a bigger impact on the audience.


The second characteristic of Hausa video films is the love triangle—with or without the forced marriage motif. In this format, a narrative conflict indicating rivalry between two suitors (whether two boys after the same girl, or two girls after the same boy) is created in which the antagonists are given the opportunity to wax lyrical about their dying love for each other, and the extent they are willing to go to cross the Rubicon that separates their love. The fierce rivalry is best expressed through long song and dance routines, which indeed often tell the story more completely than the character dialogues of the drama. This closely echoes Hindi films; for as Sheila J. Nayar (2003 p. 1) notes,


…the repeated mention of love songs might suggest all Hindi films must inevitably incorporate pyar (“love”) into their storylines, even where it does not readily belong. As a result, the average Hindi film, which is three hours long and broken by an intermission, often feels narratively split, as well—with the first half devoted to the development of the love

story, and the latter half to a crisis, more often than not one instigated by love’s being threatened by some outside force (the family, another suitor, a call to war).


The love motif becomes an adaptation of kishi—co-wife rivalry—among Hausa wives. In a traditional Hausa Muslim households, a husband can marry up to four wives as allowed by Islam. However, in most polygamous households, a husband and two wives formation is more common than three or four wives. Co-existence in such polygamous situation is not without its tensions and dramas. Hausa film makers, merely pick up the elements of those dramas and tensions and reenact the polygamous household in their films.


It is precisely because of this fantasy play of two girls fighting for the love of a single person (in effect, two or more wives fight for the same husband) that Hausa video films are extremely popular with women, because they readily identify with the tensions portrayed in the storylines of the films. The youth factor is often taken care of by the display of exuberant sexuality in the films when showing a rivalry between two boys after the same turf—a girl, with each boy attempting to outdo the other in all respects (singing, dressing, macho posturing, “dude-nigga” factor). Plate 6 shows how the Hausa home video posters visually capture the conflict, and how the same is depicted in Hindi film poster, Devdas.



Young Hausa film makers thus use the video media to express their rebellion at the tyranny of the Hausa traditional system that denies them choices of partners, and at worst, favors arranged marriages.


The third characteristic of the Hausa home video is the song and dance routines— again echoing Hindi cinema style. These are used to essentially embellish the story and provide what the filmmakers insist is “entertainment”. Indeed in many of the videos, the songs themselves became sub-plots of the main story in which poetic barbs are thrown at each other by the antagonists. Indeed the strongest selling point for a new release of Hausa home video is hinged on a trailer that captures the most captivating song and dance scenes, not the strength of the storyline (which remains

the same love triangle in various formations). A Hausa video film without song and dance routines is considered a commercial suicide, or artistic bravado undertaken by few artistes with enough capital to experiment and not bother too much with excessive profit.


Again this echoes the Hindi cinema Hausa video dramatists copy. As shown by Ganti (2002, p. 294) in discussing the role of the song and dance routines in Hindi films,


Rather than being an extraneous feature, music and song in popular cinema define and propel plot development, and many films would lose their narrative coherence if their songs were removed. Hindi filmmakers spend a great deal of time and energy crafting the song sequences, which play a variety of functions within a film’s narrative and provide the main element of cinematic spectacle. As one filmmaker states, “where an emotion becomes intense, usually a song helps to underline it. It also cuts away the need for verbalization through dialogue and creates a mood that cues the viewer in to the state of mind of the characters or the narrator.”


This differs slightly from Hausa video films most of which have no narrative coherence with the songs. Indeed in Hausa films the song and dance routines are often pasted directly on the story and not a feature of the storyline. This does not bother either the producers or the audience; what matters is the lyrical power of the song, its philosophy, its structure and the costumes the singers (especially the girls) wear. Thus in Hausa videos, the song and dance are also central to the story, not the plot elements, as for instance shown by Taurari, Lugga, Aliyu and Gyale which virtually dispensed with the storyline by producing about four songs each in the video. Even “meaningful” art-oriented films such as Waraka were forced to have at least four songs to make them sell. Thus in Hausa films, as in Hindi films, songs are,


part of an elaborate system of allusions to, rather than explicit portrayals of, sexuality and physical intimacy in Hindi films as filmmakers navigate the perceived moral conservatism of their audiences, a swell as the representational boundaries set by the Indian state through its censorship codes. Songs are the primary vehicles for representing fantasy, desire, and passion, so any form of sexual activity in a Hollywood film would most likely be transformed into a song sequence in Hindi film (ibid).


