Monthly Archives: October 2010

Music is who he was: Rest in peace, Sazzy

 

Sazzy (c) Intersection

 

I’m not sure where I first heard Abuja based producer Sazzy’s (Osaze Omonbude) music. I imagine it was when Korex of Intersection Media posted a link on Facebook to his music video “Doubt,” an addictive angst-filled track, with the cry of “I no go doubt myself again, oh” in the chorus. His techno track “Anymore” is equally angst-filled and danceable. I was hooked.

On his Facebook page, he described his sounds as

‘’indie-afro-hop done by aliens trying to be human’’. He also has no limitations on genres. “If it sounds good, I’ll do it”. [...] “I just want everybody to grow with me day by day as I take over the world”.

So, when not long after, Sazzy sent me a friend request on facebook, maybe because I had been posting the video all over my wall, I responded:

July 17 at 2:31am
thanks for the friend invite. i’ve had your song “doubt” on a constant replay loop for the last 2 hours. you’ve got mad talent. take care.

He responded with gracious words (and a little advertisement):

Sazzy Omonbude July 17 at 2:41am Report
Thanks for accepting. Wow! thanks a lot, really great to hear that. Really appreciated.
I got a new international dance single. Will love to give you the link, so here it is
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH_yYH-JmhoAnd pls dont be a stranger. 

Sazzy

The track he sent was perhaps not quite as contemplative as the others, but it was definitely danceable.

So this past Saturday morning when I signed into facebook and started seeing status updates from Abuja-based friends, saying “Sazzy, rest in peace,” it shook me. It was shattering news. I didn’t know him. We exchanged those messages and may have exchanged a couple of lines of Facebook chat, I can’t remember now. But I had gone to his page only a few days before to wish him a cheery “Happy Birthday.” I had listened to his tracks again. I hadn’t known him in person but I had known his friends, I had known his music. What does one do, what does one feel, when a facebook friend dies, someone at this level of acquaintance, new to history, whom you may have never met but whose updates you regularly see and who may have also seen your updates?

On his myspace page, he looked forward to the future:

”I really do believe with GOD, Hard work, Patience and Persistence you can achieve anything in life and I do hope all my aspirations and dreams shall come to pass. This is just the beginning for me, loads more is yet to come, music is about to change”.

And as a young talent gone too soon, his death is reminiscent of the death of rising star Dagrin only half a year ago. Now, Sazzy’s last update on Facebook seems a sad foreshadowing:

Sazzy Omonbude Hey thanx for all d birthday wishes….bin a bit ill bt thanx all d same

He had just turned 26. He had sickle cell. And he made mad good music.

 

Sazzy (c) Intersection

 

Yet, his “beginning” has become his legacy. The internet is chock full of his traces. He left behind a dance track list on his myspace page and reverbnation page (he’s currently listed as #5 on the Abuja charts), a youtube page with two videos, a twitter page full of banter, a facebook fan page that is slowly filling up with tributes, and one mix album “The Take Over,” for sale online, with some of the most promising new Nigerian artists, including Sazzy’s “Mr Chairman.”

A whole flurry of other blogs and new have written obituaries and tributes to him.  Olamilde Entertainment gives a short biography taken from his myspace page:

Sazzy born Osaze Omonbude in Nigeria, Oct. 15 1984; he had a good client and fan base in his country. His intention was to his wings internationally. As a child, he grew up listening to mostly international acts like The fugees, Notorious B.I.G, Jay-Z, Nas, Madonna, Shade, Fela and loads more. Since then he has always had a dream to sing and produce internationally, “let everybody here what I have to say’’. With a strong love for Good Music in any genre and a free mind in creativity, Sazzy was the type of act music needed. ”I really do believe with GOD, Hard work, Patience and Persistence you can achieve anything in life and I do hope all my aspirations and dreams shall come to pass. This is just the beginning for me, loads more is yet to come, music is about to change”.

