A Critical Identity Construction in the Songs of Alhaji Musa Dankwairo

Cite this article as: Musa, A.L., Danjani, A.M. & Musa, G. (2023). A Critical Identity Construction in the Songs of Alhaji Musa Dankwairo. Zamfara International Journal of Humanities, (2)2, 55-64. www.doi.org/10.36349/zamijoh.2023.v02i02.006.

A Critical Identity Construction in the Songs of Alhaji Musa Dankwairo


Aminu Lawan Musa
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso College of Advanced & Remedial Studies, Kano, Nigeria


Aishatu Muhammad Danjani
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso College of Advanced & Remedial Studies, Kano, Nigeria


Garba Musa
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso College of Advanced & Remedial Studies, Kano, Nigeria


Traditional Songs are powerful means of propagating and maintaining culture in Hausa societies. They are tools with which a singer constructs the identity of personalities and the world views of his society in general. In Hausaland, singers propagate, educate and inform the members of their society about the government policies, roles of personalities, norms, customs and values. This study focuses on the songs of Alhaji Musa Dankwairo with particular attention to the way language is used in identity constructions of power holders in the songs of Sardauna Bello. It examines the nature and attributes of the linguistic items employed by the singer in differentiating the powerful personalities on one hand and the powerless ones on the other. The study is based on the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Thus, the method of data analysis adopted is Fairclough’s (1989) theory of Social Practice. The study finds out that Dankwairo as a singer is creative in using linguistic resources such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, metaphors etc. to construct the positive personality of the major social actors and portray others as negative. Therefore, Hausa traditional song is a means of legitimising or de-legitimising positions or actions. Hence, the creative use of language by singers plays a significant role in obtaining and maintaining power in Hausa society. The study recommends the preservation of Hausa traditional songs due to their relevance as a treasure of cultural norms and values.

Keywords: construction, de-legitimising, identity, legitimising, powerful, powerless social actors


The Song is an integral part of public communication. It creates emotive allegiance to powerful people, cities, countries, religions, and even political affinity. Song is a tool with which the values and legitimacy of institutions are expressed and maintained. It also plays a pivotal role in the social, political and economic life of people. To some extent, songs are tools of unity that strengthen and unify members of a community socially, economically and politically. On the other hand, songs can also be subversive and tools for challenging and toppling the power.

In the Hausa society, songs have often provided persuasive social and political commentaries to the people. It also gives flamboyant expressions to the heroism of people’s lives in the period of their struggle, victory or defeat. Singers team may contain several drummers (to play the different types of drums), eulogists, two or more pipers, and sometimes a horn-blower. One important tool of song is language. Language has been recognised, from time immemorial, as a tool with which human beings achieve their social goals. Through language, human beings direct, command, persuade and influence others.

Critical discourse analysis is a field of study that investigates how discourse helps to maintain power structures. Language is significant in classifying people concerning their place in the power structure and how powerful groups with the tacit cooperation of the less powerful can use language to maintain power and inequality. Thus, one important aspect that Hausa traditional singers employ to persuade listeners and help in maintaining power is the construction of identity. Therefore, this study sets out to investigate the identity construction in the selected songs of Alhaji Musa Dankwairo within the context of the CDA framework. It sets out to investigate the presence of elements of ideology, power and domination in Alhaji Musa Dankwairo’s songs.

Brief Biography of the Late Alhaji Musa Dankwairo

According to Bunza (2006), Dankwairo was born in 1907 in the town of Bakura, about 105 kilometres from Zamfara State. Dankwairo's father and grandfather were all musicians of Maradunne. He grew up and found his grandfather and uncle singing together, but he lived more with his father in real life, and since he was 6 to 7 years old he started going out where his father used to go with him in a chorus of songs. After the death of his father, the management of the band reverted to Aliyu Kurna, as Dankwairo's father's successor, with Dankwairo elected as his deputy. The late Alhaji Musa earned the title of 'Dankwairo' because of his melodious voice and skills in singing.

Since then, Dankwairo has become famous in the field of music, which led him to become a singer for the late Sardaunan Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello. Dankwairo sang his first song Mai Dubun Nasara Garnaki Sardauna. In terms of classification, Dankwairo is regarded as a court singer (makadin fada). It appeared that Sardauna was a politician and an emir; so, by implication, he needed a royal singer to live with him in his palace for his name's sake. Thus, the late Sardauna preferred the Dankwairo band over any other band. Therefore, Dankwairo became the singer of his palace with an extraordinary quality which at that time did not go unnoticed by the kind of gifts that Sardauna used to give to Dankwairo and his team. However, Musa Dankwairo composed 17 songs for Sardauna, and he once met with Sardauna in the political arena of the NPC (Northern People's Congress). Dankwairo died and left behind 14 children, 7 boys and 7 girls, with 104 grandchildren.

