Category Archives: Nigerian Music

STOP INTERNET CENSORSHIP: Protesting SOPA/PIPA bills currently before the U.S. Congress

 

sopa-blacout-wired

sopa-blacout-wired (Photo credit: Search Influence)

For those of you who have been waiting for my reaction (and I have a lot!) to the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria and the #Occupy Nigeria protests (sorry, if you are trying to access that wikipedia link on 18 July 2012, it is blacked out), I am hoping to post something by the end of today/early morning tomorrow. But for now, I am writing a quick post about another protest, related to the blacking out of the wikipedia article I posted.

Wikipedia censored Jan 18 2012

Wikipedia censored Jan 18 2012 (Photo credit: PhylG)

If you are accessing this blog between 18-24 January 2012, you may notice the black ribbon that says “Stop Censorship” across the top right hand corner of the page. I am participating in a general wordpress “strike”, which is joining many other internet sites in a strike,  to protest the SOPA/PIPA bills currently before the U.S. Congress.

 

 

According to CBS:

 

There are already laws that protect copyrighted material, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). But while the DMCA focuses on removing specific, unauthorized content from the Internet, SOPA and PIPA instead target the platform — that is, the site hosting the unauthorized content.

The bills would give the Justice Department the power to go after foreign websites willfully committing or facilitating intellectual property theft — “rogue” sites like The Pirate Bay. The government would be able to force U.S.-based companies, like Internet service providers, credit card companies and online advertisers, to cut off ties with those sites.

College Candy adds that

 

The proposed SOPA bill would allow copyright holders and the Department of Justice to file a court order against websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement. Now, that’s a broad statement. Basically, “the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as PayPal from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.” This could potentially shut down sites like Tumblr, Flickr, and more. We certainly don’t want people pirating, but this bill will seriously cripple the internet and our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

PIPA will also be just as damaging. It could lead to the removal of online resources and YouTubebecause any type of file sharing could be prohibited by the law. The main goal of PIPA is pretty much to protect Hollywood and the music industry. People download music, movies, and TV shows for free and “The Man” is getting angry. Most of the sites are from outside the United States, so this bill would block IP addresses from accessing those sites and allow courts to sue search engines for presenting links to those sites. Google is opposed. The bill is so vague that you could ultimately get sued for posting a video to YouTube with a song in the background. It will destroy the internet the way we use it and make it less secure in the process.

Although the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of America and other content providers are understandably concerned about online piracy and are pushing the bills, such an act risks suppressing creative new forms of distribution and expression.

 

In one of the better explanations of how these bills could affect the ordinary internet user, 1stwebdesigner.com argues that

 

These acts are stopping developers from coming up with the next big thing in the online market that could change how we use the internet. Let’s say that these acts were around back when the internet was started, how many of the most popular sites would still have come into fruition. There would be no Facebook, YouTube, MediaFire, SoundCloud, Twitter, DropBox, or any other site that can be targeted as a place where online piracy could take place. Is it even possible to think about what the internet would be like without sites like this?

As a blogger on multiple sites including this personal blog and a blog for the Hausa Home Video Resource Centre, Flickr where I upload my own photos, and Youtube which I use for research and also upload trailers and excerpts of Hausa films that help give them publicity, I am personally concerned about how this would affect my own usage, but as a “Nollywood” scholar I am also concerned about the repercussions this could have 1) on innovative development and distribution of creative content outside of the U.S, and 2) access to content for scholars and other non-commercial users. In his chapter “Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian video and the Infrastructure of Piracy” in Signal and Noise, Brian Larkin has pointed out that the reason the Nigerian film industry was able to spread and become popular so rapidly was that piracy networks were able to spread the films into areas legal distributers had no acess to. When I interviewed Brooklyn-based legal distributor Sal Jide Thomas, he affirmed that many of the legal distributers of Nollywood in the U.S. were once pirates, saying that though he was never a pirate, Nollywood is

 

lucky that they have a market that they didn’t create. Their product created it. So we can’t complain too much about bootlegging in the US anyway. As I tell my fellow marketers, they are responsible for the market that we have. What we can do is actually find a way of incorporating it, because first of all, they have the distribution channel. They still have more people than we do. So, if we can work with them, it’s a win-win situation. The reason that there are bootleggers is if you haven’t done your distribution properly. In the U.S., I don’t think we have a bootleg problem. We have a supply problem.

It may be that harnessing piracy websites for legal distribution is the best way to go, rather than trying to suppress them.  The Nollywoodlove site for example is bringing in legitimate funds for filmmakers through youtube advertising, while viewers watch for free–a business model the founder of the brilliant Hausafilms.tv site Mahmud Fagge is trying, with the consent of some Hausa filmmakers, to reproduce for Hausa films on his youtube channel. While concerns over piracy are legitimate, it would be much better to encourage these sorts of creative approaches than in trying to suppress them. And, come on, seriously, computer programmers/hackers/pirates are much more versatile and fast-moving than government  or laws can be, as can be seen in the hacking of the Nigerian Ministry of Transportation Site by “hactivists” on January 6. As of today, January 18, the site was still down, though the hackers message had been removed. The point is that internet technology must be harnessed for legal distribution and pirates must be fought (or attracted to the “light side”) on an individual basis. Banning sites is not going to help anyone.

 

If you would like to add your own website to the strike, find out more about it here and here.  As my blog content and so many of my readers are based outside of the U.S., I decided not to participate in the general black-out of my content, but I do urge my readers to click on the black ribbon and sign the petition to protest the bill. In addition to the petition U.S. citizens can sign to go to their elected representatives, there is also a petition for non-U.S. citizens to join the protest. This U.S. initiative could have global repercussions on how we all experience the internet.

 

(And for other news on outrageous American censorship, check out this insane ban by the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona State on “Mexican-American” studies. Among the books removed are Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Opressed and William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest!)

 

“Equestrian Elegance at Sallah-time”: a review of the documentary by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu and Bala Anas Babinlata

A little late, but Barka da Sallah! Eid Mubarak. Da fatan an yi sallah lafiya.

In today’s column in Weekly Trust, I reviewed the documentary Equestrian Elegance, written, narrated, and produced by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu and directed by Bala Anas Babinlata. To read the column on the Trust website, click on the link, to read the hard copy, click on the photo, or if you have slow internet, just read the piece below:

Equestrian Elegance at Sallah-time

 Written by Carmen McCain Saturday, 12 November 2011 05:00

Before I moved to Kano in 2008, I had heard much about the Sallah celebrations as a “tourist attraction.” Expatriate acquaintances both in Nigeria and outside the country told me of travels to Kano to experience the colour and pageantry of the annual event. In 2008, I attended my first “Hawan Sallah” at the emir’s palace and two days later stood with a friend as the parade of horses and riders, hunters on foot and men on stilts, processed past her Fagge house on the outskirts of the old city. At the centre of it all was the magnificent emir Alhaji (Dr) Ado Bayero, who rode under a twirling silk umbrella. He was greeted with cries of blessing from the crowd, their fists upraised in salute. [For photos of the the "Hawan Nassarawa" during Eid el-Fitr I attended in 2010, click to my flickr album here or for the blog post about it, click here]

What most struck me as I stood with crowd on both days was the community feel of the festivities: onlookers calling out the names of the riders, riders shouting down greetings to friends, the genuine affection in the salutes to the emir. This sense of familiarity is captured beautifully in the 2009 documentary film, Equestrian Elegance: the Kano Sallah Pageantry Festival written, produced and narrated by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu and directed by Bala Anas Babinlata. Professor Abdalla of Bayero University is one of the most grounded and prolific scholars of Hausa popular culture, with dozens of books and articles published both locally and internationally. His most important contributions, however, go beyond academic scholarship to actual interventions into popular culture: among which was his founding and moderation of the Finafinan Hausa and marubuta yahoogroups, important critical forums for dialogue about Hausa popular literature and film;  the organizing of concerts and award shows for Hausa musicians, and his innovative creation of what he calls “Hausa classical music” by recording Hausa traditional instruments being played without singing. Professor Abdalla also spans the world of scholarship and art with the films put out by his production company Visually Ethnographic Productions.

The documentary Equestrian Elegance (1 hour 28 mins), which was shot in 2008 but has not yet been released for commercial distribution, covers the four days of parades through Kano city during Eid al-Fitr: “Hawan Sallah,” “Hawan Daushe,” “Hawan Nassarawa,” and “Hawan Dorayi,” and the additional day of pageantry “Hawan Fanisau” during Eid al-Adha. A narrative voiceover by Professor Abdalla, explains the events and an innovative animation traces along a map the parade route taken each day, but the film mostly celebrates the details of the festivities from the sunrise on the first day of Sallah to the sunset on the last day. Within this symbolic frame, the rhythm of Sallah is measured out by each procession out of and back towards the palace.

While I admittedly grew a bit weary about an hour into the film, I think the attention to detail here is important. Professor Abdalla told me that the unhurried pacing was intentional: he wanted the film to “unfold in very slow motion, so you can absorb the details.” The focus here was on capturing “the pageantry. Every horse is different. Every rider is different. People stay out there three hours watching and don’t get tired.” His goal was to show the “high level of refinement” in the Sallah parades and the “structural elegance of pageantry.”

Such elegance is captured in the beauty of the cinematography: the close-ups of the courtier crouching to perform the morning gun salute and his graceful almost balletic twirl through the gun smoke; the rich texture of both horse and rider being robed in layer after layer of damask in preparation for the parade; the hazy glow of Kano swathed in harmattan during the final day of “Hawan Fanisau.”

But beyond presenting the elegance of the event, Professor Abdalla told me that another goal was to present to a global audience that sense of community surrounding Sallah. Although Kano’s Sallah festivities are probably some of the most photographed annual events in Nigeria, the photographs taken by tourists are often formally beautiful but distancing. There is little knowledge or intimacy in them.  Here, however, as Professor Abdalla points out you “can see the sense of community. It’s like carnival, a street party, with mom and dad and kids.” And it is this sense of community and lived tradition that I like most about the film. Kano is often either romanticized by the national and international media as a place of “timeless tradition,” an ancient exotic city of fairy tale, or denigrated as, what one foreign blogger termed, “an overgrown village,” a backwards northern outpost with a medieval mentality. Equestrian Elegance explodes both stereotypes, presenting the richness of tradition from insider’s perspective. One of the moments that best captures this delightful mix of light-heartedness and ceremony is in a shot where the dignified male space of the emir’s speech at the government house is playfully undermined by the little girl playing with a balloon directly behind him. As opposed to stereotypes about Kano under shari’a, women are not excluded from the celebration. While they may not be a part of the main spectacle, they take part in the larger community event. Girls and women hang off of balconies and push into the crowds to catch a glimpse of the horses and riders. As Professor Abdalla points out, Sallah is a family affair.

Part of what contributes to this “insider’s perspective” comes from the camera operators’ ability to get up close to their subjects, not the flattened close-up of a zoom camera but the intimate close-up of someone who is a part of the celebration. The subjects of the camera’s gaze sometimes seem to recognize the person behind the camera, and the film is often self-referential. While tourist photographs often attempt to capture the “timelessness” of the event, avoiding shots of other photographers or signs that situate their subjects in a particular modern moment, this film cheerfully revels in contemporary local knowledge of the event. The parade, as Professor Abdalla points out in his narrative commentary, is located in a very specific and recent history, including a route which began as part of the current emir’s Sallah visit to his mother.

There are multiple references to the way in which the event is viewed both through foreign and homegrown eyes.  The tourists become part of the spectacle. They are depicted laughing on the palace balcony or lining up in front of the crowd with their zoom lenses. But more significant are the frequent moments of easy familiarity when local photographers and videographers enter the camera’s view. The camera repeatedly captures the parade processing past photography and video shops, a subtle tribute to the many Kano residents who use the camera to tell their own stories. Professor Abdalla himself makes a cameo appearance towards the end of the film.

The cosmopolitan mix that makes up Kano is also found in the soundtrack of the documentary. The most striking piece of music is Babangida Kakadawo’s praise song “Sarkin Kano Ado Bayero” to the accompaniment of the kuntigi, used to great effect in the moments where the emir appears. However, the soundtrack is also sprinkled with Malian musician Ali Farka Toure’s guitar pieces and another song featuring Egyptian musician Hassan Ramzy. (Professor Abdalla argues the inclusion of these tracks follows international standards of fair usage since the looped excerpts are less than one minute.) While I initially thought the use of non-Nigerian music detracted from the “authenticity” of the film, I find convincing Professor Abdalla’s argument that he wanted to expose people to music from other parts of Africa, a goal in keeping with Kano’s history as a cosmopolitan trade centre.