Among the other sites to cover his untimely passing are modernghana.com,nigerianfilms.com, Linda Ikeji’s blogCampus HeatNigerian Entertainment Today, Abujacity.comLast Plane to Lagos, Bella Naija, and 360 Nobs. Not Just Ok, posted a tribute song by his Sazzy’s friends Uche the African Rockstar, Yoye, Lindsey, 5 Mics, Bugzy, Snappy. [UPDATE 5 November 2010: You can read the article about Sazzy I published in last week's Weekly Trust here]

[Update 30 October 2010. Yesterday, Sazzy’s  friend Korex Calibur, whom he worked with on music videos, posted Sazzy’s final music video, a brilliant piece, which makes you realize just how much we are going to miss him….

On his myspace page, Sazzy writes,

”Every time I write or produce a song, I think outside the box and do not get caught up in music of the day or time. I make music straight from the heart. Music is who you are, I can’t be somebody else.”

And if music is who Sazzy was, he’s left a large part of himself behind in this world to comfort those who loved him.

Respect, Mr. Chairman. We will miss you!

Iyan Tama reaches settlement with Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board

In breaking news, the Hausa director and former gubernatorial candidate, Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama has dropped his lawsuit for defamation against Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board in exchange for the board’s dropping of charges against him in a case that has dragged on for almost two years.

Iyan Tama at court in Kaduna, July 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

Iyan Tama called me this afternoon to make sure I had read today’s article by Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, “My stay in prison was a blessing -Iyantama,” and he wanted me to be sure that I pointed out that although he had been asked about being “convicted months in prison” that he had never been actually convicted. Although the mobile court magistrate judge Mukhtar Ahmad had sentenced him to three months in prison and Iyan Tama had served that time, he had appealed the conviction and, although delayed multiple times, the appeal was heard and upheld. The attorney general of Kano state, according to Leadership reporter Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz:

said the trial was “improper”, “incomplete”, a “mistake” and requires retrial before a more “competent magistrate”.

“I am not in support of the conviction in this trial”, said the attorney-general, “It is obvious that the trial was not completed before judgement was delivered but there and then the presiding magistrate went ahead and delivered a judgement”, he added.

The judge called for a retrial. Again according to Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz in Leadership (unfortunately Leadership has taken down the links to its archives, but I have it quoted here on my blog). Iyan Tama went to a Kaduna appeal court to appeal the retrial, since he had already served three months in prison, and there had been multiple delays. The case was still in court until apparently this week when he reached a settlement with the Kano State Censorship Board, during a hearing for his lawsuit against the Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulakarim, for alleged defamation during an interview with DITV in Kano, in which Rabo apparently claimed Iyan Tama had not registered his company with the appropriate bodies. According to Abdulrahmane Tonga reporting for Leadership,

The DG was dragged before the court by Iyan-Tama, who alleged that he had defamed his character in a television interview he granted DITV Kaduna earlier this year, when he allegedly stated that Iyan-Tama Multimedia was not formally registered as a moviemaking business enterprise.

Tonga continues with details of the continued court case, including that Rabo, who had previously refused court summons to lawsuits in Kaduna, finally showed up:

The court had sat twice without Rabo, before it subpoenaed him to appear in person after a request from the plaintiff’s counsel, Barrister Muhammad Sani Katu of solicitors Mamman Nasir and Co.

Rabo, who appeared to be limping yesterday, arrived the court at 9:05 a.m. in a Toyota bus belonging to the Kano State Ministry of Justice. He was accompanied by two state counsel, Rabi Waya and Sanusi Ma’aji, as well as the chairman of the censorship board, Malam Rabi’u.

He had never answered a court’s summons in the many legal cases filed against him by various movie practitioners in Kano and Kaduna during the past three years since he was appointed by Governor Shekarau to sanitise the film industry.

For more details of the “hot words” exchanged between the lawyers of the two parties, read the rest of Tonga’s article.