Language and Identity

Thomas & and Wareing (1999) believe that one of the most fundamental ways of establishing our identity is through the use of language. We usually employ words to shape and influence other people’s views of who we are. At the level of individual, social or institutional structure, identity is something which is constantly built and negotiated through interaction with others. Therefore, language is essential in the construction of individual and social identities. It is a powerful means of exercising social control.

Gee (2000:99) in Woodhams (2019) observes that identity is simply ‘being recognized as a certain “kind of person”, in a given context’. He argues that such recognition is central to identity, as human beings must see each other in certain ways and not others if there are to be identities of any sort. Four types of perspectives can guide analytical attention to identity. These are nature, institution, discourse and affinity.

a.      The Nature Perspective: is the identity construction where the source of its ‘power’ is derived from nature rather than society e.g., being an identical twin. It can become an identity through recognition, primarily in discourse.

b.     The Institutional Perspective: this is exemplified in the case of being a professional in a particular field, for instance, a professor authorised by a university, and such identities can be called down willingly or imposed by others.

c.       The Discourse Perspective: these concerns with being considered charismatic by others in discourse, whether achieved by one self-consciously or ascribed. It can be viewed in that such an identity is only given its power through recognition.

d.     The affinity perspective: this is represented, by being a member of a group aligned to a common set of practices.

Thus, identity construction involves people’s attempt to classify themselves as belonging to a particular group or community. In doing so, the linguistic conventions of that group or community are adopted not just about the words but also about the way the words are put together. The way those linguistic conventions are defined and maintained is usually controlled by a group rather than the individual.

Thomas & Wareing (1999) opine that identity is multi-faceted because people switch into different roles at different times in different situations, and each of those contexts may require a shift into different, sometimes conflicting, identities. One of how we accomplish and display this shift is through the language we use. However, personal identities are socially constructed through the use of names, naming practices and rituals. Identity can also be through the systems of address; the way we refer to someone when we are talking to him directly, and how speakers use language to classify and identify each other through these systems.

However, Van Leeuwen (1996) cited in Fairclough (2003) identifies many more variables with which a speaker/writer uses in identity construction. These variables are:

1.      Inclusion/Exclusion: in the identity construction of social events, a social actor can be included or excluded to portray positivity or negativity. There are two types of exclusion of social actors; Suppression is where a social actor is not in the text at all or ignored while Backgrounding is a situation where a social actor is mentioned somewhere in the text, but has to be inferred in one or more places.

2.      Pronoun/Noun: sometimes social actor is realized as a pronoun such as ‘I’, ‘he’, ‘we’, ‘you’, etc. or as a noun.

3.      Grammatical Role: It is how the social actor is realised as a participant in a clause (e.g. Actor, Affected), within a Circumstance (e.g. in a preposition phrase,) or as a Possessive Noun or Pronoun (‘Ali’s friend’, ‘our friend’).

4.      Activated/Passivated: this has to do with situating the social actor as an actor in processes (the one who does things and makes things happen), or the Affected or Beneficiary (the one affected by processes).

5.      Personal/Impersonal: Social actors can be represented impersonally as well as personally – for instance referring to the police as ‘the filth’ is impersonalizing them.

6.      Named/Classified: Social actors can be represented by name (e.g. ‘Fred Smith’) or in terms of class or category (e.g. ‘the doctor’). If the latter, they can be referred to individually (e.g. ‘the doctor’) or as a group (‘the doctors’, ‘doctors’).

7.      Specific/Generic: where social actors are classified and can be represented specifically or generically. For instance ‘the doctors’ may refer to a specific group of doctors (e.g. those who work in a particular hospital), or to the class of doctors in general, all doctors (e.g. ‘the doctors see themselves as gods’).

Given the above, in Hausaland identity construction is achieved by distinguishing a class of people, naming systems, other attributes like belonging to a family and nomenclatures reserved and attached to differentiate the ruling class from other classes of people. Osisanwo (2021), states that songs have been accorded with a significant role in different contexts, such as religious, cultural, social and political. It possesses the instinct of generating the rhetorical power of persuading and informing listeners. This is very true with Dankwairo’s songs. He is a court singer who mostly composed his songs to canvass political support, instigate the need to recognise the legitimate power of his personality (in most cases the Sardauna) and sometimes justify the legitimacy of his leadership.