The borrowed music, along with the slow pace, could be an attraction or flaw depending on the taste of the viewer. I was not a fan of the digital effects in the transitions, which I thought distracted more than they added to the film.  But these moments of imperfection are far outweighed by the strength in the completeness of the film, which moved beyond the picturesque palace durbar to cover the entire procession and its connection to the people of the city. Equestrian Elegance is an important historical resource that is valuable to outsiders trying to learn about the culture and traditions of Kano but perhaps even more so to those from Kano, who want to remember the richness of a lived tradition, Sallah as performed in the first decade of the 21st century.

 

Mr. Lecturer, Snoop Dogg, and Dbanj’s “Mr. Endowed”

I think I’ve set a new record for neglecting this blog. I have had a series of deadlines on various writing projects, and I didn’t want to allow myself to blog until I met at least one of the deadlines. Now, I have a lot to catch up on.  Since it is impossible to go back and reproduce all the posts I should have posted, I will just start with the most recent–this week’s column in Weekly Trust. This is not my best or favourite column, but it is one particularly well suited for a blog, because I can bling it up with all kinds of videos to make the reading experience more stimulating.  (Forgive me if some of the videos here are a little less than great quality. I was trying to put up this blog post on an internet connection that would usually only let me load about 10 seconds of the video before timing out, so I was posting videos from memory rather than verifying the youtube uploads that were the best quality. Please NOTE that the videos embedded here are being used in this blog post under Fair Use laws for review purposes.)

Mr. Lecturer, Snoop Dogg, and D’banj’s “Mr. Endowed”

 Written by carmen mccain Saturday, 22 October 2011 05:00

 Let’s call him “Mr. Lecturer.” A few years ago, on the last day of an academic conference after the few other women at the conference had left, I went back to my hotel room to relax.

I heard a knock at my door. It was “Mr. Lecturer,” a colleague attending the conference, a big, tall man of probably around fifty. When I opened the door, he pressed himself so close to me that I took an instinctive step backwards and he wriggled into my room. He said that he needed a quiet place to work and he wanted to write in my room. “Do you not have a room in this hotel?” I asked. He replied he did but he wanted to use my laptop because his battery was low. I edged closer to the door and told him that my battery was also low and that I was just going out to eat. I grabbed my bag, ushered him out of the room and wandered in self exile around the streets of the unfamiliar city for a while. Before it got dark, I bought a compilation vcd of Naija music videos from a street vender, then went back to my room and locked myself in.  Around 8pm, there were several knocks at my door. I turned off my lights and refused to answer. I sat in the dark fuming, until I remembered the compilation of music videos I had bought earlier.  With nothing else to do, I slotted the vcd into my laptop.

This was the first time I had seen the video for P-Square’s “Do Me,” or D’banj’s “Booty Call.” I knew the songs and frequently sang along to the catchy choruses. But in watching the compilation, which also included music videos from American artists like Snoop Dogg, I grew angrier and angrier. The music videos were full of women in buttock-revealing miniskirts, brassieres, and fish-net stockings. The camera zoomed in on close-ups of their gyrating backsides and heaving breasts. It was like the representation of ‘natives’ by various parts of their bodies that Chinua Achebe noted in Joseph Conrad’s racist novel Heart of Darkness. This time it was women being cut up into body parts. Rarely would the camera focus on a woman’s face.  In D’banj’s “Booty Call,” fully-dressed men sat back and leered, as barely-dressed women pranced and paraded before them.

P-Squares “Do Me”

Dbanj’s “Booty Call”

As I watched, I grew so angry that I was unable to sleep all night. I was angry at the musicians for objectifying women. I was angry with the women for allowing themselves to be objectified. And most of all, I was furious with Mr. Lecturer for thinking I, the only woman left at the conference and his colleague, albeit a junior one, was “fair game.” (Lord have mercy on his poor students!) The music videos did not make Mr. Lecturer harass me, but both are symptomatic of the same underlying  disrespect for women—a condition captured brilliantly in Eedris Abdulkareem’s music video “Mr. Lecturer.”

Eedris Abdulkareem’s “Mr. Lecturer

I remembered that sleepless night recently when I finally had the bandwidth to download Dbanj’s music video “Mr. Endowed” directed by Sesan and featuring the American hip hop artist Snoop Dogg. It is one of the worst videos, Nigerian or American, I’ve seen.

Dbanj’s “Mr. Endowed, feat. Snoop Dogg”

Don’t get me wrong, I love hip hop and dancehall. Even though I hate D’banj’s and P-Square’s music videos with big cars and scantily dressed women, I admit to the contradiction of still singing along to the lyrics when they come on the radio.  Although I think Snoop is a maddening sexist, I occasionally enjoy his deadpan voice and irreverent raps, which are so outrageous that sometimes all you can do is laugh.  The Bollywood music video “Singh is King” featuring Snoop, for example, plays ironically with Orientalist stereotypes.  There are dancing girls but they are included with a self-mocking wink.

Akshay Kumar and Snoop Dogg in “Singh is King”

Nigeria’s icon Fela Anikulapo-Kuti similarly thrived on the notoriety of extravagant sexuality, featuring topless women on his record albums, mostly naked dancers at his performances, and marrying 27 women in one swoop. Yet, as outrageous as his sexual excesses were, he was committed to the Nigerian masses, fearlessly speaking out against injustice.

Fela in England, 1984

photo credit: Nigerian Curiosity

Dbanj, on the other hand, as “Kokomaster” with his “Koko Mansion” and “Kokolettes” groomed to please him, courts the notoriety without any of the social responsibility. He seems to style himself the Hugh Hefner of Nigeria, surrounded by women who are not “queens” (and eventually wives) as Fela called them but mere sexual playtoys.

In “Mr. Endowed,” D’banj takes a song with narcissistic lyrics and a mediocre dance track and blings it up with exotic locations and decent cinematography.  The conceit of Snoop being D’banj’s American uncle is clever, and my favourite part of the video is when D’banj presents the American artist with a Nigerian passport, giving him the name Baba Aja Oluwasnoop.  There is also a certain nationalistic pleasure in seeing D’banj cruise the streets of Los Angeles in a green and white Rolls Royce, bursting into Yoruba while dancing around the mansion under a Nigerian and American flag. D’banj implies that he has done all this for Naija, singing, “At the end of the day when my people see me, I bring them joy, they give me a round of applause.”

But the rest of the video takes the clichés of wine, women, and song typical of both Snoop’s and D’banj’s videos to new levels of vulgarity. “Uncle Snoop’s” house has an elaborate marble and gold staircase that is decorated by two “vixens” in bustiers and bikini bottoms who writhe around licking their lips and stroking themselves. Musicians wander about flashing fistfuls of dollars, opening suitcases full of blingy time pieces. Snoop is not at his best. His rap is not mixed well, so that his voice is low and you can’t hear what he is saying. He seems a bit lost behind the enthusiasm of his Nigerian “nephews.”

I see no redeeming irony here. Perhaps, the repeated instances of one of the musicians walking in on women in the bathroom, one in a bathtub covered with $100 dollar bills and one seated on the toilet using $100 bills as toilet paper is supposed to be funny. To me, it is just embarrassing—a joke with a punchline gone flat.

D’banj usually has good beats, and sometimes clever lyrics, sung in a skillful mix of Yoruba and pidgin.  But this “copy-copy” is not interesting or fresh. The music videos I enjoy the most are those that situate themselves in a recognizable Naija. The pitfalls of musicians like D’banj or P-Square and Darey, who make most of their videos in South Africa, or musicians who shoot endless “girls-in-the-club” videos is that no matter the “quality” of the video, they are not being innovative.

The videos I most love are those like Eedris Abdulkareem’s old but powerful “Nigeria Jaga Jaga” which uses actual footage of Nigeria or his satirical “Mr. Lecturer.”   TY Bello’s simple but gorgeous “Greenland” focuses on portraits of Nigerians of all ages; elDee’s “Light Up Naija” uses similar simple portraits to highlight his call to unity. TuFace, DJ Jimmy Jatte, and Mode 9 in “Stylee” set addictive rhymes against a backdrop of Lagos traffic and danfos, a Lagos which Nneka also uses cinema-verite style in her video “Heartbeat.” The video for the late Sazzy’s “Mr. Chairman,” is nothing fancy but captures the fierce passion of the Abuja-based musician so well that it takes my breath away.  Recently I came across a beautifully shot music video “Soyeyya” by a hip hop artist XDOGGinit, who raps in Hausa and features humorous acting by Kannywood stars. What makes a video good is not how much money is spent on it but how creative and “true” it is.  I hope to highlight more of the ones I like this year. [Note: These videos may not be as sophisticated or polished as the "club" videos shot in South Africa etc, but they seem to me to have more SOUL.] 

And to those musicians who specialize in getting women to remove their clothes for your videos. You may be young and “endowed” now, and there may be plenty of silly girls eager for the fame. But in a few more years, try that and you’ll get called “Mr. Lecturer.” A word to the wise.

Eedris Abdulkareem’s Nigeria Jaga Jaga (not the best quality upload but you can see what I mean)

TY Bello’s “Greenland”

DJ Jimmy Jatt, feat. Mode 9, 2Face, and Elajoe in “Stylee”

Nneka “Heartbeat”

Sazzy “Mr. Chairman”

XDOGGinit “Soyayya”

The ‘second coming’ of Kannywood

Still catching up on posts I am behind on. This feature piece  “The ‘second coming’ of Kannywood” was published over a month ago now in the Weekend Magazine of Weekly Trust on 21 May 2011, but gives a good summary of the challenges faced by the Kano film industry during the tenure of former ANPP Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, and the “director general” of the Kano State Censorship Board he appointed, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim. I also interviewed film practitioners about their hopes as PDP’s Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, who had been governor of Kano State from 1999-2003, returns to take up another four year term, aided in his political campaign by the Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria and Kannywood stars like Sani Danja and D’an Ibro. As usual, to read the hard copy of the article, click on the photos below, or scroll down to read the text I’ve copied here.

The ‘second coming’of Kannywood

Saturday, 21 May 2011 01:42 Carmen McCain

Wednesday evening, April 27, 2011, Zoo Road in Kano, the street lined with Kannywood studios, exploded into celebration. Young men pulled dramatic stunts with motorbikes and shouted their congratulations to Hausa filmmakers. “Welcome back home, brothers. Welcome back from Kaduna,” directors Falalu Dorayi and Ahmad Biffa recall them saying. “We embrace you ‘Yan fim.’ We are together with you. We are happy that he has returned.”The win of PDP

Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, incoming governor of Kano State, and also governor from 1999 to 2003 (Photo Credit: Nigerian Best Forum)

candidate Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as governor of Kano, his second tenure after a four-year term from 1999-2003, had just been announced.  INEC figures listed PDP as winning 46% of the vote with 1,108,345 votes, closely followed by Alhaji Salihu Sagir of ANPP with 43.5% of the vote with 1,048,317 votes.  To anyone familiar with the Hausa film industry, which according to recent National Film and Video Censor’s Board figures makes up over 30% of  the Nigerian film industry, this association of a political win with film was no surprise. Some of the most visible Hausa filmmakers have become increasingly politically active following a crackdown by the Kano State Censor’s Board, during which many practitioners and marketers of Hausa films had been fined, imprisoned, and harassed. While many of those associated with the film industry supported CPC and Buhari for president, the feeling among many filmmakers in Kano was that for governor any of the candidates would be better than ANPP. The two term ANPP governor and presidential candidate Ibrahim Shekarau, who had initially been passionately supported by

CIMG2970

Former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, governor of Kano State fro 2003-2011, and ANPP presidential candidate in 2011. (I took this photo during his trip to Madison, Wisconsin in 2007)  (Photo credit: talatu-carmen)

at least some of Kano’s writers and artists, was now deeply disliked by most film practitioners, in part, for appointing Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim former deputy commandant of the shari’a enforcement group hisbah as director general of the Kano State Censor’s Board. Malam Rabo, as he was known, regularly went onto the radio to denounce film practitioners for ostensible moral defects and had overseen a board which often arrested filmmakers.