Iyan-Tama with Kano State lawyer Barrister Rabi Suleiman Waya, and Iyan-Tama's lawyer Barrister Sani Muhammad Katu outside of a Kaduna court, July 2010(c)Carmen McCain

According to the interview with Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in today’s Sunday Trust, Iyan Tama said that

The resolution was reached as a result of consultations between my lawyers and that of Rabo where some terms were agreed upon. After we filed the case before a Kaduna High court over alleged defamation, claiming N10 million damages and Rabo failed to appear during the first two sittings saying his security needed to be guaranteed, my lawyer prayed to the court that it was important the defendant appeared and the court granted the plea by way of ordering that Rabo appeared while it guaranteed his security. [...] My lawyer insisted that if I will have to withdraw the case, the censorship board will also have to withdraw its case against me which has been pending for quite a while at a Kano magistrate court.

According to Iyan Tama, the terms of settlement were as follows:

The first was that my company, Iyantama Multimedia was registered as a business name [... with] a certificate of registration KN/0010927 dated the 16th day of December 1997. The second term was that the defendant’s statement that led to the suit was based on a search report made at the corporate Affairs Commission for a limited liability company, and thirdly, that the parties in the suit have in pursuance of the pre-trial conference conducted on the 28th day of September, 2010 resolved to terminate the suit and the criminal case pending before Chief Magistrate Court 7, Nomans Land between the Kano State Censorship Board and Iyantama with case number KA/CMC/28/08.

Iyan Tama says that he didn’t “get anything as compensation” except for the public acknowledgment that he

was not operating illegally. I am happy that the world now knows that Iyantama has been operating legally since inception in 1997.

Hausa filmmaker and politician Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama (photo courtesy of Iyan Tama)

Iyan Tama also talked extensively on the events leading to his imprisonment and his experiences in prison.

Being a filmmaker, I was amazed by every single little thing and therefore made friends with other inmates. I was more like a journalist in prison; I carried out series of interviews with the inmates from which I was able to gather dozens of ideas from which I am currently working to put into films. [...] That is why I said being in prison has turned out to be a blessing to me and I never regretted it.

I was not able to find a link to the Sunday Trust article online, but I have scanned in a photo of the article on flickr. If you click on the photo below, it will take you to a version large enough to read onscreen.

"My stay in prison was a blessing--Iyantama" interview with Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, 17 October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iyan Tama case has been one of the ones I have followed most closely on this blog, since he was imprisoned at the end of December 2008. For a list of articles and posts I have written related to the case, see the following links:

On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, Nigeria, 13 January 2009

Kano State High Court Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s Appeal, 22 January 2009

2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s Family, 23 January 2009

Iyan Tama’s case “not listed,” 26 January 2009

Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences (a piece that looks at editorials written about Iyan Tama that claim that his company was not registered with CAC), 29 January 2009

The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Mukhtar Writes Again (more on the editorial convergences), 10 February 2009

Interview with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board (in which he discusses the Iyan Tama case), 13 February 2009

Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama,  16 February 2009

Award Winning Film Lands Director in Jail, 16 February 2009, IPS News

Update on the Iyan Tama Case: Bail Hearing Set for 5 March, 19 February 2009

Updates on the Iyan Tama Case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywood, 14 March 2009

Iyan Tama granted Bail, the judge calls for a new trial, 17 March 2009

The Latest on the Iyan Tama Case from the Nigerian News Service, plus new fees from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board, 2 October 2009

FIM Magazine Editor Arrested on the Accusation of Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board, 4 July 2010

Kaduna State Filmmakers Association take Kano State Police, Court, and DG of Kano Censor’s Board to court of breach of “fundamental Human Rights,” 21 July 2010

Iyan Tama Takes Rabo to court over defamation, and other lawsuits, 18 August 2010

My new column in Weekly Trust. First installment.

A few months ago, the editor of Weekly Trust, offered me a column in the paper, and my first piece came out this past Saturday on page 31. In my column-writing rookieness, I had misunderstood the word count he had quoted me, so, once I saw it published, I was awe-inspired by my editor’s skill in cutting down a piece that had been twice the length, while still keeping most of the flow. However, I decided that since I do have this blog, I would post the longer version of the piece here, which allows for more details and context, and where I can post a few more photos to illustrate the content. I’ve gone ahead and taken a few of the suggested cuts, so this is a hybrid between what I submitted and what was published. The photos and the column title “My Thoughts Exactly” that appeared in the Weekly Trust were also the editors choice….  I copy a photo of the column as printed here (if you click on the photo, it will take you to a link with a larger version that you can read), and the original non-cut piece below. [UPDATE: 21 October 2010: The soft copy is also available on the Trust website now]

I’d love your feedback on the column and suggestions for future subjects.