Indeed the most commercially successful Hausa video films (e.g. Sangaya, Taskar Rayuwa, Salsala, Kansakali, Ibro Awilo, Mujadala), succeeded precisely because of their song and dance routines, rather than the strength of their storylines or their messages.


The first Hausa video films from 1990 to 1994 relied on traditional music ensembles to compose the soundtracks, with }oroso (leg rattles) 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. The Hausa home video film to pioneer a change over to electronic music (in the sense of a Yamaha soft synthesizer melodies) was In Da So Da {auna in 1994. The video was an adaptation of the a best selling Hausa novel of the same title.


The initial soundtrack for the video was composed with Hausa indigenous musical instruments by the Koroso Entertainment ensemble housed at the Kano State History and Culture Bureau (HCB). It featured the Fulani sarewa, accompanied by drumming

and a lalaje It was this music that featured in the film when it was shown throughout cinema houses in northern Nigeria, as was the practice then.


However, when the video was screened at the Dawud Cinema in Maiduguri, Borno State, it was pirated, and soon enough a bootleg of the tape was making rounds in various markets in northern Nigeria. Ado Ahmed Gidan Dabino, the producer, was upset, but since there was little he could do, he decided to release his own official video of the home video in 1995, and also decided to include deleted scenes and other changes, as well as compose a different soundtrack, in order to make the second version as different from the bootleg version as possible. It was in the process of seeking a new sound for the home video that he came across Nasir Usman Ishaq Gwale, an artist with residency at the Kano State History and Culture Bureau (HCB).


Nasir had been given a toy, but fairly functional, Casio keyboard in 1985—when he was still in senior high school—by his brother, Bello Usman Ishaq, a resident graphic artist with the HCB. In the same year an African American researcher, Richard Donald Smith, a flutist and then a lecturer at the United Nations International School, New York, visited the HCB and was captivated by the enthusiasm with which Nasir used his Casio keyboard. The following year, in 1986, he brought a gift of Casiotone MT-140 to the bureau, shown, in a museum state, in Plate 7.13

Nasir immediately started playing around with it and soon enough perfected it to further enrich his informal musical repertoire. When Nasir finished high school in 1986, he honed his skills, as it were, in music by forming a smallish ensemble that revolved around the Casio organ, providing an alternative form of “modern” (as opposed to traditional) entertainment for youth in and around Kano metropolis, mainly at functions, ceremonies and other social events. In 1988 he was employed as a resident artist at the HCB’s Performing Arts division and became resident musician and artist for the HCB. He attracted other young members of the HCB, such as Alee Baba Yakasai, Shu’aibu Idris “Lilisco” (a former champion disco dancer) and Mukhtar Kwanzuma.


The HCB also plays host to other ensembles, particularly that formed by a school teacher who was trained in Sudan and who also formed a band based on Sudanese music styles—with a strong emphasis on accordion. One of their greatest hits was Halimatu Sadiya—an ode to a girl of the same name—which in the late 1980s changed the pattern of popular entertainment in Kano and made it clear that the future lies with organs and synthesizers, rather than traditional Hausa instruments, especially


among the youth. All these contributed to enrich Nasir’s musical set pieces. Under the tutelage of his teacher at the Bureau, Musa Ahmed, and with help from his friends Muktar Kwanzuma and Shu’aibu Idris “Lilisco”, also of the performing arts division, a more or less officially formed ensemble was formed by 1993.


When Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino was looking for a new sound to accompany the video release of In Da So Da Kauna, by then Nasir Usman Ishaq Gwale had become a well-sought after keyboardist and was commissioned to compose the soundtrack. It was this soundtrack that was used in the “official” video release of In Da So Da Kauna in 1995 (re-edited and re-released in VCD format in 2006). It was, therefore, the first Hausa home video with a transglobal music soundtrack.


Clearly seeing the future in keyboard music, Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, an entrepreneur who was to become an actor and producer decided to invest in a music studio, and in 1996 a music and video film studio, Iyan-Tama Multimedia, was formed in Kano. Its first purchase was the Yamaha soft synthesizer series, starting with PSR-220. The studio then employed Nasir as a consultant musician with residency in the studio. The Yamaha PSR-220 they used is shown in Plate 8.


The Yamaha PSR-220 provided an instant appeal to a Hausa musician seeking ways to explore a combination of sounds without being hampered the by inability to play real traditional instruments. It also made it possible to do the impossible in Hausa music—produce a perfect blend of various instruments, thus breaking the monopoly of the single-instrument characteristic of traditional Hausa music. In so doing, it offers Hausa video film soundtrack artistes the opportunity to approximate the creative space of Hindi film music, which they avidly copy.