After surveying candidates in the gubernatorial race for how they would support film, the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), as the association’s president Sani Muazu reported, publically campaigned for Kwankwaso. Movie star,

Comedian Klint de Drunk, with Kannywood stars Sani Danja and Baban Chinedu at an Abuja press conference for NAISOD, 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

producer, director, and musician Sani Danja, who founded Nigerian Artists in Support of Democracy (NAISOD), and comedians Rabilu Musa dan Ibro and Baban Chinedu were among those who lent their star power to the new  governor’s campaign. This public support for PDP among some of the most visible film practitioners had put Kano based filmmakers in danger the week before. Angry about the announcement of PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan as winner of the presidential election, area boys hunted for Sani Danja, threatened other recognizable actors and vandalized studios and shops owned by Kannywood stakeholders. (For this reason, while some filmmakers have come out publicly in support of candidates, there are others who are reluctant to speak openly about politics. The Dandalin Finafinan Hausa on Facebook has banned discussion of politics on its wall, requesting members to focus on discussions of film.) By the next week, however, as Falalu Dorayi relates, the same area boys who had been hunting Sani Danja were now celebrating him.

Producer and makeup artist Tahir S. Tahir with Director Falalu Dorayi celebrating Kwankwaso’s win. April 2011 (c) Carmen McCain

While Governor-elect Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was seen as the champion of the filmmakers during the 2011 election cycle, it was under Kwankwaso, who first served as governor of Kano from 1999-2003, that the first ban on Hausa films was announced and that the Kano State Censor’s Board was created. Abdulkareem Mohammad, the pioneering president of MOPPAN from 2000 to 2007, narrated how in December 2000, the Kano State Government pronounced a prohibition on the sale, production and exhibition of films in Kano state because of the introduction of sharia. MOPPAN  organized and “assembled industry operators in associations like the Kano State Filmmakers association, Kano state artist’s guilds, the musicians and the cinema theatre owners, cassette sellers association” to petition the government to either allow them to continue making films or provide them with new livelihoods. It was the filmmakers themselves under MOPPAN who suggested a local state censorship board, which would ensure that film practitioners were able to continue their careers, while also allowing oversight to ensure that their films did not violate shari’a law. The censorship board was ultimately meant as a protection for the filmmakers to allow them to continue their work.

Outgoing President of MOPPAN, Sani Muazu points out that MOPPAN’s support of Kwankwaso was because he had promised re-establish the original intent for the censorship board, with a Kannywood stakeholder in the position as head of the Kano State Censorship Board, rather than an outsider who did not know the industry. Most Hausa filmmakers speak of the censorship board as a compromise between the film industry, the community and the government. Director Salisu T. Balarabe believes then Governor Kwankwaso was trying to follow the demands of those who voted for him, “If the government wants to have a good relationship with people it has to do what the people want.” Kannywood/Nollywood star Ali Nuhu said, “I won’t forget how in those three or four months [during the ban], they sat with our leaders at the time of Tijjani Ibrahim, Abdulkareem Muhammad, Hajiya Balaraba and the others.  They reached a consensus, they understood the problems that they wanted us to fix and the plan they wanted us to follow.”

Nollywood/Kannywood star Ali Nuhu on set of Armala with Executive Producer Aisha Halilu. April 2011 (c) Carmen McCain

Although the censors board had banned several films, such as Aminu Bala’s 2004 cinema verite style film Bakar Ashana, which explored the moral complexities of the world of prostitution, and enforced rules on censorship

Aminu Bala’s film Bakar Ashana that was banned by the Kano State Censor’s Board in 2004.

before marketing, filmmakers for the most part did not seem to have major problems with censorship until August 2007, when a sex scandal broke out in Kannywood. A privately made phone video of sexual activity between the actress known as Maryam “Hiyana” and a non-film industry lover Usman Bobo was leaked and became one of the most popular downloads in Kano. Alarmed by what some were calling the “first Hausa blue film,” although the clip was a private affair and had nothing to do with other Hausa filmmakers, critics called for serious measures to be taken. A new executive secretary Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (his position soon

Maryam Hiyana, who was seen as a victim in the scandel, became an unlikely folk hero with stickers of her likeness on public transport all over Northern Nigeria. (c) Carmen McCain, 2008

inflated to the title of director general) was appointed by Governor Shekarau to head the Kano State Censor’s Board. He required each film practitioner to register individually with the board, an action he defended as being provided for in the original censorship law. Not long after Rabo was appointed, actor and musician Adam Zango was arrested and sentenced to three months in prison for releasing his music video album Bahaushiya without passing it through the Kano State Censor’s Board. He was the first in a series of Hausa filmmakers to spend time in prison. Former Kano state gubernatorial candidate and Kannywood director Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama was arrested in May 2008 on his return to Kano from Abuja’s Zuma Film Festival where his film Tsintsiya, an inter-ethnic/religious romance made to promote peace, had won best social issue film. He was accused of releasing the film in Kano without censorship board approval.  Although Iyan-Tama served three months in prison, all charges were recently dropped against the filmmaker and his record cleared. Popular comedians dan Ibro and Lawal Kaura also spent two months in prison after a hasty trial without a lawyer. Lawal Kaura claims that although they had insisted on their innocence, court workers advised them to plead guilty of having a production company not registered with the

FIM Magazine feature on Ibro’s time in prison, November 2008.

censorship board so that the judge “would have mercy” on them. These were only the most popular names. Others who made their livelihoods from the film industry, from editors to singers to marketers, spent the night in jail, paid large fines, and/or had their equipment seized by enforcers attached to the censorship board.

Although Governor Shekarau in a presidential debate organized by DSTV station NN24 had claimed that “the hisbah has nothing to do with censorship,” Director of Photography Felix Ebony of King Zuby International recounted how hisbah had come to a location he was working on and impounded four speakers and one camera, telling them they had not sought permission to shoot. Other filmmakers complained that there was confusion about under what jurisdiction arrests were being made. Although in a February 2009 interview with me, Rabo

Felix Ebony, director of photography with King Zuby International. (c) Carmen Mccain

also claimed that the censorship law was a “purely constitutional and literary law […] on the ground before the shari’a agitations,” the public perception seemed to be that the board was operating under shari’a law, perhaps because of Rabo’s frequent radio appearances where he spoke of the censorship board’s importance in protecting the religious and cultural mores of the society. Director Ahmad Bifa argued, “They were invoking shari’a, arresting under shari’a. If they caught us, we all knew, that they had never taken us to a shari’a court. They would take us to a mobile court [...] But since it was being advertised that we were being caught for an offense against religion, we should be taken to a religious Islamic court, and let us be judged there not at a mobile court.”

The ‘Mobile’ Magistrate Court at the Kano Airport where Censorship Board Cases were tried. This photo was taken in July 2009 during the trial of popular singer Aminu Ala. (c) Carmen McCain

The mobile court Biffa referred to seemed to be attached to the censorship board and was presided over by Justice Mukhtar Ahmed at the Kano airport. After the Iyan-Tama case came under review, the Kano State attourney general found the judge’s ruling to be ““improper”, “incomplete”, a “mistake” and requiring a retrial before a more “competent magistrate.” Justice Ahmed was transferred to Wudil in August 2009; however, censorship cases continued to be taken to him. In January 2011, popular traditional musician Sani dan Indo was arrested and taken to Mukhtar Ahmad’s court, where he was given the option of a six month prison sentence or paying a fine of twenty-thousand naira.  The decisions made by the board and the mobile court often seemed of ambiguous motivation. In 2009, Justice Mukhtar Ahmed banned “listening, sale, and circulation” of eleven Hausa songs, citing obscenity, but obscenity was rarely as easily identified as the cutting political critiques in them.

11 Songs banned by Justice Mukhtar Ahmed. (c) Alex Johnson

The effect of these actions was to relocate the centre of the Hausa film industry away from the flourishing Kano market, to Kaduna. Many filmmakers began to claim their rights as national Nigerian filmmakers, taking their films only to the National Film and Video Censor’s Board, bypassing the Kano State Censorship Board altogether. Such films were often marked “not for sale in Kano” and if found in Kano state were known as “cocaine,” a dangerous product that could, as Iyan-Tama discovered, mean imprisonment for a filmmaker, even if filmmaker had advertised, as Iyan-Tama had, that the film was not for sale in Kano State. Another side effect of these actions was the loss of jobs among Kano youth. Ahmad Bifa pointed out that “the Hausa film industry helped reorient youth from being drug-users and area boys to finding jobs in the film profession. Sometimes if we needed production assistants we would take them and give them money. I can count many that the Hausa film industry helped become relevant people to society. But Abubakar Rabo made us go to Kaduna to do our shooting. So the young people of Kano lost the benefit of film in Kano, […] That’s why there are a lot of kids on Zoo Road who went back to being thugs because of lack of job opportunity.”

Ahmad Bifa, on set of the Aisha Halilu movie Armala, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Although the impact of censorship on film was the most well known, the flourishing Hausa literary scene was also affected, with the director general initially requiring all writers to register individually with the censor’s board. With the intervention of the national president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, writers found some relief when Abubakar Rabo agreed to deal with the writer’s associations rather than with individual writers; however, there still seemed to be a requirement, at times ambiguous, that all Hausa novels sold in the state must be passed through the board. Rabo continued to make often seemingly arbitrary pronouncements about what he considered acceptable literature. In December 2009, for example, at a conference on indigenous literature in Damagaram, Niger, Rabo proclaimed that the board would not look at any more romantic novels for a year.

Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board 2007-2011, proclaimed that he would not accept romantic novels for a year. International Conference on Authors and Researchers in Indigenous Languages, Damagaram, Niger, December 2009. (c) Carmen McCain

Those who protest the actions of the board do not have a problem with censorship so much as how censorship has been carried out. The original MOPPAN president Abdulkareem Mohammad argued that the intention of creating the censorship board had been one that would allow filmmakers to continue doing their work, “We really were doing things in good faith to ensure that things do work and eventually it is for the betterment of the majority.” He acknowledged wryly that there were flaws in the law that allowed for it to be abused, “I think that on insight, I would have done it differently.” Current president Sani Muazu continued in this vein saying that although the board had been meant to protect artists it had “become a weapon against artists.”  Director Salisu T. Balarabe says, “There was nothing wrong with making the censorship board but those put in charge of directing the board, sometimes put a personal interest into it.” Novelist and scriptwriter Nazir Adam Salih acknowledged “We have our faults. This is true. But the censor’s board was much harsher than it

Novelist and script writer Nazir Adam Salih passionately responds to Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, at the conference in Damagaram, Niger. December 2009. (c) Carmen McCain

needed to be. They put someone in power who didn’t know anything about the film industry, Malam Abubakar Rabo, who slandered and disrespected us.” It was this disrespect and the accompanying arrests that most seemed to upset film practitioners. Danjuma Salisu, who is involved in acting, lighting, and assisting production argued that Rabo’s actions were insulting to those whose careers in film “feed our children and parents and families.” Makeup artist Husseini Tupac argued passionately, “Film is a profession. It is a career.  In the same way a normal person will go to the office everyday, we will go the office, we do our work and get paid. When the honourable Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was governor nobody ever came out on the radio and said that actresses were prostitutes, that we were making blue films, that we were rogues. No one came and arrested us.” Producer and director Salisu Umar Santa shared a similar sentiment, saying that he and other

Director Salisu Umar Santa with Dawwayya Productions, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

professionals he worked with, like Rukkaya Dawayya and Sadiyya Gyale, had registered and done everything the board required for working in Kano State and yet Abubakar Rabo continued to say that filmmakers were not decent members of society. Producer and Director of Photography Umar Gotip said that he felt like a refugee having to leave Kano. “You are practicing your profession, to the extent that some people even have a degree in it, but they say you are just rogues and rascals. We had no human rights.” Director Falalu Dorayi, claiming that the Kano State Censorship board regularly demanded bribes, asked “How can the one who collects a bribe say he will reform culture.” Cameraman, editor, and director Ahmad Gulu put it this way: “You should fix the leaky roof before you try to repair the floor.”

Despite his ostensible position as enforcer of public morality, Rabo himself came under suspicion of wrongdoing on several occasions. In August 2009, he was taken before a shari’a court by the Kano State Filmmakers Association and accused of slander for statements he had made about the film community on the radio. In May 2010, he was also sued in by Kaduna Filmmakers Association for accusations he had made on radio and television in Kaduna.  In a strange twist, he accused twelve filmmakers, several of whom were involved the lawsuit, of sending him death threats by text message. Police from Kano came to Kaduna, arresting the one person on the list they could locate—Aliyu Gora II, the editor

Editor of Fim Magazine, Aliyu Gora II, and Filmmaker Iyan-Tama, both former inmates of Goron Dutse Prison, after a hearing in Iyan-Tama’s lawsuit against the Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, 22 July 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

of Fim Magazine, who was held for a week without trial at Goron Dutse Prison in Kano.  In an even more bizarre twist, in September 2010, Trust and other papers reported that Rabo, after being observed late at night by police in suspicious circumstances with a young girl in his car, fled from police. In the car chase he was also reportedly involved in a hit and run incident with a motorcyclist. After he was eventually arrested and released by the police, Governor Shekarau promised to open an inquiry into the

Filmmakers on location in Northern Nigeria on Sunday, 29 August 2009, read the breaking news Sunday Trust article: “Rabo arrested for alleged sex related offence” (c) Carmen McCain

case [as requested by MOPPAN], but Rabo continued as director general of the censor’s board and filmmakers heard nothing more of the inquiry.