Enjoy

 

"Why the beginning is the best place to start" Weekly Trust, page 31. Carmen McCain's first column

 

I begin this column with a slight sense of trepidation. I am an American, venturing to write a weekly column about my interaction with contemporary popular arts in Nigeria, focusing on Hausa film, music, and literature. “What does an American have to say about Nigerian, and particularly Hausa, art that is worth reading?” you may ask.  So in this first piece, let me give you a background on myself and why I am so passionate about the arts in Northern Nigeria. I hope that you will come back next week for more.

 

Gidan Dabino Publishers, August 2005 (c) Carmen McCain

 

My first trip to Kano as an adult was in 2005. I had just spent nearly three months in Sokoto learning Hausa, as a part of a requirement for my U.S. based PhD programme in African Languages and Literature. A large part of that study had been reading Hausa novels and watching Hausa films, and I was newly starstruck by my meeting with Hausa novelists and filmmakers. My formal education, thus far, had been in literature, a BA in English and postgraduate work in African literature. Ever since my undergraduate days studying the Romantic movement of 19th century England, the Beat movement of 20th century America, and others, I had been fascinated by these intense creative historical movements, where writers and artists and philosophers and political activists work together and influence each other.  That August, when I first heard filmmakers in intense debate at the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies on Zoo Road or sat with Hausa writers at the office of Gidan Dabino Publishing Company and listened to them discuss the massive numbers of novels they were selling, I felt a sense of déjà vu . This was one of those rich historical arts moments I had always wanted to be a part of—and it was here in Hausa in Northern Nigeria, a place I had often heard disparaged as being full of illiterates and extremists.  I knew then I had to come back. I wanted to study this movement so that other people outside the Hausa speaking world would know of it; I wanted to combat stereotypes about the Hausa speaking north; but mostly I just wanted to come back and be a part of the creative energy.

I had first come to Nigeria as a child in 1988 accompanying my parents.  My father was a dreamer, and one of his dreams was to take his children to live in a place where they would be able to see beyond the privilege, materialism, and self-centredness of American life. When we first went to Port Harcourt on the invitation of a university, my parents told us we would be in Nigeria for four years. Four years turned into twenty-two and counting. After three years in Port Harcourt, our family moved to Jos in 1991, where my father became a professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Jos. My parents have lived in Jos ever since.

Our parents encouraged us to venture into Nigerian life beyond our international school bubble. My brother Dan, as young as he was, co-hosted a Rock and Roll show on 95.5 FM, Jos, with DBMC, the Rocking MC, foreshadowing his work in entertainment as a filmmaker. My sister Laura, once she was in high school, volunteered at Evangel Hospital, anticipating her career as a medical doctor. I was shyer, preferring to spend all my time reading fantasy and science fiction novels, daydreaming, or writing in my journal.

During one school break, my father signed up all of us children to take a two month Hausa course, where we learned the basic Hausa of greetings and market language. But, as a teenager immersed in my own world, I wasn’t interested. I was convinced, from my struggles with Spanish at school,  that I couldn’t learn another language, and I didn’t see the need. We didn’t need Hausa at school. We wouldn’t need it in America, where I was going. It was interesting but not worth pouring my life into.