Van Leeuwen (2018:553) believes that “the act of making music, and listening to music, is by nature a form of social interaction”. Unlike sequential conversation, musical interaction is usually a simultaneous tool with the great power to unite people and create group feelings. Thus, the power and solidarity that are created by musical interaction serve as the primary source of musical meaning. There are three broad kinds of simultaneous interaction in music. The first is Social Unison. It is a form of musical interaction in which all participants sing and/or play the same notes. This can create or represent solidarity and a positive sense of belonging to a group. These can be found in the pub, the sports stadium, the church, the school or the army. The second is the Social pluralism. In social pluralism, different melodies are simultaneously played or sung by different instruments or singers. Each could stand on its own and still have musical interests, yet they all fit harmoniously together. It is therefore a form of interaction, in which the interacting parties are “equal but different”. The third category is Social domination. In social domination music, one voice (the melody) becomes dominant and the other voices subordinate, accompanying and supporting the dominant voice.

Critical Discourse Analysis

According to Hart (2014), Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a particular form of discourse analysis which, in one guise at least, seeks to disclose the ideological and persuasive properties of text and talk which might not be immediately apparent without the assistance of a systemised descriptive framework such as grammar or typology. Fairclough (1989) views that the “critical” component of CDA implies the unravelling of the causes and connections that are often hidden in a text or talk through systematic inquiry into linguistic elements that make up a discourse. CDA is designed to make implicit the causes and connections of language on one hand and power and ideology on the other by linking them to local, international, institutional, and societal matters. Thus, it examines what is not said rather than looking for the veiled meaning or “reading between the lines” since texts cannot be viewed in isolation and must always consider context.

Van Dijk (1993:1) believes that CDA is “a type of discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context”. Therefore, CDA explicitly pays much attention to the understanding, exposure and ultimate rejection of social inequality such as racism, xenophobia and gender discrimination in a society or community. The notions of ideology, power, hierarchy and gender together with sociological variables were all viewed as relevant for an interpretation or explanation of the text.

Wodak (2001: 2) describes the purpose of CDA as trying to analyse the “opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language”. It does not limit itself to the analysis of the immediate formal properties of a text but rather it situates the text in its wider social, economic, historical, cognitive and political context. It critically examines how a text relates to other texts, and how it is constituted by the existing social practices and constitutive of other new social practices. Bloor & Bloor (2007: 13) are of the view that the aims of CDA are mainly to uncover the socio-political inequalities based on political, economic, cultural, religious, or gendered grounds that exist in a particular society. CDA seeks to bring out the hidden way in which institutions and their discourse shape our thinking. Central to the notion of CDA are the relationships of language, power and ideology.

a.      Language and Power

The demonstration of connections between language and power can be traced to the works of Fairclough (1989) and others who work on Critical Language Studies. He argues that “language is centrally involved in power, and struggles for power. Language needs to be seen as social practice determined by social structures, and determined by sets of conventions that are associated with social institutions, shaped by power relations and located in both institutions and society as a whole. Thus, social structures and social practices exist in a dialectal relationship as there is no external relationship between language and society.

Fairclough (1989:18) emphasizes that language is the primary medium of social control and power because discourse relations reflect inequality through the social roles of the participants in a discourse. The modern and often more effective tool of exercising power is mostly cognitively enacted through persuasion, and manipulation to change the minds of others to achieve their interests. He submits that “language is a part of society; linguistic phenomena are social phenomena of a special sort and social phenomena (in part) are linguistic phenomena”. Discourse affects social structures and social structures affect discourse. Then, discourse can contribute to social continuity and social change; as such, power in discourse lies in the social space occupied by the participants in social settings. Therefore, leaders nowadays prefer maintaining power through consent rather than coercion where discourse is constructed to project in the mind of the audience, a positive and powerful self.

According to Dahl (1957), power is a process that involves the ability to make somebody do something that he or she would not have done. About the concept of power, the term discourse, Foucault (1980) postulates that “power is relational and dynamic, showing itself in the minute of interactions between and within people”. He also views that there is continuous resistance to it from individuals who are its vehicles. In CDA power is seen as “already accruing to some participants and not to others and this power is determined by their institutional role and their socio-economic status, gender or ethnic identity” (Thornborrow 2002:7). In other words, the crucial point at which discourse and power met is the managing the mind of others through professions, status, gender or ethnic identity which can determine whether or not certain people have power, as well as the extent of such power.