The treatment of filmmakers had the perhaps unintentional effect of politicizing the artists and those close to them. Sani Danja told me he had never been interested in politics until he saw the need to challenge what was going on in Kano State. A musician told me his mother never voted in elections but that she had gone out to stand in line for Kwankwaso as a protest at how her children were being treated. Filmmakers used fulsome praises to describe their delight at Kwankwaso’s

Kannywood star Sani Danja prepares for his the first press conference of his organization: Nigerian Artists in Support of Democracy (c) Carmen McCain

return. Director Falalu Dorayi said “It is as if your mother or father went on a journey and has returned with a gift for you.” Producer and director of photography Umar Gotip said Kwankwaso’s coming was “like that of an angel, bringing blessing for all those who love film.” Even those who are not fans of PDP told me they wished Kwankwaso well, were optimistic about change, and expected him to fulfill his promises in several areas: First, most of them expected that he would relieve Rabo of his post and replace him an actual filmmaker, who as Falalu Dorayi put it “knows what film is.” Secondly, several of them anticipated actual investments into the film industry “like Fashola has done for Lagos filmmakers,” as director and producer Salisu Umar Santa put it, possibly in the form of a film village. And most Kano-based filmmakers I spoke to mentioned their hopes that others who had gone into exile would come back home to Kano. Producer Zainab Ahmed Gusau, who is currently based in Abuja wrote that, “My thought is to go back to Kano, knowing there will be justice for all.We thank God for bringing Kwankwaso back to lead us.”

Hausa film producer Zainab Ahmad Gusai at the Savannah International Movie Awards, Abuja, 2010. (c) Carmen McCain

Other filmmakers saw it as a time for reflection on how they can improve the field. Director Salisu T. Balarabe mused “If you keep obsessing over what happened, the time will come and pass and you won’t have accomplished

Hausa film Director Salisu T. Balarabe on Zoo Road in the days following Kwankwaso’s win. April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

anything. We should put aside what happened before and look for a way to move forward.”  Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, the politician and filmmaker who was imprisoned for three months, focused on the positive, calling on filmmakers to continue making films that would have meaning and would build up the community.

Many also looked beyond the own interests of film to the entire community.

Ahmad Gulu, Kannywood cameraman, editor, and director, on Zoo Road in the days following Kwankwaso’s win. April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Ahmad Gulu, cameraman, editor, and director said “The change has not come to film practitioners alone. It has come to the whole state of Kano. Back then people would accept politicians who would put something in their pockets but now things have been exposed.” Star actor, director, and producer Ali Nuhu similarly pointed out that progress was not receiving money from politicians, saying that one of the most important changes Kwankwaso could bring would be a focus on electricity, drinking water, and children’s education. Writer Nazir Adam Salih said that if Kwankwaso could simply fulfill the promises politicians and leaders had been making for the past thirty years to provide electricity and water, he will have done his job. And finally two directors of photography Umar Gotip and Felix Ebony pointed to the need for peace and unity in the state. “He should try to bring people together,” said Umar Gotip. “This kind of fighting that has arisen between Muslims and Christians is not right. We should live together as one.”

Producer Bello A. Baffancy shows off his Kwankwaso support, Zoo Road, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

‘Yan Fim on Zoo Road following Kwankwaso’s win, April 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Africa Movie Academy Awards: Celebrating Africa’s film industries, building pan-African cinema

I realized with dismay, when I emerged from my house yesterday afternoon to go find a copy of the Weekly Trust, that I had done several near-all-nighters this week working on articles for a paper that would probably be one of the least read this year. Because of the election (that was not), there were very few people on the streets and I had to ride for about 15 minutes on an acaba to find a vender selling a newspaper. Here is this week’s column that I wrote on my experience at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa. I’ve included a few extra photos below. To read at the Trust site, click here. To read in the original version, click on the photo below, which will take you to a large readable copy. To read on my site, scroll down below the photo. I will upload the interview I did with The Figurine director, producer, and actor Kunle Afolayan later in the day. For another excellent post on AMAA, written by my travel buddy Fulbright scholar Bic Leu, check out her blog.

Celebrating Africa’s film industries, building of pan- African cinema

Saturday, 02 April 2011 00:00 Carmen McCain

As my readers may have noticed from recent columns, this month for me has been a mad dash from one film event to another, from the FESPACO Pan-African film festival in Ouagadougou from February 26 to March 5, to a presentation at the “Reading and Producing Nollywood” symposium hosted at University of Lagos from March 23 to 25, to, finally, a rather unexpected but delightful invitation to attend the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, on 27 March.

Nollywood scholars Onookome Okome, Jonathan Haynes and Carmela Garritano trade laughs at the “Reading and Producing Nollywood” conference held at the University of Lagos, 23-25 March 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

AMAA was a bizarre mix of the humble and glamorous that seems inherent to Nollywood. The flight from Lagos to Port Harcourt was filled with filmmakers, many of them from the diaspora, and we continued on to Yenagoa by bus. I sat at the back of a 12-seater between Ghanaian-British filmmaker Julius Amedume, who won best Diaspora short for his film Precipice, and British filmmaker Wayne Saunders, who received a double nomination for Best Diaspora Feature for two feature films, Nothing Less and The Village. The next seat up, Nigerian Hollywood actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Hotel Rwanda, Wolverine), who most recently starred in Jeta Amata’s musical Inale [which later won the AMAA for best soundtrack] and the yet to be released Black Gold, was jammed in between Nollywood star Olu Jacobs and Aspire Magazine publisher Celine Loader. The cramped bus made it felt rather like a university outing, only with movie stars and filmmakers rather than students, and the three hour trip, through Port Harcourt traffic and over pot-holed roads, was long but jolly, with much loud debating about Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr, global inequalities, black consciousness, and quiet sharing of plans for future films. We ended up at the Bayelsa State Tourism Development & Publicity Bureau, where hundreds of filmmakers milled about, eating food from buffet lines and trying to find places to sit before finally being transported to their hotels. The bureau became the defacto meeting and eating spot. The next day, I ran into Kannywood stars Ali Nuhu, Lawal Ahmad, and Rahama Hassan there.

RFI journalist, Kannywood actress Rahama Hassan, Radio France International journalist Salisu Hamisou, and actors Ali Nuhu and Lawal Ahmad at the AMAA press conference. (c) Carmen McCain

At a press conference on the afternoon of 27 March, AMAA jury members pointed out the purpose of the awards to unite Africa. AMAA CEO Peace Anyiam-Osigwe said, “AMAA is about everybody that is a filmmaker in Africa…It’s about you. We are Africans. We have no borders.” In this pan-African vision, the body seems to be following in the footsteps of earlier African cinema movements such as FEPACI (Federation of African filmmakers) and FESPACO Film festival. However, unlike these earlier, mostly Francophone, African initiatives, AMAA does not merely promote art films made by African filmmakers and often funded by Europe, but emphasizes the importance of actual film industries.

AMAA CEO Peace Anyiam-Osigwe speaks about the pan-African vision of the AMAA awards at a press conference, 27 March 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Beirut-based Zimbabwean juror Keith Shiri pointed out, “I think people who are familiar with FESPACO are also familiar with other infrastructures, which are really suffering because of the negative attitude which we have about ourselves.” Shiri said it was important to recognize AMAA as “the only platform in the whole continent, which is, in my view, celebrating African cinema, and trying to build an infrastructure which enables us to begin to evaluate and consider the importance of this industry.”

Film curator and AMAA juror Keith Shiri speaks at the AMAA press conference, 27 March 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

The atmosphere of university outing transitioned to full-fledged Nollywood glamour by the time we arrived on the red carpet, Sunday night, where TV presenters hung out looking for interviews and camera flashes were constant. Outside, fans pressed their faces to the gaps in the wall. You could tell whenever a big star arrived by the volume of the roar outside.

American Fulbright Scholar Bic Leu, Best short film nominee Kenyan filmmaker Zipporah Nyaruri, Nigerian Hollywood actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim, American winner of the Best Diaspora feature LaQuita Cleare, and Nigerian-American Best short Diaspora film nominee Temi Ojo on the red carpet at the AMAA awards. (c) Carmen McCain

Best short film nominee Kenyan filmmaker Zipporah Nyaruri being interviewed on the red carpet. (c) Carmen McCain

Ghanaian star Majid Michel being interviewed on the red carpet. (c) Carmen McCain

The awards ceremony was hosted by Jim Iyke and Nse Ikpe-Etim, with other appearances by Rita Dominic, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Kunle Afolayan, Ali Nuhu, Olu Jacobs, and performances by Dr Sid, Wande Coal, Tee Mac, Ebisan, South African group Malaika, among others. It went from around 8:30pm to 2:30am, and was followed by a middle-of-the-night dinner at the Yenagoa government house. Compared to FESPACO, which was arty, elitist, and seemed irrelevant to the tastes of a popular African audience, the glamour of the AMAA awards was generated by beloved Nollywood stars, who arrived in fancy dress, gave interviews on the red carpet, presented awards, and took photos with their fans. As Keith Shiri had pointed out at the press conference, this was an event that celebrated and promoted film industry infrastructure, not just film. Peace Anyiam-Osigwe reinforced this point at the ceremony, “We should celebrate ourselves year in and year out… but I’d also like to see our filmmakers make money from what we are doing. So wherever you are in the next few years, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, I’m sure all over Africa, you’re going to have the chance to say I need you to realize the input I am making to my industry and to my country.”

Nollywood stars Jim Iyke and Nse Ikpe-Etim host the AMAA awards 2011 (c) Carmen McCain

AMAA awards adorn the table at the late night dinner, while the winners relax. (c) Carmen McCain

Perhaps because of this focus on commercially-viable films, the films nominated also seemed quite different from those on offer at FESPACO. Out of the over 56 films I counted from the AMAA nomination list and the 187 films in the FESPACO catalogue index, I could only find seven films that overlapped and only one overlap in prizes: South African film Hopeville won best film in the TV/Video category at FESPACO; At AMAA the film received nine nominations and one award for Themba Ndaba’s performance as Best Actor in a Leading Role. AMAA was much more Anglophone-focused than FESPACO, with fewer submissions from North and Francophone Africa.

Yet, it was a film from a Francophone country, Congo-Kinshasa, the edgy Viva Riva! that ended up sweeping the Awards, surpassing the five AMAAs won by Nigeria’s The Figurine by Kunle Afolayan last year, with six AMAAs for Best Film, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hoji Fortuna), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Marlene Longage), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Director (Djo Tunda Wa Munga). According to producer Boris Vanglis as he jubilantly accepted the “Best Film” award, Viva Riva, which had been absent from FESPACO, is “the first film in Congo-Kinshasa in 20 years in Lingala.”

Although Nollywood glamour dominated the evening and though there was a much larger presence of Nigerian and Ghanaian films nominated for the awards, only three Nigerian films won awards:  Niji Akanni’s Aramotu won Best Costume Design and Best Nigerian film. Jeta Amata’s Inale won Best Soundtrack, and Obi Emelonye’s Mirror Boy won Best Young Actor for the performance by Ugandan actor Edward Kagutuzi. Ghana was represented by three awards for Sinking Sands, directed by Leila Djansi, which won awards for Best Screenplay, Best Make-Up, and Best Actress in Leading role for actress Ama K. Abebrese.

Unfortunately, the nature of the event, as an awards ceremony rather than a festival, meant that I had seen none of the films that were awarded, and it seemed somewhat problematic that despite the appeal to a popular audience in the glamour of Nollywood and celebration of industry, the films awarded, much like those at FESPACO, seemed inaccessible to an African audience beyond their own regions. AMAA selection committee chairman Shaibu Husseini noted this predicament, pointing out the difficulties of an award based on popularity since films released in one part of the continent are not always seen in others. “By the time you put it to popularity test, the text messages will come from the countries where these films have been produced. And by the time, you award the films, it will not be representational.”