When I returned to the U.S. for university, I studied English literature and creative writing. I hung out with groups of writers and poets and became co-editor of my college literary magazine. I wanted to be a part of one of those significant historical moments I was studying. I wanted to write something people would read after I died. I planned to stay in the U.S. then. I imagined myself in the forests of New Hampshire or the craggy coasts of Maine, sitting in a bay window watching the snow fall and penning my poetry. But when following my graduation, I moved to New York City with my best friend from Nigeria and worked as an editor at a small children’s book publisher, my longing began to turn back towards Nigeria. Hosting old school friends, whenever they came through New York, I realized how much of Nigeria I had missed as a child, living as I had in the world of fiction and the protected atmosphere of an international school. As much as I loved New York and loved the masses of people from all over the world who co-exist in the city, I craved for Nigeria. I wanted to find out if I could belong there—me this white American girl, who had many homes but not a single one I felt I could commit to.

So in September 2001 just as the towers came down in New York and the fires raged across Jos, I returned on a Fulbright scholarship to Jos. I spent the next two years doing a little research, a little writing, a little teaching, a little editing. I sang in the community choir, took French classes at the Alliance Francaise and studied Hausa with a series of tutors. I discovered on a one month trip to Lomé, Togo, to improve my French, that I wasn’t bad at learning languages; I just needed to live in a place to be able to speak. I became involved with the small but thriving Jos branch of Association of Nigerian Authors and determined to go back to school and do a PhD on contemporary Nigerian writing.

When I began the MA to PhD programme in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I discovered that proficiency in an African language was a  requirement of the program. And

 

The film club in Sokoto I frequented and where I first became interested in Hausa films (c) Carmen McCain

 

that’s how I found myself in Sokoto in 2005 on language study, in Kano in 2006 for pre-dissertation research on Hausa novels and films, and finally back in Kano in 2008 for dissertation research on Hausa popular arts. I have been here ever since.

When I returned to Kano in 2008, the Kannywood I had caught a glimpse of in 2005 and 2006 was gone. In 2007, a private cell phone video of a Hausa actress with a non-film industry lover had been leaked and had become the hottest viral video in Kano. Although it was a private video of an indiscrete act between individuals, the entire Hausa film industry took the heat.  A new head of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, was appointed; the film industry was suspended for nearly a year; and actor and musician Adam A. Zango was imprisoned for releasing his music video album without passing it through the board. I arrived back in Kano eager to re-enter the world of film, but everything had changed.   Gone were the cheerful song and dance sequences shot guerilla style on the side of the road in Farm Centre. Gone was the jolly confusion of four films at a time on location at Fine Time Park and Restaurant.

 

On the set of Albashi 3 in the Fine Time Park and Restaurant, July 2006. There were about four other films being shot there that day. (c)Carmen McCain

 

Gone were the gala shows in open air theatres near Marhaba cinema. Gone was the anticipation that you might see filmmakers at any time, shooting on the side of the road. The industry seemed more spread out and scattered than I remembered. Films seemed to have become darker and more interior.

Although I had been on quite a few locations in 2006, on my return to Kano in 2008, I spent nearly a year without visiting a single set. Filmmakers were leaving the state now, to Jigawa, to Kaduna, to Katsina, to Zaria. I was being hosted by the Department of Mass Communications at Bayero University and teaching a class. I didn’t have as much freedom to go out of state to film locations, so instead I began to hang out in the studios, where editors cut together movies and singers taped jingles, recorded their albums, and sang the songs that punctuate

 

Golden Goose Studio: Ibrahim Chairman, Aisha Golden Goose, and Osama bin Music (c)Carmen McCain

 

the films.  My main hang out was at Golden Goose Studio on Zoo Road, managed by the Hausa rapper Ziriums, with assistance of his brother Osama bin Music. There I grew to know the Hausa novelist and screenwriter Nazir Adam Salih, editors Sulaiman Abubakar, Yakubu, and Mohammad Abdullahi , musicians DJ Yaks, Alfazazi, Pastor Dan, Suhaima YK and Aisha; the writer, producer and director Baba Ali Yakasai, and young Ya’u, the orphan who had begged on the streets before becoming a studio hand and being sponsored to go back to school by the studio.

 

Filmmaker Baba Ali Yakasai and Writer Nazir Adam Salih at Golden Goose Studio (c)Carmen McCain

 

Large numbers of artists trooped through the studio on a weekly basis, overseeing films as they were edited, or voicing radio programmes and songs in the studio.