This was made possible because Yamaha took actual instruments and digitally recorded them, thus giving the keyboard everything from the standard piano, to a jazz organ, to a distorted guitar, and even a full orchestra voice section. In addition, it features 99 voices to choose from (plus a drum kit).


In 1996 [an Azumi Baba, a novelist and also a bandiri musician and singer in Kano, wrote a love song he called Bada}ala for two girls. Dan Azumi Baba said he was inspired not by Hindi films (of which he admitted to being an avid fan), but by Middle Eastern folklore of heroes such as Antar (which he learned from the popular street preacher, Kalarawi) who, it seemed also sung love serenades. In an innovative move, he decided to create a soundtrack for the songs with handclaps, hands beating a wooden bench, and eventually empty plastic storage jars (‘jerrycans’). When he heard Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino’s modernized soundtrack for In Da So Da {auna, he immediately got the musician, Nasir, to set music to the lyrics of Bada}ala. The resultant audio tape was meant to be sold in the markets as an independent new music

production, and was to signal the emergence of new youth Hausa pop music (as contrasted to the traditional “classical” music).


The tape, however, was rejected by marketers in Kano. The main reasons were two. First it contained “kidan fiyano” (or piano music)—an instrument associated with the Church in northern Nigeria, and therefore avoided by Muslims. Secondly, Allah was mentioned in the lyrics to the song. To the marketers, this was akin to blasphemy—to utter the name of Allah in a piano music. The specific section of the “offending” lyrics are:


Ni Zainabu ke ce a raina        Oh, Zainabu, you are in my heart Ke ce hasken zuciyata                                   You are the light of my heart

To Bismillah, za ni fara         I start in the name of Allah

Ba ni basira, ya Tabara          Grant me wisdom, Oh Allah—the Holy One

Zan wake gun masoyiyata      I am going to sing for my lover


The words, Bismillah (start in the name of Allah) and Tabara (the Holy), in a love song, accompanied by a “Christian” instrument, proved to the marketers a lack of respect for the Creator. Afraid of the possible backlash from the society, which could even lead to a full-scale religious riot, they rejected the tape. In Hausa society of northern Nigeria in the 1980s to 1990s, even the use of wide-spread bandiri in religious poetry by Sufi adherents, especially the Qadiriyya, was frowned at and often considered controversial, with different opposing camps of Muslim scholars debating the issue on a constant basis. A “piano” sound in an almost religious context simply muddled the issue further.


In order to cut down his loss, the producer of Bada}ala took the further innovative and historic move of converting the song into a screenplay for a video film of the same name. It marked the first time a song formed the basis of a video film in the industry and was to become a common pattern by 2004.


It is in this historical narrative that a path emerged and another one eclipsed. Badakala was composed as a central element to the storyline of the video film of the same name. It was not meant to be a soundtrack in the original sense of lending an aural accompaniment to the story. It was a sub-plot, and mini-opera on its on, pasted onto the story, Hindi film style. It also had, for the first time, a boy and a girl singing to each other—introducing the mixed-gender element in Hausa popular music. Other forms of mixed-gender interactions were later introduced with the transformation of the Hausa video film to a Hindi film clone in 1995 with Mr. U.S.A. Galadima’s Soyayya {unar Zuci, produced under the auspices of the Nigerian Film Corporation. The video film was based on the Hindi film, Mujhe Insaaf Chahiye.15 Before its cinema release, it was premiered to a select private audience in a video store in Kano in 1995, and the overwhelming audience response was that it was too Hindi and too adult to be accepted in a Hausa culture as a video film; more so since it was also the first Hausa video film with body contacts between genders. This was probably what informed its non-release on video film since it was restricted to cinema showings only.


Improvisations for a Piano and Voice


The flexibility given by the PSR-220 thus enabled improvisations that would not have been possible with Hausa traditional orchestras. Significantly, it enabled a combination of sound samples whose outcomes clearly departed from the traditional definitions of Hausa sounds, even if retaining a digital sound-alike of Hausa instruments like bandiri (tambourine), flute (sarewa), ganga (drum), goge (fiddle) and others.


The turning point for Hausa home video film soundtrack was in 1999 when Iyan- Tama studios bought Yamaha PSR-730 keyboard, shown in Plate 9.