AMAA Selection committee Chairman Shuaibu Husseini speaks at the press conference, 27 March 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

Yet, despite the difficulties of such structures, I came away from the AMAA awards with a more positive feeling than I had from FESPACO. FESPACO felt like a tired old legend moving into its last days. AMAA, even with its moments of disorganization, felt vibrant and full of promise, like its Nollywood base. Even though the films awarded are still unavailable to most of their African audiences, perhaps the popular focus of the African Movie Academy Awards, will work towards building a canon of African films made by African film industries, not just by cineastes. And hopefully some wise distributer with pan-African connections will seize the opportunity and make these films available all over the continent, giving accessibility and a public face to a truly popular African cinema.

More Photos of the Event:

To see my whole Flickr album of AMAA, click here.

Best short film nominee Zipporah Nyaruri with Best Diaspora short film nominee Temi Ojo. (c) Carmen McCain


Rahama Hassan laughs as Ali Nuhu makes a point. (c) Carmen McCain

Kannywood star Lawal Ahmad. (c) Carmen McCain

Kannywood star Rahama Hassan. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Diaspora feature double nominee, Wayne Saunders being interviewed. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Young Actor winner Edward Kagutuzi and ‘Inale’ actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim. (c) Carmen McCain

Hakeem Kae-Kazim photographs Zipporah Nyaruri pre-award ceremony. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Diaspora feature film winner LaQuita Cleare and Best Short film nominee Zipporah Nyaruri pre-AMAA ceremony. (c) Carmen McCain

Me, Bic Leu, Zipporah Nyaruri, Temi Ojo, and LaQuita Cleare.

Hollywood Nigerian actor Razaaq Adoti on the red carpet. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Diaspora short film nominee, Sowande Tichawonna, on the red carpet. (c) Carmen McCain

Fulbright scholar Bic Leu, Best Diaspora short film nominee Temi Ojo, and Best short film nominee Zipporah Nyaruri. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Diaspora short film nominee Temi Ojo on the red carpet. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Diaspora Short film nominee Sowande Tichawonna, Actor Razaaq Adoti, and Best Short Film nominee Zipporah Nyaruri. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Diaspora feature winner LaQuita Cleare is interviewed on the red carpet pre-ceremony (before she knew she won). (c)Carmen McCain

Best Short Film nominee Kenyan filmmaker Zipporah Nyaruri with Freedom Express reporter. (c) Carmen McCain

Bayelsa State Cultural group performs at the beginning of the Award Ceremony (c) Carmen McCain

Kannywood crossover actor Ali Nuhu helps present the best award for Best African language film. (c)Carmen McCain

Nollywood star Olu Jacobs was mobbed by fans wanting a photograph with him, and he patiently put up with them for about 30 minutes. He poses here with L.A. based Best Diaspora Feature award winner LaQuita Cleare. (c) Carmen McCain

Kannywood/Nollywood star Ali Nuhu at the late night AMAA dinner. (c) Carmen McCain

A late night dinner at the Bayelsa State government house after the AMAA awards (c) Carmen McCain

L.A. based actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim with Fulbright scholar Bic Leu at the late night. (c) Carmen McCain

Sazzy’s lyrics and an article “In Memory of Sazzy: the music lives on”

I’m sorry I’m only just getting to this, but here is the column I wrote in commemoration of the rising star Sazzy (Osaze Omonbude), who died too soon at age 26. You can read the article at Weekly Trust online, or you can read the hard copy here by clicking on the photo, which will take you to a large copy of the article as published with photos etc. The acknowledgements were left out of the published version, but I’d like to thank Alkassim Abdulkadir, the Coordinator of Guild of Artists and Poets, for gathering and writing the section on GAP, including the comments from Yoye and Lindsey. The photos should also be credited to Korex Calibur of Intersection Media.

While I was writing this, I listened to as many of Sazzy’s songs as possible. I thought the best way to commemorate his life would be to quote his own words, and although a lot of those quotes ended up getting cut out of the final version of the article,  I thought I’d share the transcripts I made of the lyrics of at least three of his songs here.

The first one I’ll post here is the first Sazzy song I ever heard. When our mutual friend Korex posted the link to Sazzy’s music video “Doubt,” on Facebook, I spent about two hours pressing replay. The self-reflexive pidgen, the electronic electric guitar, the voice, and overall production was like no other Nigerian music I’d heard before.

Lyrics to “Doubt”:

Verse 1

Shey na me be dis or be na someone else?

Shey na me dey hear, or someone else is there?

Shey na me dey talk, or someone else dey yarn?

Shey na me dey work for here?

Shey na me dey sing or someone else dey sing?

Shey na me compose, or someone get de beat?

Shey na me dey rise, or someone’s raft discreet (CHECK)

Shey na me get this song….

Chorus:

I don dey doubt myself again, oh X 3

I don dey doubt, I don dey doubt

Verse 2

Shey I get talent, or I be just copycat?

Shey I get the skill, or I scramble like rat?

Make I come to know, or make I drop am flat?

Make I stop to chase this dream.

Shey my voice is good, or is it really bad?

Shey my style is cool, or is it really sad?

I get confidence, or shey na me dey dance?

Shey na me get this song.

Chorus:

I don dey doubt myself again oh X3

I don dey doubt, I don dey doubt

I don dey doubt myself again oh X3

I don dey doubt, I don dey doubt

Verse 3

I don really understand

Wetin dey worry me today oh

I don’t know but what I know is that

Tomorrow go be a better day.

Revised Chorus

I no go doubt myself again oh X3

I no go doubt, I no go doubt X 4

I no go doubt, doubt, doubt,

[skatting]

My next obsession was with his perfect techno breakup song “Anymore,” which you can listen to on his Myspace playlist.

Lyrics to Anymore

Verse 1

Baby, if

You ever know

The things I do

Just for you

You love me right

You treat me good

With all your heart

you say I’m cool

But if instead

you treat me wrong

You treat me bad,

black and blue

The sea is red,

my heart is far

You say it mean and that ain’t true

CHORUS:

Is it because I’m foolish in love

Is it because I’m stupid and blind

Tears from my eyes, and it feels so wrong

Baby, I can’t do this anymore

I can’t hold, I can’t hold, I can’t hold

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore

I can’t hold, I can’t hold, I can’t hold

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore

….

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore

….

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore

Verse 2

I’m back again

To the song

To my self [?]

I’m back to you

Back to my phone

To your name

To your love

Which —[?]

But it’s all a pain

You’ve made your plans

I have no name,

Nothing for you

And I’m so ashamed

We could have been

something more

something more than you…

CHORUS:

Is it because I’m foolish in love

Is it because I’m stupid and blind

Tears from my eyes, and it feels so wrong

Baby I can’t do this anymore.

I can’t hold, I can’t hold, I can’t hold

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore

I can’t hold, I can’t hold, I can’t hold

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore

….

(Doodoodoo)

This anymore X6

Here is his striking final piece, a music video of his hit song “Mr. Chairman,” briefly featuring Supreme Solar. His friend and creative collaborator Korex Calibur directed and edited the music video, which was finished after Sazzy’s death. The end result is very powerful. You can feel the tense energy coiled like a spring in Sazzy. He did not live long, but he seems to have crammed his short life full of music and friendship. In the increasingly rapid editing towards the end of the piece, you can also sense the grief and passion with which Korex edited this final music video.

Mr. C

Aha aha oh

Uh huh, oho (….) [skatting]

Verse 1

I’m the realest, I’m the coolest, I’m the newest, I’m the (best)

I’m the freshest, I’m the cutest of the chain

I’m the (nicest)

Ima  king, Ima prince, Ima man

Ima (nigga)

You should know that I’m a (killa)

Run them over like a (trailer)

Ima note, Ima chord, I’m the keys

Ima (south)

Ima script, I’m a play, I’m a show (Entertainer)

Number 1, number 2, number 3 (….) (ten)

I’m all aboard, do you understand?

CHORUS: If you see me outside, oh

Just call me Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman

Verse 2

I’m a singer, I’m a rapper, producer (extraordinaire)

I’m the bass, I’m the drums, I’m the snare, Ima (shaker)

I’m your sister, I’m your brother, I’m your mother, I’m your (father)

I’m your friend, I’m your (lover),

I’m your wife…

Ima seargent, Mr captain, Ima colonel general

Ima bullet, Ima gun, Ima tank, Ima (sub)

I’m the shit, I’m the piss, I’m your scent, I’m your (body)

I’m all aboard, do you understand?

CHORUS: If you see me outside oh

Just call me Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman,

Verse 3

I will like to suggest now, make you start to dey feel this

….

I said I would like to suggest now, make you start to dey feel this

Then feel me

CHORUS: If you see me outside oh

Just call me Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman X2

Just call me, Just call me, Mr. C, this star, […]

Finally, after his death, Sazzy’s friends, Uche the African Rockstar, Yoye, Lindsey, 5 Mics, Bugzy, and Snappy put together a tribute piece, “Yesterday, which can be listened to at NotJustOk.com.

“YesterDay”

Sazzy, always on the beat. (Not Just Ok.com)

Peace, man, ….

Chorus: Seems like yesterday I just got news you went away, but there aint no way you’ll fade away. To me, I remember how we used to be. X2

I used to think you have all the time in the world.

I feel so sorry for your girl

because she was your African Queen.

You made it in this African scene.

Oh, why?

We can’t begin to ask all these questions.

I never had a chance for me to mention

the kind of real person that you are.

No doubt that you were meant to be a star.

We’re gonna keep connecting wherever you are.

And even though you’re gone, you will never be far.

Oh Sazzy, why sazzy? I know your family, because I’m your family.

And the Almighty God has put you down to rest.

Until it is my time, I will keep you in my chest.

No matter what they say, to me, you are the best.

To me, you are the best.

CHORUS X2

You were a close friend, but now you’re so far away.

My heart bleeds, shedding tears, I kneel down and pray.

I pray the Lord your soul to keep

At heavens gate, I pray God gives you the key

We ask for his blessing, but what’s better than this?

Leaving this cruel world full of envy and greed

I shed a tear on my rhyme book

You know me Stay Positive C, the cup is half full

You always knew the answers

And if you were here

I would have asked you

Because in this wrong man, I see no good

Sazzy, you were so good.

Producer Extraordinaire

Mr. C, I salute

Never overrated, maybe underpaid

You were a trend-setter, man, you paved the way

Now much has changed, still trying to take your place,

But you were real to Death…..

CHORUS X2

Ok, it was like a joke when Gang hit me with the news

For DJ Atta said it too, and it hit me like the blues.

— tears over the phone, hearing my brother cry

Give me some broken bones

You invited me to your house, I couldn’t find my way there

Now I’m at your house, and damn you aint here

My conscious killing me. I should have been here more often.

Now the Ray Bans couldn’t stop the chairs from dropping

You kept fighting this sickness. I know you’re resting now

No more hospitals and drugs, just angels in gowns.

This boss ain’t enough to express how I feel

Sazzy, Mr. Chairman, God bless ….

CHORUS X2

Yeah, everybody put your lighters on

As we say farewell to an icon

Damn, but your music still lives on

We feel your presence in our hearts

Even though you’re gone

Yeah, I wish I never had to write this verse

I wish I never had to say “Sazzy, rest in peace”

Cuz you were loved by the streets

Forever in our hearts, Sazzy,

Rest in Peace

..

Well, well, …..

Whhhhy? Why?

Sazzy, (boom) Everybody feel your pain

But one day, we …

But one day, we wan make Zion…

CHORUS X2

Yo, Sazzy, we’re gonna miss you

I got all a your friends to come and talk to you

Because even though you’re gone, they’re gonna be talkin to you

Representing you

You’re the gospel, put it down.

Lindsey’s singing on the hook

And 5 Mics is doing it too.

Yo, Yoye, I know you’re feeling it, dog

Yo Bugzy, what’s up man, yo Snappy

Everybody’s in the crew man, we’re all gonna miss you,

We’re all gonna miss you, yeah

Because I’m the African Rockstar,

It’s because of you

And everytime I’m doing, we doing it for you

We’re never gonna forget you

Everybody awaits you.

Yehaw

Everything, It seems like yesterday

Whoohhi

It all seems like yesterday, ya’ll

I can’t say no more, man,

Just keep resting, dog,

You still live in our hearts

Yo, peace.

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!

Hausa rapper Ziriums releases album “This is Me” and music video single online. Lyrics included here.

Ziriums performs “Hausa Fulani” at the 2010 Savannah International Movie Awards in Abuja (c) Carmen McCain

Barka da sallah! Happy Eid, everyone!

For a Sallah gift to yourself, consider buying and downloading, Zirium’s new album “This is Me”!

Readers may remember my previous posts, an analysis of the song “Government Money” and a translation of an interview in Aminya, on the Hausa rapper Ziriums, whose satirical “Girgiza Kai” (“Shake Your Head”) was banned by the Kano State government.