The relationship between language and power is very essential. Language plays an important role in exercising power and dominance. Power is greatly dependent on language. Language is considered a tool with which people exercise control over others. Through language one can influence and to a large extent control events and actions over others. This can be seen in speeches given by people in power and their cronies. Most of the speeches are meant to persuade, influence, and warn the conduct of their audience. Similarly, in Hausa court songs, language is not only an instrument of communication used to illicit information but also a tool with which the power of traditional leaders is portrayed and legitimized to control the minds of the audience.

b.     Language and Ideology

Bloor and Bloor (2007:10) define ideology as a set of beliefs or attitudes shared by members of a particular social group. Every discourse is a product of ideology as those elements of beliefs and attitudes are not held consciously by the individuals rather they are embedded in the thoughts of the shared speech community. Van Dijk (1995:33) maintains that ideologies are often articulated and based on the ideological square which includes; emphasizing positive things about us; emphasizing negative things about them; and de-emphasizing negative things about us; de-emphasizing positive things about them. Ideology is a complex notion as different names and functions were given to the term. Thompson (1987:4) puts it that ideology is “linked to the process of sustaining asymmetrical relations of power to maintain domination…by disguising, legitimating, or distorting those relations”.

Fowler (1991) views ideology in the neutral sense of a world view; a largely unconscious theory of the way the world works accepted as common sense”. Common sense refers to conventions that embody ideological assumptions that are routinely drawn upon in discourse; thus the effectiveness of ideology largely depends on being merged with common sense. In other words, ideologies are means of legitimizing existing social relations and differences of power through the recurrence of ordinary, familiar ways of behaving which many people are not aware of. Therefore, Fairclough (1989:94) views that in discourse interpretation conventions that embody ideological assumptions are drawn upon which are taken as mere common sense. These assumptions contribute to sustaining existing power relations. It establishes relations between text and the world.

Approaches in CDA

CDA is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that uses language as social practice. It tolerates varied approaches. The main theoretical approaches of CDA are:

1. Social and Historical Approach: Ruth Wodak is the main figure associated with this approach. The approach is based on the tradition of sociolinguistics and ethnography. It emphasizes not only the contextualized nature of discourse within its present state of occurrence but also explains the development of discourse through a historical continuum. Wodak developed the sociological and historical method by devoting it to tracing the (intertextual) history of phrases and arguments. The method begins with the studying of original documents augmented by ethnographic research of the past (e.g., interviews with war veterans). It also encompasses wide-ranging data collection and analysis of contemporary news reporting, political discourse, lay beliefs, and discourse. According to Wodak (1996), it is not possible to understand the discursive strategies adopted in any discourse without understanding the historical/social background against which they were created.

2. Socio-Cognitive Approach: Van Dijk proposes this model as one of the pioneers of CDA. According to van Dijk (2008), there is an agreement among discourse analysts that communicative events should be approached in terms of their immediate constituents: grammatical, stylistic, rhetorical, pragmatic, argumentative, interactional or other related structures. This approach is cognitive-oriented as it views that speakers represent their beliefs, intentions, and processes in the production and comprehension of the discourse. For Van Dijk, it is social cognition and personal cognition that mediate between society and discourse. He defines social cognition as "the system of mental representations and processes of group members". In this direction, "ideologies are overall abstract mental systems that organize …socially shared attitudes". Ideologies thus, "indirectly influence the personal cognition of group members" in their act of comprehension of discourse among other actions and interactions. Van Dijk (1991: 36) views “ideologies” as frameworks that organise sets of attitudes about other elements of society. Therefore, ideologies are the “cognitive foundation” for the attitudes of various groups in societies. It also serves as an impetus for pursuing their goals and interests. He believes that one who desires to make transparent such an ideological dichotomy in discourse needs to analyze discourse in the following way:

a.      Examining the context of the discourse: historical, political or social background of a conflict and its main participants

b.      Analysing groups, power relations and conflicts involved

c.       Identifying positive and negative opinions about “Us” versus “Them”

d.     Making explicit the presupposed and the implied eg. Examining all formal structures: lexical choice and syntactic structure, in a way that helps to (de)emphasise polarized group opinions.