With a vast expanded range of Country, Jazz, Dance, Latin, Rock, Soul and Waltz, the PSR-730 opened up the doors to revolutionizing Hausa video film music. The first playback song to benefit from its superior range of sound samples was Sangaya from a video of the same title in 2000. Trailers of the home video, with the lead song, Sangaya being performed in the background—complete with choreography— immediately captured the imagination of Hausa urban audience, helped along by the inclusion of a whole array of instrument sound samples such as flute, tambourine and African drums. The music, and most especially the choreography, from the soundtrack catapulted the video into the charts of “big league” Hausa video films, and one of the most successful Hausa films of all time.14Four years after its release, it still remained the definitive reference point for the emergence of Hausa home video film music.


The synthesizer business in Kano therefore blossomed. Iyan-Tama Multimedia studios purchased a higher Yamaha PSR 740 in 2001. By then other music studios had been established in Kano. These included Muazzat, Sulpher Studios, and in Jos, Lenscope Media. Sulpher Studios, in addition to Yamaha PSR-2100, illustrated in Plate 10, also use Cakewalk Pro (version 9) music software. This combination was catalytic in the creation of Hausa Technopop and Hausa Rap music genres.


The availability of these modern studios opened up a whole new range of services for individuals interested in music—not just home video producers. Thus Islamiyya school pupils, who had hitherto remained vocal groups, joined in the act, and started using the Yamaha sound to record their religious poems, which are sold in the markets. In a fascinating cross fertilization of influences, the Islamiyya school ensembles stopped using meters from Hindi film songs and started using the meters of Hausa video film soundtracks. Thus soundtracks from popular Hausa films such as Sangaya, Wasila, Nagari, Khusufi, were all adapted by Islamiyya pupils, often with Arabic lyrics.


It is significant that in almost all Hausa video film soundtracks the songs are duets—a boy and a girl singing. Yet in the “Islamized” versions, it is only one voice—either a male or a female voice. The Islamic etiquette of not allowing mixed-gender social space formations effectively prevents a reproduction of the Hindi film soundtrack format in the Islamized versions, no matter how arrived.


The success of Sangaya—the music tape, as well as the video film—sent a strong commercial message that singing and dancing can sell massively, especially if done with what the practitioners call a “piano”. It was at this point that the Hindi cinema influence came to the fore in full force and a new crop of Hausa home video producers, quite intent on repeating the success of Sangaya, took over with Hindi film cinema storylines. In many cases, even the poster artwork was designed to reflect the Hindi film being cloned by Hausa filmmakers. An example is the poster for Hausa film, Khusufi, which was cloned as Taal, as indicated in Plate 11.


It is not all East, though. Quite a few of the Hausa video film producers would rather see their craft reflected in the sophistication of Hollywood, especially when the technology became available which would enable them to experiment. An example of this is Hafizu Bello’s Qarni which cloned Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6th Day in both the poster artwork, as well as a fundamental premise of the Hollywood film to probe into another person’s soul. The poster of the two films—the global and the appropriated—are shown in Plate 12.



This practice of preferring to mainly copy Hindi films into Hausa—and promoted by Hausanized non-ethnic Hausa filmmakers—bypasses the literary pool of Hausa writers that exist in Kano, Katsina, Minna, Kaduna, Sokoto, Zaria and other places in northern Nigeria. It creates an essential tension between Hausa creative writers and filmmakers, and even leads to the establishment of an online Scriptwriters Forum to

attract the Hausa video film industry into buying original scripts. Paradoxically, the financial clout of the filmmakers sustains their ability to bypass Hausa scriptwriters; the preference for directly appropriating stories from Hindi films as a source for their films remaines a strong practice.


The predominance of song and dance routines in Hausa video films is shown in Fig. 1 which indicates the numbers of Hausa video films with song and dance routines as a main element in officially registered Hausa video films from 1997 to 2001.16

Rawa da waka

The trend shows an increasing reliance on song and dance as selling points in the Hausa video film industry. Hausa video filmmakers who seek their inspiration from Hindi sources focus on the similarities between Hausa and Hindu cultures, rather than their divergences. As Brian Larkin (1997b p. 1) observed:


Hausa fans of Indian movies argue that Indian culture is “just like” Hausa culture. Instead of focusing on the differences between the two societies, when they watch Indian movies what they see are similarities, especially when compared with American or English movies. Men in Indian films, for instance, are often dressed in long kaftans, similar to the Hausa dogoruwar riga, over which they wear long waistcoats, much like the Hausa palmaran (sic; falmaran). The wearing of turbans; the presence of animals in markets; porters carrying large bundles on their heads, chewing sugar cane; youths riding Bajaj motor scooters; wedding celebrations and so on: in these and a thousand other ways the visual subjects of Indian movies reflect back to Hausa viewers aspects of everyday life (Brian Larkin (1997b)(emphasis added).17 The same reference is also given in Larkin 1997a p. 413).