Having started his musical career in Kano, collaborating with Hausa entertainers like Adam Zango, Abbas Sadiq, Billy-O, Alfazazi, Osama bin Music, and others, Ziriums was featured on CNN in August 2008.  Ziriums moved to Abuja in 2009, where he collaborated with Abuja-based musicians Yoye, S. Solar, T-Rex, and others. His contribution to S. Solar and T-Rex’s song “Government Money” helped turn a Nigerian version of Busta-Rhymes “Arab Money” into, what I argue is, a  subversive  piece that critiques the corrupt money-obsessed culture of Abuja. Ziriums has performed at the pre-parlour music festival in Niamey, Niger, at Kano’s British council, at Ceddi Plaza in Abuja, and the Savannah International Movie awards, as well as other locations. He is also featured in Saman Piracha and Alex Johnson’s upcoming documentary Recording a Revolution.

Now Ziriums has released online his own album, “This is Me,” named for the track he released as a single music video about a month before. I think Ziriums may be the first Hausa hiphop musician or even contemporary Hausa musician to have released his album for sale online. (There is a sampler of other Hausa hiphop and popular music available for free at dandali.com, put together by the brilliant and prolific Hausa popular culture scholar Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, which includes songs by Billy-O, Soultan Abdul, Abdullahi Mighty, Menne, Lakal Kaney, Neba Solo, and the “traditional” musician Dan Maraya Zamfara [actual name is Babangida Kakadawa].) Ziriums’ album, This is Me, is available for purchase (for those with credit cards) on on itunesmyspace, and amazon (UPDATE 10 September 2010, the amazon link I originally included is for the U.S., but you can also buy the album at amazon.co.uk and I imagine other national amazon sites. Just search for “Ziriums”). I bought the album from Amazon.com and it downloaded just fine (though very slowly on my internet here in Nigeria. You can also listen to a clip of and buy  “Vamoose,” the song he performed with Yoye and Sunny Man from the “Take Over” mix album. It is track 10.)

When I asked Ziriums how those in Nigeria, without credit cards, could access the album, he told me he is planning to soon release it on cd in Nigeria, but hoping to make capital from the online purchases before the pirates can get a hold of it. He also told me that he released the album online, because no one could censor material online, as they had censored “Girgiza Kai” from the radio and later banned it, unless they literally blocked the website from every browser in Kano. The songs can be listened to in their entirety on Zirium’s myspace album page. (Ziriums noted that several of the songs were by other musicians, but, as he had featured in them, he had gotten their permission to include them on his album. This includes one of my favourites, track 3, “Murja Baba” by Alfazazee, featuring Ziriums, Murja Baba, and Maryam Fantimoti; the songs in Fulfulde Ziriums sang with Tasiu;the song “Muyanata” by Osama bin Music, Zirium’s younger brother, on which Ziriums featured alongside Abdullahi Mighty, Shaga, and Ontos. “Kano ta Dabo,” was sung by Ziriums, Billy-O, and Adam Zango, when they formed the group Northern Soldiers)

During a July 2009 interview with Saman Piracha and Alex Johnson, where I was also present, he talked a little bit about the album he hoped to release and his struggle with censorship in Kano . I was given permission by the filmmakers to transcribe and post on this blog what he said:

“Maybe they are going to ban it as well, but I’m sure it is going to be on internet, my myspace address, my facebook address, and it is going to be on Bluetooth […] Bluetooth is the fastest way we use to spread our message. Because they will not air our songs on their radio stations. I can remember the time I finished “Girgiza Kai, the one they banned. I took it to radio stations; they played it once, you know. From the censorship board, they wrote a letter to them, you should not play this song again, you understand? And they stopped airing it. And from that day, no one aired my song again and later now they banned it. I think Bluetooth helps us a lot because I can put it on my phone. My friend will listen to it and say oh give me and I’ll push it to him. Then through that, it will go all over, all over, not even Nigeria, not even Kano, not even Nigeria, itself. It can go anywhere. Because now if I put it in your handset you carry it to the US. […]  I’m going to release my album.  I’m working on it. And when I finish it, maybe probably it is going to be sold in Kano. We’ll see how I will go behind the national constitution. I’ll go there and stand and use it. Because I am a Nigerian as well. Since Timaya and P-Square can sell their album in Kano, why not I? Why? Why can’t my album be sold in Kano?  I must censor it? Who said so? I will not do that? I’m looking at myself as Timaya and P-Square and any damn artist in the country. I’m looking at myself as the same thing as them. We don’t have any differences. The only difference is that they have their albums outside. People know them. You understand? They have the opportunity that we couldn’t get. If I have the opportunity or the chance they have, I could have reached or I could have passed their level. So my album is going to be sold in Kano insha Allah. With censors or without censors.

To learn more about Ziriums, visit Zirium’s myspace page. Two of his music videos can also be watched at his youtube channel. Ziriums also has a Facebook fan page and a ReverbNation account. [UPDATE 13 September 2010: And in a meta-moment, I'm quite delighted to see that Free Muse has picked up on this post....]

I may include more analysis of the album at a later point, but for now, so that readers can get a taste of his music, I will include Zirium’s hot new music video “This is Me,” including the lyrics and a translation, partially by me, partially by Ziriums, and partially by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu. I will also include the complete lyrics to “Girgiza Kai” and the translation I did with Ziriums back in February 2009.  Ziriums’ “twisting” in Hausa has a punch that isn’t quite comparable with anything else in contemporary Nigerian hiphop, and I suspect it will take him far.

Enjoy

[NOTE that this video is embedded in this post under Fair Use laws for review purposes.]

“THIS IS ME

(Thank you to Ziriums for providing me with the lyrics in Hausa of the first two verses. He and Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu did the translation of the third. I’m also grateful to Osama bin Music, Zirium’s brother who helped me correct a few of the lines My translation is very basic and flawed, and corrections are welcome. )

[UPDATE: 26 April 2012, Ziriums has sent a few small corrections to the translations, which I have made here. It is now vetted by him.]

INTRO:

ASSALAMU ALAIKUM – ASSALAMU ALAIKUM

Peace be upon you – Peace be upon you

YARA KU FITO HIP HOP,

Kids come out to the Hiphop

MANYA KU FITO HIP HOP

Big guys come out to the hiphop

YARA KU FITO HIP HOP,

Kids come out to the Hiphop

MANYA KU FITO HIP HOP

Big guys come out to the hiphop

CHORUS:

THIS IS ME –ZIRIUMS X4

NINE NAN – ZIRIUMS X4

(This is me, Ziriums)

RAP 1:

BA’KO BABU SALLAMA MUGUNE KU BIYO SHI DA ‘KOTA,

The guest who does not greet with sallama is evil, chase him away with a stick.

NI NA AJE GARIYO DA ADDA NA DAU ‘KOTA TA MIC,

I dropped my javelin and my machet, I took up the mic (stick)

DA FARI SUNANA NAZIR

To start with my name is Nazir

BN AHMAD HAUSAWA LUNGUN KWARGWAN

Son of Ahmad Hausawa from Kwargwan neighborhood

YAYAN OSAMA BN MUSIC

Big brother of Osama bin Music

AH’ SHUGABAN TALIBAN NA HIP HOP A K-TOWN

Head of the Taliban of Hiphop in K-town

REVOLUTION ZAN NA MUSIC NA ANNABI SAY ALRIGHT (ALRIGHT x3)

It’s a music revolution. All who know the Prophet, Say Alright (Alright x3)

NINE INNOVATOR NA RAPPING DA ZAURANCE TWISTING DA HAUSA

I am the innovator of rapping with twisting in Hausa.

NINE MAI SUNA BIYAR TSOFFI SU KIRANI DA ‘DAN TALA

I am the one with the the five names, the old folks call me Dantala (a person who’s born on Tuesday)

MANYA SU KIRANI MUHAMMADU HAJIYATA TA KIRANI TACE NAZIR,

Other grown-ups call me Muhammadu, Hajiya (my mom) calls me Nazir

NIGGAS SU KIRANI DA ZIRIUMS

The Niggas call me Ziriums

SANNAN ÝAN MATAN GARI IDAN SUN GANNI SUCE NAZIRKHAN

Then the girls of the town if they see me, they say Nazir Khan

TO DUK KU KIRANI DA ZIRIUMS (ZIRIUMS. NI NE ZIRIUMS, ZIRIUMS)

TO, all of you call me Ziriums. (Ziriums. I’m Ziriums. Ziriums)

SUNCE WAI BA ZAN IYABA LA’ÁNANNU MASU HALIN TSIYA

They say I “supposedly” I can’t do it, that’s what the spiteful gossips say.

‘DARA ‘DAIRI YA ‘DIRU ‘DAIRA HATTA ZANANTU ALLAN YA HURA (BALA)

I through my kite up and up i cant even see it- it falls down (Arabic)

KOMAI NISAN JIFA ‘KASA ZAI FA’DO KAJI TIIIIIIM

Everything that goes up, will come down, you hear me (Tiiiim- a sound of falling rock)

YAU GAREKA GOBE GA SOMEBODY,MAI LAYA KIYAYI MAI ZAMANI-AH

Today it is your time, but tomorrow somebody better will come along.

CHORUS:

THIS IS ME –ZIRIUMS X4

NINE NAN – ZIRIUMS X4

(This is me, Ziriums)

CHORUS

RAP 2:

IM HUSTLING TAMKAR ‘DAN ACA’BA DARE RANA HAR SAFIYA

I’m hustling like a d’an achaba (motorcycle taxi driver), night and day, until the morning

DAMINA SANYI DA RANI DA DARI HIP HOP NI NAKE SO

In the time of the cool rains and in the hot season and in the night, it’s hiphop that I love

I WILL NEVER RETIRE NEVER GET TIRED,COS IM ROLLING LIKE A TYRE

I will never retire, never get tired, cause I’m rolling like a tyre

GABA DAI GABA DAI MAZAJE NA HIP HOP(SAI MAZAJE NA HIP HOP)

Go on go on all you hiphop guys (you hiphop guys)

DUKIYA MAI ‘KAREWACE,MULKI MAI SHU’DEWANE,HANYA MAI YANKEWACE

Wealth comes to an end, power passes away, the road is cut off

SAI MUN HA’DU CAN FILIN ‘KIYAMA ANAN NE ZAKACI ‘KWAL UBANKA

Let’s meet there in the place of Judgment, there you’ll suffer like you’ve never suffered before

BA ÝAN SANDA BA JINIYA-GA ‘DAN BANZAN GO-SLOW

No police to escort you, no siren, you’ll see a terrible go-slow

CAN GEFE GUDA WALAKIRI DA SANDA MAI ‘KAYA KAI MISTAKE YA TUMURMUSAKA

There to the side the angel of hell with a rod of thorns, if you make a mistake he’ll beat you stiff.

SANNAN DUKKAN GA’B’BAN JIKINKA DUKA SUNE ZASU BABBADA SHAIDA

Then all the joints of your body, all of them will give testimony

RANAR BABU P.A DA LAWYER BALLE ÝAN BANGAR SIYASAGGA MASU

That day there will be no P.A., no laywer, much less those gangsters of politicans who

SHIGA GIDAN REDIYO SUYI ‘KARYA DAN ANBASU NAIRA,

Go into the radio house and lie to get naira (money)

INZAKA FA’DI FA’DI GASKIYA KOMAI TAKA JAMAKA KA BIYA

If you’re going to say something, tell the truth, in everything walk in the way of your forebearers

ALLAH BAIMIN KARFIN JIKIBA BALLE IN TAREKA IN MAKURE

God didn’t give me a strong body, I could have attacked your neck,

AMMA YAIMIN KAIFIN BAKINDA HAR YA WUCE REZA A KAIFI

But he gave me a sharp mouth, sharper than a razor.

YES I’M SAYING IT.

Yes, I’m saying it.

CHORUS:

THIS IS ME –ZIRIUMS X4

NINE NAN – ZIRIUMS X4

(This is me, Ziriums)

Third Verse

(translated by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu (to the part about Dala Rock), after that it is translated by Ziriums, himself. Both Ziriums and Prof sent the translations to Alex Johnson and Saman Piracha for a documentary on Hausa hiphop, Recording a Revolution. Translations used by permission of filmmakers. I’ve made a few very small edits to both translations for a more informal feel)

CAN NA GANO FACE MAI SIFFAR LARABAWA

Then I saw a face like an Arab beauty

NA CE MATA ZO TA TAKA

I said to her, come on let’s dance

TA CE BA TA TAKU DA TAKALMI

She said she doesn’t dance with her shoes on.

