A Tribute to Musa Ɗankwairo: The Master Griot

The late great Hausa griot, Alhaji Musa Ɗankwairo (1907-1991) is celebrated in a book of proceedings of a conference held to commemorate 30 years of his passing away. The conference was held in Bayero University Kano, Nigeria. Although the Conference was held in September 2021, it took two years of editing to finally bring the collection of the papers to the public. 

Titled “Studies on the Poetic Dynasty of Musa Ɗankwairo Mai Turu Ƙanen Makaɗa Kurna Maradun: Proceedings of the 30 Years Commemorative Conference on Musa Ɗankwairo Maradun”, it was edited by Sa’idu Muhammad Gusau, Ahmad Magaji, Ibrahim Garba Satatima, Isa Yusuf Chamo and Muhammad Ammani. 

It was released in September 2023. Note, ‘released’ not ‘launched’. I believe that the fact that the conference and the publishing of the book were fully funded by Col. Sani Bello (retired), a former Military Governor of Kano State (1975-1978), justifies the ‘release to the public’ approach, rather than the money-making ‘launching’ with its attendant hassles of recovery of pledges made with no intention of being honored by dishonorable people looking for cheap publicity. 

This is heavy duty stuff. Literarily, it is the RPG of Hausa lyrical criticism. I doubt if there is any such concentration of intellectual power in all its ramifications on a single Griot musician in Nigeria from multiple sources. It is not a dry listing of his songs or a highlight of some of his songs, but a literary ANALYSIS of his songs from incredibly a massive variety of perspectives by almost 100 researchers, delightfully, many of them women, thus showing the increasing gender balance in literary criticism in northern Nigeria. Any notion that Ɗankwairo was only a court singer is dispelled with this massive work – it demonstrates his skill, ingenuity and creative approaches from the construction of language, to praising people, to trades and crafts, politics and political leaders, and Islam. 

As Prof. Sagir Adamu Abbas, the Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University Kano, Nigeria, noted in his Forward to the book, 

“Alhaji Musa Ɗanƙwairo has been a great Hausa oral poet whose songs transcend the shores of Nigeria to all parts of the globe. His troupe is known for Hausa Court singing that now survived for more than eight decades. Celebrating and remembering 30 years after his death is just like a posthumous award to him, to the entire family and many more generations to come in future. The realm of court singing in present day Northern Nigeria cannot close its chapters without mentioning the literary prowess of the Ɗankwairo. Ranked amongst the first 10 oral singers, his songs covered a wide range of themes including eulogy and praise for farmers and traditional rulers and title holders.”

The book is prefaced by a Keynote by Emeritus Prof. Abdulƙadir Ɗangambo and three Lead Papers. One of the Lead Papers was by Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammad, Ɗanmadamin Birnin Magaji – an excellent song critic himself – who rendered a beautiful biography of Ɗankwairo from many sources – including the great singer himself. 

Divided into Language, Literature and Culture – the sacred divisions of Hausaist Studies in Bayero University Kano – every aspect of the Ɗankwairo’s catalogue and setlists was analyzed from these perspectives in predominantly Hausa language, with only five English language papers. 

These were: A Study on the Use of Code-Switching in Ɗankwairo’s Selected Oral Songs (Isa Yusuf Chamo), A Study of Antonymical Constructions in Selected Ɗankwairo’s Songs (Ibrahim Garba Gwammaja), A Study of the Use of Reference in the Selected Songs of Musa Ɗanƙwairo- (Tijjani Shehu Almajir), and Tonal Rhyme in Musa Ɗankwairo’s Song Mai Dubun Nasara Garnaƙaƙi Sardauna (Maimuna Abubakar Ismail). An Investigation Into Social Deixis in Selected Songs of Ɗankwairo (Halima Umar Sani).

The preliminaries – as the Lead Papers were labeled – are then followed by 66 papers – 16 in Language, 31 in Literature and 19 in culture. The fact that that papers on the Literary creativity of Ɗankwairo’s songs were almost the total of papers in in the two other categories, clearly indicated the variety and richness of his creative corpus, and his contribution to oral literature of the Hausa. 

There are, of course, books on Hausa griots before this – such as Abdulƙadir Daba (2006). “Ɗanmaraya Jos in Folkloric Perspective”, Ibrahim Sheme et al. (2006), “Shata Ikon Allah”, Sa’idu Muhammad Gusau (Ed, 2018), “Studies in the songs of Dr. Mamman Shata Katsina”, Aliyu Muhammad Bunza (2009), “Narambaɗa” (2009) and so on. 

However, this book is not just a tribute to Musa Ɗankwairo, the Master Griot. It is a tribute to the scholastic prowess of the scholars who dissected every aspect of the Griot’s setlists, thus giving us an expansive, rich tapestry of the lyrical powers of Musa Ɗankwairo. It is a masterpiece of African literature and in an African language, and a critical contribution to Hausa ethnomusicological studies. Even if you are not particularly a fan of his poetry, it is hard to ignore such significant contribution to critical theory in the literary genre of Hausa studies. 

This, folks, is not going to be an easy reading. Not only is the book huge at 723 pages, but the papers require a solid concentration to get the morsel of every aspect of the analyses. 

Now come the part where they begin to ask: how much does it cost, where can one get it, etc. It is therefore my absolute pleasure to let you know that it is Acibilistically available, courtesy of Prof. Ibrahim Garba Satatima Department of Linguistics and Foreign Languages, and Dean of Humanities, Bayero University Kano, who urged it should be thrown wide open to the whole world. 

So, for you all Acibilisians, get it at this link:

Studies on the Poetic Dynasty of Musa Ɗankwairo Mai Turu Ƙanen Makaɗa Kurna Maradun

Post a Comment