The perceived similarities between Hausa and Hindu cultures as shown in Hindi films are illustrated, not only by storylines, but also by poster art work which Hausa video film producers create to imitate an Hindi film as closely as possible, as illustrated by the posters for the Hausa video film, Daskin Da Ri]i and Hindi film, Gazal, in Plate 13.



Both leading actors in the posters wear similar dress, to accentuate the similarities between Hindi films and Hausa video film. As Brian Larkin (1997a p. 1) further noted from his fieldwork in Kano in the early 1990s,

In a strict Muslim culture that still practices a form of purdah, Indian movies are praised because (until recently) they showed “respect” toward women. The problem with Hollywood movies, many of my friends complained, is that they have “no shame.” In Indian movies, they said, women are modestly dressed, men and women rarely kiss, and you never see women naked. Because of this, Indian movies are said to “have culture” in a way that Hollywood films seem to lack. The fact is that Indian films fit in with Hausa society. This is realized by Lebanese film distributors, and Indian video importers as well as Hausa fans. Major themes of Hindi films, such as the tension between arranged and love marriages, do not appear in Hollywood movies but are agonizing problems for Nigerian and Indian youth.


In their desire to replicate Hindi films as closely as possible in the appropriated versions, Hausa video producers had to rely on the synthesizer to enable them to create the complex polyphony of sounds generated by the superior musical instruments and used the composition of Hindi film music.


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 3 shows some of the more notable Hausa video films that have been “inspired” by Indian films,18 from a sample of more than 120 appropriations (Adamu 2007).

Table 3: Hausa Home Video Indian Film Inspirations/ Rip-offs



Hausa Video Film19

Hindi Inspiration

Element Copied



Sanam Bewafa (1991)




Ram Balram (1980)




Suhaag (1940), Mann (1999)



Aljannar Mace

Gunda Raj (1995)




Josh (2000)




Phool Aur Angaar (1993)



Burin Zuciya

Raazia Sultaan (1961)



Ciwon Ido

Devdas (2002)




Qurbani (1998)



Da Wa Zan Kuka

Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)




Ghayal (1990)




Bazigar (1993)




Hogi Pyar Ki Jeet (1999) Mann (1999)




Gunda Raj (1995), Angarkshak (1995)



Ibro [an Indiya

Mohabbat (1997), Rakshak (1996)




Lahu Ke Do Rang (1997)



Juyin Mulki

Maine Pyar Kiya (1989)



Ki Yarda Da Ni

Sanjog (1982)




Nagin (1976)




Nagin (1976)




Sanam Bewafa (1991)




Sawan Bhadon (1970), Talash (1957)




Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)



So Bayan {i

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998),




Mohabbatein (2000)




Sawan Bhadon (1970)




Shaktiman (1993)




Mohabbat (1997)




Vishwatima (1992), Rakshak (1996)



Zakaran Gwajin Dafi

Vishwatima (1992) Dharmatma (1975)




Ajnabi (1966)



In some cases the Hausa video filmmakers fall over themselves in copying a Hindi film. For instance, Nagin (1976) a Hindi film (which itself was ripped-off by Bollywood from a Pakistani film of the same name) was copied into Macijiya (snake) and Kububuwa (cobra) by Hausa filmmakers. Thus beside 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. Consequently, anyone familiar with the Hindi film song element will easily discern the film from the Hausa film equivalent. Although this process of adaptation is extremely successful 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 Hausa 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.


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 [an Indiya, for instance, with has an adaptation of a song from Mohabbat, contains an adaptation of a composition by Oumou Sangare, the Malian diva, Ah Ndiya which was appropriated as Malama Dum~aru in the Hausa video film.


By 2006, the Hindi film music template has become so pervasive that it has been adopted as a marketing strategy by major firms in northern Nigeria selling various products. Thus radio jingles and advertisement slots came to be characterized by the “fiyano” sound, and in almost always a duet between a boy and a girl advertising a variety of goods and services from spaghetti to airline tickets. This revolution in marketing was facilitated by the emergence of new independent FM radio stations in major cities. For instance, Kano saw the arrival of Freedom Radio (which was more aggressive in promoting the Hausa film soundtrack in that it even has a commercial studio complete with “modern” instruments for sub-letting), Pyramid Radio, and in Kaduna Radio Nagarta was established as the predominant voice “of the youth” to counter the perceived conservative fare of the Radio Kaduna.