SAI DAI IN TA TAKA A SANNU

But she will dance slowly

TATTAKA A SANNU

(Go ahead) dance slowly

AMMA KUMA KAR KI GIRGIZA

But don’t shake your body

DOMIN IN KI KA GIRGIZA

Because if you shake your body

RUWAN KOGI ZAI AMBALIYA

There will be a flood

SAI BARNA TA WUCE TSUNAMI

More destructive than Tsunami

HAR DUTSEN DALA YA TARWATSE

Which will destroy Dala Rock.

(From here translation by Ziriums)

TATTAKA KI TAKA RAWAR DON TAKU KI TAKE TEKU,

Dance, Dance my type of dance, so light you dance on the ocean-top

TAKE TAWA KISA MUSU TAKA TAMU AKE TAKAWA TAKA

Step like me ‘cause it’s our type of step they want to dance.

TATTASAI TANKWA DA TUMATIR ITA TASANI TONON TANA

Chilli pepper soup and tomatoes make me dig for earthworms

TATTABARU TARA NE NA TARE TUN RAN TALATA MUKE TAKAWA,

I gathered nine doves. We’ve been stepping out since Tuesday

(The following stanza is an old Hausa poem (according to R.C. Abraham’s dictionary) sung for a “children’s game of prodding heaps of sand to find things hidden there.” Zirium’s brother Osama bin Music explained that the game includes catching the hands of one on whom a twig falls. Ziriums left it untranslated, but I’ve translated the latter part, which I think I’ve understood correctly. If I haven’t please correct me!)

GARDO GARDO –GARDON BIDA

ATTASHI BIRE –KAMANIMAN

GYARAN FUSKA –DA WUYA YAKE

ZAN KAMA KA –

(I’ll catch you!)

KAMANI MAN

(Catch me, then)

KAMANI MAN

(Just catch me then)

CHORUS

THIS IS ME –ZIRIUMS X4

NINE NAN – ZIRIUMS X4

(This is me, Ziriums)

Shout outs:

Ziriums Intersection, giant beatz, Pro Okassy,Dekumzy, Solomon, Korex, Solar

In the house man You know what I’m saying?

Osama bin Music, Pastor Dan, Yo, this is Intersection,

Giant beatz K-town, baby.

Daga Kano, Bahaushe, Yeah Ziriums kar ka manta da sunan

From Kano, a Hausa, Yeah Ziriums, don’t forget the name


To listen to Girgiza Kai, which was banned by the Kano State Government, check out track number 4 of the “This is Me” album.

Girgiza Kai….

.. ..

Ehen. This is Pastor Dan productions. Ziriums…

.. ..

Mai dokar bacci, ya bige da gyangyed’i.

The one who says sleep is against the law is the one nodding off…….

.. ..

Kar ku taka. Ku girgiza kai kurrum.

Don’t dance. Just shake your head…..

.. ..

Girgiza girgiza

Shake shake….

.. ..

.. ..

Chorus:….

Girgiza kai/ Girgiza kai. Girgiza kai. Girgiza kai.

Shake your head, shake your head. Shake your head. Shake your head…..

.. ..

Girgiza kai. Girgiza kai. Girgiza kai.

Shake your head. Shake your head. Shake your head…..

.. ..

Girgiza kai. Girgiza kai. Girgiza kai.

Shake your head. Shake your head. Shake your head…..

.. ..

1.

Kai karku taka kun san an hana.

Hey, don’t dance, you know they banned it. ….

.. ..

Gwamnan garinmu ran nan. Shi ne ya hana.

The governor of our city here. He banned it…..

.. ..

In ka ji kid’a ya yi dad’i. Girgiza kai kurrum.

If you hear a good beat, just shake your head…..

.. ..

Eh, In ka ji kid’a ya yi dad’i. Girgiza kai kurrum.

Yeah, if you hear a good beat, just shake your head…..

.. ..

Chorus….

.. ..

.. ..

2.

Kai tsalle waka a gidan giya.

Hey,[stop] jumping and singing in a bar….

.. ..

In an kafa doka. Ku bi ta daidai wisely.

If they make a law, make sure you follow it wisely

.. ..

Eeeeh, an hana. Eeeeh, sun hana.

Eeeh, it’s against the law. Eeeeh. They said it’s against the law…..

.. ..

Chorus….

.. ..

3.

Kai ku daina arufta an hana.

Hey stop roughriding, it’s against the law…..

.. ..

Kyale tukin maye sassauta, an hana.

Stop drunk driving. It’s against the law…..

.. ..

Eeeeh, an hana. Eeeeh sun hana.

Eeeeh, it’s against the law. Eheheh, they said it’s against the law…..

.. ..

Chorus….

.. ..

.. ..

4.

.. ..

Kai mai tauye mudu an hana

Hey, you, who weight your measures. It’s against the law…..

.. ..

Algus a cikin wasko, ai shi ma an hana

You, who thin down food. It’s against the law…..

.. ..

Eeeh an hana. Eeeeh, sun hana.

Eeeeh, it’s against the law. Eeeeh, they said it’s against the law…..

.. ..

Chorus…..

.. ..

5. (RAP)

.. ..

Wanda duk ya hana mu sana’a

Anyone who keeps us from working….

.. ..

Ya Allah ka zuba musa maruru sittin da bakwai

Oh God, send him sixty-seven boils….

.. ..

A ta karshensa shawara da basir mai seedling

In his rectum, give him yellow fever and piles. ….

.. ..

Sore throat ya ..kama.. mak’oshinsa.

May his throat catch fire

.. ..

Likitoci su kasa ganoshi.

May doctors say they can’t find what’s wrong. ….

.. ..

Da Dala da Goron Dutse

So Dala and Goron Dutse [hills in ....Kano....]….

.. ..

Da gidan birni da gidan k’auye

The house in the city and the house in the village….

.. ..

Na hada na cusa a gajeran wandon mmmhmmhmmm

I put ‘em together in the underpants of his mmhmmmhmmm ….

.. ..

….Bari…. d’aya ne.Ya ji labari. ….Bari…. d’aya bai san komai ba.

One side knows what’s going on. One side has no idea…..

.. ..

Eeeh an hana. Eeeeh sun hana.

Eeeh, it’s against the law. Eeeeh, they said it’s against the law…..

.. ..

Come on.

.. ..

Chorus….

.. ..

.. ..

6.

Mmmmmm, waka ba gadona bace.

Mmmmm, I wasn’t born into singing. ….

.. ..

Dan malam ne ni k’yank’yank’yan wasu sun sani

I’m the son of a complete Islamic scholar, everybody knows…..

.. ..

Kar ku ce min na k’i halin malam samsam kurrum.

Don’t tell me I don’t have character…..

.. ..

Na yi karatun boko har da na addini, kwarai.

I’ve done Western education and religious. Oh yes…..

.. ..

Samartaka ce na kad’ana domin zamani.

It’s the way of the young. It’s the beat of our time…..

.. ..

Eeeeh an hana. Eeeeh, sun hana.

Eeeh it’s against the law. Eeeeh, they said it’s against the law….

.. ..

Chorus 2X….

.. ..

.. ..

End

(c) Lyrics: Nazir Hausawa
Translation: Carmen McCain

“Government Money” a remix of “Arab Money” by Supreme Solar, T-Rex, and Ziriums

A few months ago I wrote a post on 11 songs that had been banned by the Kano State Censorship Board in Kano. This memo prohibiting the sale of the songs, photographed by documentary filmmaker Alex Johnson, was posted at the market where cds are sold.

11 Songs banned by the Kano State Censorship Board. Photo (c) Alex Johnson

The third on the list of songs that were banned was “Girgiza Kai” (“Shake your head”) by Hausa rapper Ziriums, which was not officially released but uploaded to his myspace page. In “Girgiza Kai,” Ziriums, warns those who hear his song,

“Kai karku taka kun san an hana.

Hey, don’t dance, you know they banned it. ….

.. ..

Gwamnan garinmu ran nan. Shi ne ya hana.

The governor of our city here. He banned it…..”

Instead you should just

“Girgiza kai.”

“Shake your head.”

He also satirically uses the proverb “Mai dokar bacci, ya bige da gyangyed’i.” “The one who says sleep is against the law is the one nodding off…” to critique

“Wanda duk ya hana mu sana’a”

“Anyone who keeps us from working….”

(You can listen to the song on Zirium’s Myspace page, and read the lyrics and an English translation here.).. Already having left Kano for Abuja when the song was banned, Ziriums has hooked up with other Abuja-based musicians, Supreme Solar and T-Rex, to continue his controversial rapping on a larger national scale. Intersection Entertainment has recently released S. Solar’s “Government Money”, (featuring T-Rex and Ziriums),  a hilarious take-off on Busta Rhymes’ and Ron Browz’s notorious “hit”: “Arab Money.”

You can view “Government Money” here. Please note that all the videos embedded in this blog post are being done so under FAIR USE laws for review purposes:

Both the original “Arab Money,”  and remake of the Busta Rhymes’ tune contain wildly offensive portrayals of Arabs and Islam. (The remix featuring Lil Wayne, P. Diddy and even self-proclaimed Muslim Akon, is even worse, and uses actual verses from the Qur’an as the chorus.) The Wikipedia article written about the remix of the song notes that the chorus is “Bismillāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm. Al ḥamdu lillāhi rabbi l-‘ālamīn”;  “In the name of Allah (The God), most Gracious most Merciful. All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds.” This chorus is intoned behind the American rappers making dramatic poses , flipping bling, and rhyming about their wealth. The Wikipedia article continues to point out that Busta Rhymes uses the Islamic greeting “As-Salamu Alaykum Warahmatullah Wa Barakatu.” “May Peace and blessings of Allah(The God)be upon you” (A Greeting), to rhyme with “While I stack another billion and give it to the block fool.” Similarly Diddy says ““Al hamdu lillah” ( “All Praises to Allah”) to rhyme with: “With my billions pilin'”

Watch the original “Arab Money” here:

And the remix here:

Obviously, while self-consciously funny, the song is sacrilegious and insulting to most Muslims (though if you read through the comments on youtube or various lyrics websites there are occasional self-proclaimed “Arabs” who take pride in it). I could focus my whole blog post on this issue; however, since this has already been done multiple times (here, here, here, here, here, and here) and since I’m more interested in how S. Solar, T-Rex, and Ziriums rewrite the song in the Nigerian context, I’d like to look more at what seems to be Busta Rhyme’s conscious intention, which seems to be a celebration of bling—exemplified in what, with blinding cultural chauvinism, he calls “Arab money.” He and his fellow musicians are not affected by the recession, he implies, they just move on to the “Arab money,” which “Arabs” know how to respect:

Prince Alwali, Bin Talal, Al Saul
They respect the value of my worth in Maui, Malaysia
Iran and Iraq, Saudi Arabia!

Indeed, in an MTV article, Busta defends himself by describing the way the song was recorded:

[Ron] picked up the phone, and I was like, ‘What are you saying on this joint?[…]

When Browz explained to Busta that he was, in fact, saying “Arab,” Busta was elated.

“I was like, ‘This is genius,’ ” he said. “Just the timing of this. The fact that the recession was crazy. Fortune 500 companies left and right are needing bailouts. I was like, ‘You ain’t hearing none of that going on with none of the people in the Arab community or Arab culture. None of that.’ I was like, ‘You know something? This is a great record to inspire people to incorporate wealth in their vocabulary [my emphasis], because rich has become the new broke.’ ‘Arab Money’ — it felt right. Let’s take something from a culture that has exemplified the rich qualities of spirituality and economic and financial stability for thousands of years. They’ve instilled that in their kids for thousands of years.”

Busta ostensibly praises the “rich Arab culture,” yet the “culture” he claims to admire is an Orientalist fantasy of gold-glittering caves and harems of nymphomaniacs, tied to earlier colonial grabs for land, wealth, and power. At time code 1:54 in the first video he brags that he is

sitting in casinos while I’m gambling with Arafat,

money long now, watch me purchase pieces of the almanac.

Both versions entwine exoticized presentations of supposedly “Arab” moneyed lifestyles with the standard  hiphop hymn to wealth, materialism, money, and women—clichés exemplified in 50 Cent’s “I Get Money,” among many others.