It was at Golden Goose that I began to think and dream in Hausa, and it was there that I began to learn much of what I know about the Hausa film industry. It was at Golden Goose that I fasted for Ramadan for the first time and broke fast with young filmmakers and musicians who would contribute chopped pineapple and watermelon, bags of kosai,  bowls of koko, and newspaper wraps full of suya. When the iftar call to prayer came at sunset, and they had prayed, we would descend on the food. It would be gone within minutes. We would sit for hours laughing, planning film

 

Me with singer Suhaima YK

 

scripts, having long conversations on religion and politics and film and culture.  It was here I finally felt I had found the home in Nigeria I had been seeking for so long.

That year, as my research became personal, my first infatuation for Hausa popular culture turned into a fierce love for the young people who work through the night editing and writing and singing, making a living for themselves through

 

Musician Ziriums, Writer Nazir Adam Salih, and Director Falalu Dorayi making music in Golden Goose Studio, (c)Carmen McCain

 

their creativity. And as I read newspapers and email listserves and heard discussions on the radio about films, I was disturbed by the disparities between the public discourse I heard about filmmakers, in which they were often characterized as immoral layabouts just in it for the fast money, spoiling society with shoddy films and music, and what I was seeing and hearing from the filmmakers themselves. They spoke passionately and with nuance about the films they were eager to make, the research they had done on new equipment. I would hear hours of conversation on the aesthetic and narrative features of the Lost and Prison Break series or Indian films, fervant discussions on social inequalities, the hypocrisies of the elite, and a desire to expose and correct ills in society.  They frequently attempted to convert me from Christianity to Islam.

In October 2008, a few months after I began to hang out at Golden Goose, the popular comedian Ibro and his colleague Lawal Kaura were arrested and imprisoned for two months after a quick trial at a mobile court attached to the Kano Censor’s Board with no lawyer present. They were accused of having not registered a company they claimed did not exist.  At the end of December 2009, pioneering Hausa filmmaker Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama was imprisoned for three months on accusations that he had not censored his award-winning film Tsintsiya with the Kano Censor’s Board even though he had stated on the radio that the film  was not for sale in Kano. But these were only the big names. Hundreds of other film industry workers were also being regularly detained and fined for obscure offenses.

 

Sulaiman Mpeg behind bars at KSCB mobile court

 

In February 2009, my friend Sulaiman, the editor I had gotten to know at Golden Goose, was arrested on accusations that the studio he was now working in was not registered with the censor’s board.  Sulaiman’s employer came to the police station bringing the papers showing the studio was registered, although it had recently moved locations, but the police insisted that Sulaiman would spend the night in jail before being taken before a judge. The conflicts have continued into 2010, most recently in a series of legal altercations between the Kaduna filmmaker’s association and the director general of the Kano Censors board, which have included Kano police travelling to Kaduna to arrest the editor of Fim Magazine, Aliyu Gora.

 

Editor of Fim Magazine Aliyu Gora II and filmmaker Iyan Tama at court in Kaduna. Both were imprisoned in Goron Dutse Prison in Kano on accusations of the Kano State Censor's Board (c)Carmen McCain

 

Because there seemed to be so little widely available news coverage of these events, I began a blog to document alleged abuses as well as to provide a forum where I could post photos, interviews and reports of interactions I had with artists and writers.  I hope this column can extend the work I first began on my blog, and plan to focus mainly on Hausa popular culture and my experience of it, though I may occasionally branch into other Naija related subjects.

Although my first encounter with Nigeria began  twenty-two years ago and although I feel that I have found my family and kindred spirits here, I remain conscious of the fact that I am a foreigner. There will be places in Nigeria where I will always remain an outsider, and people to whom my opinions will always be tinged with the ignorance of the stranger. That said, I hope that my readers will take my contributions in the spirit in which they are given: the love of a foster child for her adopted country. I hope I may contribute in freshness of perspective what I lack in full understanding, and that as I write, I will transfer some of the excitement and love I have for these creative entrepreneurs  to my readers. I welcome your feedback.