Hausa Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music


The 1990s brought more forays into Hausa popular culture by non-ethnic Hausa. Funmi Adams (Ke {o}i Ina Gizon Yake) and Zaki Adzee (‘Yan uwa Ku Bar Raina Mata) and others operating at the fringes of mainstream urban Muslim Hausa societies and culture, brought with them a fresh urban groove to the closeted world of Hausa youth throughout northern Nigeria with American MTV and South African Channel O style music videos and Hausa lyrics. This came on the heels of what I call the rap rupture in Nigeria, a youth popular cultural event that saw the mushrooming of rap groups in Nigeria studiously focused on copying African American rap artistes. Further, this came at a time when American rap music and accompanying hip-hop urban youth culture (defined in mode dressing, language and attitude) exploded all over the world from mid-1980s to late 1990s (McClure 1998, Mitchell 2002) creating a massive pool of rap adaptations in countries as diverse as Jamaica (Marshall 2003), France, Italy and New Zealand (Mitchell 2000), Cuba (Fernandes 2003), Tanzania and Malawi (Fenn and Perullo 2000), Tanzania (Perullo 2005), Brazil (Osumare 2005), United Kingdom (Dyck 2003), Japan (Wells and Tokinoya 1998), France, Germany, Spain, Greece and Italy (Androutsopoulos and Scholz 2003) and Israel (Mitnick 2003).


The growth of the Hausa video film industry, centered around multimedia technologies—one company in Kano, Iyan-Tama Multimedia Studios emphasized the multimedia aspect of its film productions—provided a further basis for globalizing Hausa popular culture. Thus the availability of what Umar Farouk Jibril calls “small technologies” (Jibril 2003) created a completely new genre of Hausa modern music which quickly evolved from one format into another within just five years (2000- 2005). The initial evolution started with what I call “Hausa Film Sound”—which was characterized by musical accompaniment to vocals as in the majority of Hausa video films. This became restricted to the space of individual films. The main unique

characteristic of Hausa Film Sound is the heavy use of sampled electronic versions of indigenous Hausa musical instruments (kalangu, sarewa, bandiri, calabash, etc) over layered with synthesizer sound flowing around the patterns of the lyrics.


However, by 2003, and fueled by the success of Hausa-speaking Lagos-based cosmopolitan rap singers such as Eedris Abdulkarim, a Hausa-speaking Yoruba (full name Eedris Turayo Abdulkareem Ajenifuja) based in Lagos, a new sound emerged in the transformation of Hausa popular music which decidedly owe its inspiration to American rap and hip-hop. Eedris Abdulkarim’s Jaga-Jaga (a CD that offered a blistering attack on Nigeria’s social and political conditions, in the same way the late Afro-beat musician Fela Kuti lambasted Nigerian political system in the 1970s and 1980s with compositions like Coffin for Head of State, Confusion Break Bone, International Thief Thief, Schuffering and Schimiling and others) proved that Hausa can be used in rap especially in the Hausa-lyrics track, Segarin Kano (sic; Hau: “Sai Garin Kano”). Right across the border, Nigeriene Hausa hip hop musicians such as Kaidan Gaskiya (Hakin Yara), Lafiya Matassa (le drot de l’enfant), Nazari (A sa su Lakol), Dan Kowa (Doli Higey), Fa-Baako (Mun Iso) and most significantly, Lakal Kaney (Zakara ya koka), using a combination of musical styles based on copying hip hop artistes like Run DMC, 50 Cents, Snoop Doog, DMX confirmed credibility on Hausa hip hop.


Before long, youth in Kano and Kaduna had started aping the process, creating what I call “Hausa Hip Hop”, and the first off the starting gate was Abdullahi Mighty whose CD Taka (2005) sampled not only Lakal Kaney, but also appropriated Kevin Lyttle’s mega hit, Turn Me On. The tracks on Taka include “Soyayya” sung by a sexualized female voice with lyrics inviting direct penetrative sexual act and incest. In US the CD would have Parental Advisory sticker. Plate 14 shows the album covers of the pioneers of Hausa rap sound.

Hausa rap

Menne 710 became the first female Hausa-speaking rap artist, releasing her first CD in 2006, Soyeyya Natashi (sic; Hau. Soyayya Na Tashi) which features other Hausa and Hausa-speaking rap artists based in Kano, such as B-Slee, Soklems, T-Fresh, and Kdub. The CD is straight out of Aaliyah range, with artistes even adopting the same accent as African American artistes as well as nicknames to appear more authentic to Hausa listeners used to 2Pack, Snoop Doog, DMX etc. Interestingly, Soultan Abdul’s Amarya da Ango, also in 2006 (featuring his biggest hit, Halimatu Sadiya) from

Kaduna was as sober straight-forward Hausa techno pop as could be, although adopting the rap patois as necessary on some tracks. Jeremiah Gyang is not Hausa, but speaks the language fluently and on his immensely popular CD (which received airplay even in Israel) about five of the songs (from 10) were Hausa Christian gospel. The title track, Na Ba Ka! (Yesu Na Ba Ka Zuciyana (I surrender my soul to you Jesus) is a declaration of total submission to Jesus, while Ban Da Kai (Ya Yesu Ni Ban Da Rai)(Without you Jesus, I am not living) is another rendition of faith in Jesus as savior.