3. Social Practice Approach: This model was developed by Norman Fairclough (1989). The approach sees CDA as a method of examining social and cultural modifications that could be employed in protesting against the power and control of the elite groups on other groups or people. Fairclough’s approach is different from both the historical approach and the cognitive approach as its emphasis is on the social aspects. Fairclough believes that there is a dialectical relationship between language and other social practices. Thus, actual discourse is determined by socially constituted orders of discourse set of conventions associated with social institutions. (Fairclough, 1995:131). The research agenda of the approach focuses on language and globalization, contemporary social change, as well as language, education and power. Fairclough’s CDA has been defined as a methodology which is fundamentally interested in analysing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language. Therefore, through deconstructing society, the aims are critically investigating possible social inequalities as expressed, constituted, and legitimized by discursive practices. It analyses competing power interests between groups and individuals within a society by identifying who gains and who loses in specific situations. The approach is also meant to raise awareness of how language can influence the dominance of one group of people over the other.


The method of data collection of the study is based on extracting randomly from the selected songs of Alhaji Musa Dankwairo. The songs selected for the analysis are Mai Dubun Nasara Garnaki Sardauna and Sardauna Bello Mai Sulken Yaki ka fi gaban Wargi. The theoretical framework adopted in the analysis of data in this study is a textual analysis based on Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics theory (Transtivity) where Textual and Ideational metafunctions are applied within the analytic approach of Fairclough’s (1989) Description, Interpretation and Explanation. The analysis of data of this study includes an attempt to translate the songs from Hausa to English; thus improvisations were used where certain expressions have no equivalents in English. Excerpts from the songs mainly obtained from Diwanin Wakokin Baka (Muhammad 2008) are used whenever a particular feature that is relevant to the study is spotted.

Data Presentation and Analysis

These analyses of the selected Dankwairo’s songs focus on linguistic categories such as pronouns, metaphors, process and time. Analysis of lexical choices, rhetorical structures and pronouns is carried out to deconstruct how both positive and negative identities of social actors are constructed.

Pronouns and Names as Identity

In the field of critical discourse analysis, Fairclough (2003) acknowledges two ways of exercising power; through physical coercion and manufacture of consent. The power through physical coercion involves the use of force (considered outdated) while the manufacture of consent involves convincing people to accept things or accept proposed changes persuasively. Thus, in the modern world, the manufacture of consent lies much in the use of it. In Dankwairo’s songs, proper nouns, pronouns as well and positive backgrounding are deployed to construct the identity of the major social actor (Sardauna) and others. Thus, the manifestations of pronouns and proper nouns in the excerpts are:

1.      a. Sa maza nadama, mai ilimin fama

 b. You are the one that makes men (enemies) regret

2.      a. Mai halin sarauta mai ilimin fama

b. You have the attitude of ruling and knowledge of struggle

3.      a. Sardauna Bello mai sulken yaki ya hi gaban wargi

b. Sardauna Bello you have a shield of war, you are beyond misbehaving

4. a. Da ka zakka ana yaki ne da arna sun ji wuyar fama; Muhammadu yanzu ko da babu yaki da alkairi ya ka fama dai

b. Had it been you ruled in the time of war, the heathens (enemies) would suffer; But Muhammadu, now you are conquering with your kindness

5        a. Ka san bai san tsoro ba babu maza bayanka, Muhammadu ban ga maza a gaba nai ba

b. You know he is fearless never defeated and will never be deterred by any in the future.

Van Leeuwen (1996) observes that one of the most obvious linguistic means of establishing people’s identity is through the giving and using of names. In the above excerpts, there are subsequent use of both proper nouns and pronouns such as Muhammadu, Sardauna, Bello, He, you, I etc. The singer employs these to distinguish his social actor from other power holders by names and pronouns. He combines some attributes of bravery, kindness and morale with Ahmadu Bello. Thus, the critical examination of the use of pronouns in the selected songs of Dankwairo, as appears in the excerpts above, shows that the personal pronouns you, I and he are meant to persuade the listeners to recognize Sardauna as a legitimate power holder with the singer’s opinions tilted towards describing his kindness, eligibility, capability etc. the singer compliments some qualities to construct Sardauna’s identity through narrating the collection of positive activities he has carried out to others. This is implicitly meant to appeal to and seek for solidarity of the public to recognize Sardauna as a considerate and energetic leader.