These clichés have been adopted (with more or less irony) in Nigerian pop music. (Examples  feature Nollywood-like Lagos settings with plush leather couches, sleek clubs, wine glasses, expensive cars, and scantily clad (often light-skinned) women. See Faze’s Need Somebody,  P-Square’s “Do Me, I Do You,” Dbanj’s “Booty Call,” or Style Plus’s “Call my Name.”) These popular songs exemplify the “Nigerian dream” of  making it big and partaking in the glamourous party-world  of Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Maitama, or abroad. In fact, before Intersection’s “Government Money,” Olu Maintain had come out with a track named “Arab Money,” as well, likely inspired by the Busta Rhymes video although he doesn’t seem to have shot a video for it yet. The chorus involved the repeated phrase “I go spend Arab Money, just spend Arab money,” alongside wistful tracks about going “to Abu Dhabi, where we can walk freely.”  In this track, there does seem to be more self consciousness about the representation of wealth than much other Naija-pop, as can be seen in the observation that in Dubai “recession no dey there” and  in this exchange at timecode 3:04 between Olu Maintain and Bondo Krazzy:

Olu Maintain: On second thought, there are some things money can’t buy [....] You know what I’m talking about?

Bond Krazzy: Hei, Mr. Olu, money can never buy love, Mr. Olu.

The Nigerian music/music videos I find most compelling play with a more self conscious reference to wealth as it is related to corruption and give ironic nods to the particularly Nigerian innovations in 419, from the celebration of the yahoo yahoo boys in Olu Maintain’s Yahoozee, which features row upon row of big hummers to the more self-consciously satirical “I Go Chop your Dollar”  by comedian Nkem Owoh (who in a twist of fate was recently kidnapped by entrepreneurial criminals in  what has become the hottest new way to “chop money” Apparently, Owoh was released when his family forked over N1.4 billion.)

Watch Yahoozee here:

Watch, “I go Chop your Dollar” here:

With “Government Money,” Intersection musicians Supreme Solar, T-Rex, and Ziriums follow in this satirical tradition: Rewriting Busta Rhyme’s hymn to moola, these Abuja-based musicians echo the “celebration” of money, but with an ironic edge—rapping not of the wealthy lifestyle attainable to them as musicians but to those Abuja Big Boys who are eating “Government money.”

In the tradition of “Yahoozee” and other videos where flashy cars become symbols of power, sexual prowess, and wealth, Supreme Solar raps about his “new Range Rover” leaning against the glossy side of the jeep. The camera zooms out to focus on the license plate, which says FG Kudi, (for Federal Government Money). The use of “Abuja” here is a metonym for government, politics, and all the “promise”of money that Abuja offers those who come to Nigeria’s airbrushed capitol where the poor (or even the simply “middle class”) are swept out to the crowded outskirts of the city. To participate in the lifestyle, then as T-Rex says

What’s the access here?

We aint makin bucks in excess

Having stocks and investments

But to me it doesn’t’ make sense

To make the excessive “Abuja-style” money, one must go a bit further than stocks and investments, “Duping NGO’s for Virgin dough” and other shady transactions.

What most creates tension between “Government Money” and the original “Arab Money,” taking the tune beyond the “Yahoozee” genre (pushing it more in the direction of Eedris Abdulkareem’s funny but incisively critical “Mr. Lecturer”),  is the inclusion of Ziriums, a Northern Muslim from Kano state, with his Hausa chorus “Mu ci kudin Abuja, Mu ci kudin gwamnati” (Let’s eat/spend Abuja Money, let’s eat/spend government money”) and his fierce spoken commentary at the end of the song. Interestingly (even uncomfortably), Ziriums’ chorus in Hausa is used where in the “Arab Money” remix the Qur’anic verses are used, layering on popular Nigerian conflations of Arab/Muslim culture with the Hausa-speaking north, both imagined and real. By the second day the video had been posted, there was already a comment by user “injustice2mankind” saying, “That fool Ziriums is killing me with his attire…note the arab neck scarf on his agbada….so funny.”

Ziriums featured in “Government Money” by Supreme Solar

Where in the American version, there is a blasphemous use of the Qur’an to rhyme with verses about the love of mammon, in this version, Ziriums’ chorus takes the “Arabic” sound and turns it to a satirical first person boast about “devouring government money.” Here, he subversively links Busta Rhymes et al, and their blasphemous use of Islamic creed to support debauchery, with those “Big Men” who use religion (whether Christianity or Islam) as a cover to justify their scramble for the “national cake.” That is, the very elite who tend to self-righteously decry the “immorality” and “cultural imperialism” of hiphop as a genre are the very ones whose personal habits tend have the most in common with the gold-plated lifestyles of those American artists.   Dressed in a Big Man’s babban riga, Ziriums and the other two artists take on the personas of government contractors and professional fraudsters, blurring the boundary between the two.

“Cin kudi” (literally “eating money”), the Hausa phrase that parallels the pidgin phrase “chopping money,” reflects both the everyday language of Nigerians when they speak of corruption and the concept in popular culture that corrupt leaders are both metaphorically and literally consuming the wealth of the nation: taking “a chunk of the national cake,” “duping NGOs,” taking their “contracts’ tax”. These conquests make T-Rex “hungrier than ever,” invoking images seen in political cartoons of monstrous fat bellied leaders who as in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel Devil on the Cross are in a competition to see who is the greatest thief and robber. If T-Rex’s stomach is burning and hungry,” and “grumbling funny” in hunger for more assets, at the end Ziriums goes into a fierce tirade:  “Yunwa, Talauci, […] Don haka, dole mu ci kudin gwamnati, kudin Abuja, dole mu kwashe .” “Hunger, poverty.[…] This is why we must consume government money, Abuja money, we must spend it.” On one hand, he echoes Nkem Owoh’s narrative in “I Go Chop your Dollar,”

“I done suffer no be small. Upon say I get sense Poverty no good at all, no Na im make I join this business 419 no be thief, it’s just a game .”

On the other hand, Ziriums points out that Abuja money and government money, in fact, belongs to everyone in the country—If there is hunger and poverty, then ordinary people must also have access to the nation’s wealth.

Nigerian hiphop is often criticized for merely mindlessly copying American rap. I have no doubt that some may point to the Intersection’s ripping of the production and “sound” of Busta Rhymes “Arab Money” as an illustration of such “unoriginality.” However, the transfer, at least in this case, profoundly changes the song: adding to, subverting, and commenting on the original. “Government Money” ends up being not just a critique of corruption among Nigeria’s wealthy elite, but also a parody/critique of the mindlessly obscene celebration of bling in “Arab Money”—and of the exoticizing colonization of other parts of the world in the Busta Rhymes tune and so often found in American hiphop. (See for example: Ludacris’s “Pimpin All Over the World,” countless beach scenes in the Caribbean, or Nigerian rapper Eedris Abdulkareem’s beef with 50 Cent over a seat on an airplane, about whom he said “You cannot treat me as a second and or third class citizen in my own country, I will not take it from anybody.”)  When to a background of the chanted Qur’an, P. Diddy [wearing two cross chains] raps “Fuck the recession. I’m still investin, I’m about to buy Dubai, and swim in the shark section,”  P. Diddy seems far more akin to the arrogant Swiss-bank account holding government swindlers of Nigeria than these young, upcoming but still moneyless Nigerian musicians.Thus, “Government Money” blends the ferocious critiques of oppressive society found in politically conscious rap with a parody of the glossy sexed-up materialistic hits most popular on MTV.

There are a few things to work on, here. The video is busy with graphics and, while featuring other artists who are not actually participating in the music is in keeping with the original “Arab Money” mix, here it is just confusing.  If the song becomes popular enough, it would be great to have a re-mix video. But it is fresh, funny, and this talent is real. The “Unassailable” S. Solar, the “Extraordinary” T-Rex, and the “Revolutionary” Ziriums, as the video titles them, are musicians to keep an eye on.

And to watch again without having to scroll back up:

Here are the lyrics. Thank you to Korex of Intersection who provided me with the complete corrected lyrics of the verses in English and to Ziriums who corrected my Hausa transcription of the chorus before I posted. (Correction to English made 25 November 2009–and with access to the full lyrics some of the analysis may change… stay tuned… lol)

Lyrics:

The Goose, da goose, is loose in the building.

T-Rex,

Ziriums,

Haha

S. Solar

Chorus (Ziriums):

Naira zamu kashe, mun fito

(We are out to splurge on Naira)

Mu mun fito, mu kashe ‘yan kud’i,

(We’re out to splurge a little money.)

Muci kudin Abuja, muci kudin gwamnati

(Let’s spend Abuja money, let’s spend government money)

Repeat once

Supreme Solar

Verse 1: I appear anywhere with the new range rover
Check the Tints so intense, FG plate number
Can’t stop, coming like a rain, lots of digits in my company name hey, money ain’t a thing
So much money that the bank can’t hold
Too many properties that we can’t disclose
What’s your bank’s name, i’ll call the CEO
When my NGO’ll holler back and make the black case close!

Chorus: Ziriums

T-Rex

Verse 2: More than a slice, I’ll take a chunk of the national cake
Get the ration and break.
Before you know that the transaction is fake
i’ll be in another state
Hooking up another bait, Duping NGO’s for Virgin dough
Cop a lotta paper
Breaking contacts and contracts
It’s a strong task. If there’s a window of opportunity

[Crack]
I’ll make the walls crack, give the guns back
And I’m hungrier than ever, get the cheddar, tell rihanna to get that ugly ass umbrella.
I’m loving the weather, and its Government Money.
I’ve gotta vendetta, I’m gonna be robbin them, sonny.
There’s no time for fumbling,
I’m burning and hungry, feel the mic on my belly
You hear it rumbling funny?

Chorus: Ziriums

T-Rex

Verse 3:What’s the access here?
We aint makin bucks in excess
Having stocks and investments
But to me it doesn’t make sense.

S. Solar:
Yeah, like Solar, calls it out of the PH [Port-Harcourt]
3 series Beemer, cruising back to the ‘A’ [Abuja]
Bankin on them papers that we packed in the case
Cause that’s how we get the papers that we stashed with the Feds

T-Rex:
I see them crackin the safe with skills can wait
Musta chills and chase still…
lock up the bills than Gates
S. Solar:
Go through a couple of milli? no we be down with a Billi
Like a billy a billion… nigga for real, no really we get it

T-Rex:
Too bad we get the credit unrated, then set it(….)
All you you relics are heading for debit
And that is your verdict
S. Solar
Bam
Baby pick up the bags and clothes, lets make a final break before the black case close.

Chorus: (Ziriums):

Naira zamu kashe, mun fito

(We are out to splurge on Naira)

Mu mun fito, mu kashe ‘yan kud’i,

(We’re out to splurge a little money.)

Muci kudin Abuja, muci kudin gwamnati

(Let’s spend Abuja money, let’s spend government money)

Repeat once

Ziriums speaks over the chorus: Ziriums, T-Rex, Solar, Korex….Dole mu (….) kudin Abuja, wallahi tallahi, yunwa, talauci,yaudara (?) mutane, Don haka, dole mu ci kudin gwamnati, kudin Abuja, dole mu kwashe…Mu saye gidaje musu, Mu saye motoci, Mu aure mata yan gwamnati. Kawai abin da zamu yi. Habba… Intersection… Ba wani kudin waye waye…Ni kwarai,  (….) Kudin gwamnatu, masu gidan rana ehheh

(I haven’t finished transcribing/translating Zirium’s monologue at the end, so if anyone hears the rest of it, I’d appreciate the help. Thanks!)

Breaking News: Singer Ala denied bail

6pm, I am at an internet cafe, not on my own computer, so I will post a quick update and then keep working on the report of Ala’s court case today at the Airport Magistrate court, Kano, the so-called mobile court attached to the Kano State Censorship Board. He was charged with releasing his song “Hasbunallahu,” a song which requests Allah to punish those who keep them from practicing their profession but which mentions no names, without passing it through the Kano State Censorship Board.  He pleaded not guilty. The judge in the case is Mukhtar Ahmad, who had been found “incompetent” by the Kano State attorney general, in the earlier case with Iyan-Tama (who serve three months in prison before the state declared a mis-trial). Today, Justice Ahmad denied Ala bail and posted the next hearing this Thursday. A prison vehicle had been waiting for Ala before the court even started and whisked him off to jail by around 2:30pm this afternoon. Readers will remember that Ala has been a long time supporter of the present Kano State administration but recently fell out with the Censor’s Board after his song “Hasbunallahu” started making the rounds on bluetooth. The song was banned around two weeks ago.

You know those dangerous singers. If you let them go free two days,  no telling WHAT they might sing….

Stay posted (hopefully in th next 45 minutes) for a full report of what happened. In the meantime google yesterday’s Leadership, the article by Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz titled “Aminu Ala Arrested, Released on Bail,” for the details of Ala’s initial arrest last Saturday.