Lacking specific professional training in the use of actual musical instruments, these new age rap artistes rely heavily on a coterie of computer musicians spread across some eight recording studios in Kano using music software such as Cubase, Cakewalk Pro, Sound Forge and FruityLoops—all available as pirated copies for less than

$US5.00 on mega-compilation CDs from Malaysia and Indonesia, and imported by resident Lebanese merchants—accompanied by increasing use of Yamaha soft synthesizers.


Thus, in the same way Abubakar Imam glocalized Eastern literature into Hausa, Abdullahi Mighty, Sadi Sidi Sharifai and Shaba, using FruityLoops soft synthesizer, re-created World music template overlying it with Hausa lyrics. The new globalized space clearly has no room for traditional Hausa instruments in contemporary Hausa popular culture. Ironically the presence of Hausa rap did not, in any way, diminish the massive popularity of mainstream American hip hop artistes in urban clusters of northern Nigeria, with latest pirated CDs available for less than US$2.00 at street corners. It did, however, enhanced the variety available. In fact I would argue that the increasing availability and popularity of Hausa rap music was more to counteract the increasing encroachment of rap music from southern Nigeria by Hausa-speaking rap artistes, than to counter the flow of mainstream African American rap music in northern Nigeria.


Part IV Hausa Islamicate Environment and Popular Culture The Empire Strikes Back

Reaction: Hausa Popular Culture and Renegotiations of Hausa Private Space


The biggest and loudest reaction to the transformations in Hausa popular culture was in the video films. While there were protests here and there about the storylines in the novels that emerged from 1980 to 2000—and mainly from school teachers who complained that the novels were preventing school girls from concentrating on their studies (however, see Malumfashi 1992a, 1992b; Abubakar, 1999) only printers of the books and often the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Kano branch actually took censoring steps towards curbing what were seen as either sexual excesses (e.g. the banning of Matsayin Lover (Lover’s Stand), a lesbian themed novel by Alkhamees Bature Makwarari by ANA), or cultural misplacement (e.g. the explicit ban on any European or Eastern pictures of males or females on covers of Hausa novels from 2005). The civil society, the religious establishment and the State machinery, for the most part ignored the writers. Plate 15 shows the poster from book printers/publishers in Kano warning authors to desist from using foreign images on their covers.




“The above named organization has issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of books with covers containing photos of Indians or Europeans in the name of promoting Hausa literature and culture, from 1st January 2006. With the hope that this directive and order will be adhered to…”, Signed, PRO, Abdullahi Mukhtar Y. Mallam


Plate 15. Warning Globalizing Hausa authors, Kano, 2006


There was less vitriolic reaction to the modernization of Hausa music, or the dominance of non-ethnic Hausa in modernizing Hausa music. It seemed to have been accepted by both “nationals” (ethnics) and “transethnics” (non-ethnics and settlers)

that indigenous traditional music would always be the preserve of ethnic Hausa, while modern music, with roots in Church music, would be more urban, cosmopolitan and transnational—attracting other “nationalities” in its production and distribution. The religious establishment—the main litmus test of the acceptability of a popular culture in the Islamic polity—could not, in any event, afford to come out explicitly to condemn music as an entertainment medium, principally because of the reliance of Sufi brotherhoods (both the Qadiriyya and Tijjaniya) on music as necessary part of their rituals. Condemning secular music might as well extend to religious music. The government ignored music because it was not seen as a threat by any section of the society, particularly religious bodies; so no regulatory mechanism was created to control any musical genre in the Muslim areas of northern Nigeria. However, with Hausa rap lyrics urging open sex and incest (e.g. Abdullahi Mighty’s Sanya Zobe), and Hausa-speaking girls rapping about being “into you” and “get your weed on” (Menne 710’s Into You), it would be only a matter of time before the societal censorship mechanism begins to focus attention on Hausa rap lyrics.