Grammatically, most of the proper nouns and pronouns are used as subjects in active sentences. This implicitly indicates the ‘institutional identity’ of the major actor (Sardauna) mostly in the forms of stanzas and panegyrics. The overall choices and applications of proper nouns and pronouns have ideological implications of asserting the authority of Sardauna Bello as the major political actor in both traditional and democratic Northern Nigeria whose credibility and creativity are making an impact in changing the lives of his people.

Identity through Metaphors

Bloor & Bloor (2007) observe that metaphor can be described as making a comparison by transferring a name from one thing to another, a shift, or a carrying over of a word from its normal use to a new one. Metaphors are systematic lexical patterns grounded in the formation of concepts. A closer analysis of the excerpts below reveals how the singer deploys metaphors to build the identity of Sardauna Bello to achieve the goals of identity construction of his social actor. The excerpts:

4.      a. Duk mai son ya tsallake ruwa ya je ga Kwara ko maliya baTeku ta fi gaban tsallaka sai dai mutum ya zo kallo

b. Whoever wants to cross the river should go to the River Kwara or the Red Sea but the ocean is beyond one’s crossing but watching

5.      a. Ruwa ka ke da dorina da kada kowashshiga ban ga fita tai ba.

b. You are an ocean full of hippopotami and crocodiles, whoever enters never comes out alive

6.      a. Gagari gaba zaki mai Ankara, kai aka tsoro zaki mai Ankara, karya maraki zaki mai Ankara

b. You are an ever-ready lion, they fear you the ever-ready lion that breaks young animals

7.      a. Zaki ba dai mutum guda dai ba

b. You lion that cannot be confronted by one man.

8.      a. Kai zaraba kamar damisa, Mamman a ja da nesa ad dai-dai

b. You are like a tiger that one can be cautious of.

In the above excerpts, careful choices of lexis are made to evaluate the actions, attitudes, intentions and identities through metaphors. There is use of natural entities such as teku, damisa, and zaki (seas/rivers and animals such as lion and tiger) to depict Sardauna Bello as an unbeatable character, stronger and conqueror of enemies. As Hart (2004) observes, the cognitive functions of metaphor involve the set of conjured imagery, albeit richer, than content-specified images invoked by grammatical constructions. Dankwairo mainly employs frames of nature to construct the identity of bravery, shrewdness, morality and intellectual attitudes of his major actor Sardauna. The formation of the metaphors involves systematic selection and deploying the source domains of nature and animals to construct the identities that could persuade the listeners to respect and recognize Sardauna as a determined leader.

Identity through Processes

According to Fairclough (1989:115), “Language is a tool of getting things done”. The process is traditionally called verbs. In Systemic Functional Grammar, they are happenings or goings on in a sentence or utterance. Processes also seek to answer the questions of who does what to whom, for whom, when, how and why etc. In the Sardauna songs of Dankwairo, Material (doing), Mental (thinking) and Behavioural (behaving) processes are common types employed by the singer. Thus, the structures of the processes in the song are embedded with the identity of Sardauna most “doing” something to others as a powerful leader. The excerpts:

9.      a. Zauna dai-dai a gadon sarauta, Dan Magaji Bello kayi komai

b. Sit properly on the throne, the son of Magaji Bello you have done all of it

10.  a. Ka gaji ba da doki dubu, ka gaji ba da mota dubu, ka gaji ba da bawa dubu, ka gaji ba da duk gari da mutanen gari

b. You inherit giving a thousand horses; you inherit giving a thousand slaves; you inherit giving the whole town and its people

11.  a. Yusifu babanYusifu ba a taba ja ma ba. Yusifu babanYusifu ba a taba ja ma ba

b. Yusifu the father of yusifu no one has ever resisted or rejected your commands; Yusifu the father of useful no one has ever resisted or rejected your commands

In the above excerpts, the singer employs the use of active material process (doing) to inform the power of Sardauna Bello within the context of an institutional matrix of his region. He takes active roles in the positive acts of material processes. Through ‘doing’, Sardauna Bello is implicitly described as a kind, sympathetic, brave and powerful actor full of moral aptitudes. The majority of the processes used in the songs are designed to positively position Sardauna as better in all ramifications over his oppositions who are implicitly portrayed as unkind, cowards, powerless hopeless etc. The language devices presented by the singer from the perspective of the choice of the processes to a large extent is making a description of what the Sardauna is positively doing to the others not otherwise. The singer also reinforces the roles of heritage in positioning his actor as the giver and others as beneficiaries. Therefore, the processes in the songs are meant to show differences between Sardauna as the giver, and doer of positive deeds and others as beneficiaries of his acts. Therefore, the dominant process in the songs is the Material process. The processes of doing were mostly related to Sardauna while others as passive enjoying his deeds.

Identity through Time

 In discourse, space and time are social constructs, differently constructed in different societies (Fairclough and Fairclough 2012:151). Time and space construction is also contested and the change in their construction is part of social change. It is also called intertextuality; a relationship between past and present. In the song, Dankwairo employs history (time) to relate and portray Sardauna’s legitimacy of the throne. He also uses the time to justify the selection of Ahmadu Bello as Sardauna of Sokoto and the first Premier of Northern Nigeria. The excerpts are:

12.  a. Akwai wani zamani yana zuwa ana yin Sardauna guda biyu, Sardauna guda gidan Shehu, Sardauna guda gidan Dabo sai fa Amadu ya furce a yi Sardauna Bello batun manya ya tabbata Alhaji ga lokacinka nan yazo

b. There will be a time for the emergence of two Sardaunas, one from the clan of Shehu and one from the clan of Dabo, it is now a reality, and it is your time to shine

Looking at the above, the singer employs past references to portray the prophecy for the emergence of Ahmadu as the most powerful leader in Northern Nigeria through timing. Dankwairo captures the past happenings to legitimise the present. In the songs, references to the past present and future are employed to reassert the institutional powers of his master. Thus, songs are tools embedded with identity construction through timing.

However, the timing representation shows that the choices made by the singer are embedded with hope, courage and the need to trust Sardauna as the leader and agent of a positive change. Dankwairo also employs linguistic resources to recreate a positive past better present and bright future of the society with Sardauna as a leader. In the songs, there are series of narrations full of positive incidences composed to make contrastive distinctions between the incompetent, acceptable and loving leader Sardauna. Besides, past positive lineage and deeds are deployed to persuade the audience to recognise his power. Therefore, the timing structure in the songs serves as a tool with which the singer uses the past to build the identity of the major social actor to justify his power and domination of others. He managed to structure the positions of his actors as a person who inherited the art of ruling.


Fairclough (2003) acknowledges two ways of exercising power; through physical coercion and the manufacture of consent. The power through physical coercion involves the use of force (considered outdated) while the manufacture of consent involves convincing people to accept things or accept proposed changes persuasively. Thus, in the modern world, the manufacture of consent lies much in the use of language.

The language of the Hausa songs within this study is shaped by the manufacturing of consent and the social practice in which it occurs. Thus, sociality and institution exert a huge influence on Dankwairo’s songs. In the selected songs of Dankwairo, as revealed in this study, there is hidden information on persuasion, solidarity, propaganda and ideology through which the identity of social actors is constructed about institutional context and societal context.

The role of singers as members of social institutions emanated from the consent of the Hausa traditional institutions. Thus, a struggle for power between various traditional personalities must take place. The nature and customs of the Hausa traditional political system positioned a particular class of people such as singers to serve as traditional collaborators in the struggle that would lead to the emergence of the ‘right person’ as the legitimate leader of the society. This is the ideology that guides the way Dankwairo and his likes structure their songs as it appears in the analysis. He relied on his abilities to deploy the available linguistic resources in constructing the identity of his social actors the way he likes. This is exemplified by the presence of logical choices of words to ideologically persuade and indoctrinate the audiences.

More often than not, Dankwairo’s songs are designed to make audiences believe that Sardauna’s visionary power can save the citizens. In the selected songs, positive deeds are always positively attached to Sardauna while his oppositions are portrayed as negative actors who are suffering while struggling to take away what “belongs” to him. The singer also concentrates on convincing the listeners about his eligibility to inherit the throne. In all ramifications, linguistic devices are tactically used to portray Sardauna as a positive actor who contributes and is always willing to do more for his people.


In this study, the relations between language, power and ideology have been demonstrated within the context of Hausa traditional society. The study adopts CDA to analyse some selected Hausa songs of Dankwairo. The findings of the study show that the singer deployed linguistic devices to construct the identity of the powerful (Sardauna) and the powerless (others). There are implicit representations of power, inequality and ideology in the selected songs. The singer persuades his audience through identity construction to question the credibility of opposition as regards competency and capability leadership. Thus, the singer tries to capture the positive nature of Sardauna.


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