Also when the Shari’a was re-instated from 2000 in northern Nigeria, some states took exception to music and dancing, particularly in mixed gender companies and issued decrees banning not only inter-gender mixing in public spaces, but the very process of music itself. States with this decree, however, were very few. According to Jean-Christope Servant’s (2003) report for Freemuse, only Jigawa and Katsina actually took the steps of banning essentially traditional music by traditional performance artistes at weddings and other ceremonies. Zamfara, which ignited the re-introduction of the Shari’a banned non-religious music immediately after the Shari’a announcement, but revoked the ban in January 2006 when the Government needed the support of the youth at a rally. According to one report,


At the party which lasted till 2 a.m. of Sunday 15th January (2006), the governor, his three wives, spouses of all the traditional rulers in the State, members of his cabinet, the Head of Service and his permanent secretaries and their wives allegedly cavorted openly with tightly clad women at a party to which over ten local artistes performed to the joy of Prince of Bakura (the Governor of Zamfara State) and his family. They got so drunk with merriment that they gave out seven cars to one musician alone, named Sirajo Mai Asharalle. Other musicians who got more than three cars each included Hajiya Barmani Choge, Audu Inka Bakura, Mande Marafa and scores of women musicians (‘Zamfara: How N2.1 bn was looted in 6 months’, lead story in Desert Herald (Kaduna), Vol 1 No 6, January 2006 p. 2).


When Hausa video films established themselves as credible literary sources and focal points for defining Hausa popular culture for thousands of Hausa youth, critical attention started to shift to the new visual form of entertainment. Indeed from about 1990 up to 1999 there was no critical public reaction to the video films since most of the film fare in the period was more or less an extension of TV drama templates— focus attention on family conflicts and upholding traditional family values. It was when the filmmakers started to focus on the female as an erotic icon in what Laura Mulvey (1975) refers to as the male “filmic gaze” that critical reaction started. Two strands led to this state of affairs—exploration of the family conjugal space, and the reenactment of the erotic elements of female in song and dance routines that are mandatory in commercial Hausa video films.


The first point of clash between the new, transnational cinematic techniques in Hausa video films and Muslim Hausa traditional values was in the way some of the mid- 2000s Hausa video films started exploring the dynamics of the sexuality of Hausa

family conjugal lair. In this process, the storylines included specific scenes with bedroom encounters, often including semi-nude actors in sexually suggestive poses on the same bed. The first three Hausa video films to explore this were Alhaki Kwikwiyo, Saliha? and Malam Karkata. The various scenes from each of the three video films is shown Plate 16.



In each of the three scenes, intimate moves were made by both the genders towards other which ended in a sexual activity in the story. This led to a critical reaction from the audience. For instance, when Alhaki Kwikwiyo—dealing with petty jealousy among co-wives of a rich merchant, and who compete for his sexual favors—was released it caused some furor due to its too many “adult” scenes, making some critics to label it “batsa” (obscene). As one viewer angrily wrote in the letters page of Fim,


I want to talk about the video, Alhaki Kwikwiyo…It is clear this film sets out deliberately to corrupt the upbringing of our children because of nudity and (soft) pornography in it…no right thinking person, especially if they know what it contains, would buy the film for his family due to the obscene scenes in it...Alhaki Kwikwiyo bai dace ba (Alhaki Kwikwiyo is not proper), Alhaji Rabi’u Uba, Unguwar Zango, Kano, Fim, Letters page, March 2000 p.9.


Similarly, when Saliha?—dealing with an apparently pious Muslim girl constantly clothed in the Muslim head covering of hijab to emphasize her piety; only to turn out to have been sexually active before her marriage—was released a fatwa (Muslim clerical ruling) of death sentence was issued on the director and the producer of the film by a religious group in Kaduna, who demanded that the film should withdrawn from the market and the film’s makers apologize to the Muslim community for what was seen as disrespect for Islam. The death sentence was eventually removed. If anything, the incidence awakened the Muslim community to the fact the Hausa video film can be used a medium of messaging—and the message may not always be what palatable. Viewer reaction was equally furious, as typified by this angry correspondent to a magazine:


Because of the appearance of Saliha? young girls and women who loved wearing hijab became tarred with the same paintbrush as those who don’t like hijab. Night or day, whenever a girl or woman with a hijab is sighted, you often hear sniggers of “Saliha?”, indicating a hypocrite. Almost at once, many women stopped wearing the hijab, for fear of being equated with Saliha of the film Saliha? Similarly, those who are not Muslims, and who hate Islam will now seize the opportunity to label all Muslim women hypocrites, especially as the film is produced by an insider (i.e. a Muslim). (Hajiya Ali, Tauraruwa magazine Letters page, August 1999, p. 2).