Tag Archives: Aminiya

Interview with Hiphop artist Ziriums in this week’s Aminiya

Mujullar Rayuwa, Aminiya, 16 April 2010

"Nazir Ahmad Hausawa: Ganawa da Fitaccen Mawak'in Hausa na Zamani"

This week’s Aminiya newspaper featured an interview with Hausa hiphop artist Ziriums, whose collaboration with Supreme Solar and T-Rex, I have written about earlier on this blog. The interview in Hausa (with my translation) is copied below. To read the interview on the Aminiya website, click here and to hear some of Zirium’s music, click on his myspace page, here. [[UPDATE 31 August 2010, You can also buy his new album “This is Me” on itunesamazon.com, and myspace.]]

The interview opens with an introduction that I will not directly translate. I have directly translated the rest of the interview, but keep in mind that I likely have made at least a few small errors. I welcome corrections. If you have any, please leave them in the comments section, and I will fix the translation. In the introduction,  Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi, the interviwer, talks about how as time brings new types of music the old is not left behind. The new music, too, can give sermons and teach lessons.

Malam Nazir, idan za mu fara tattanawa, zan so jin amsar cewa, wane ne Nazir Ahmad Hausawa?

Kamar dai yadda ka ambata, sunana Nazir Ahmad Hausawa kuma an haife ni a ranar 5 ga watan Fabrairu, cikin shekara ta 1980, a Unguwar Hausawa da ke cikin karamar Hukumar Gwale, Jihar Kano. Na fara karatun share fagen shiga firamare a 1983, a Galadanchi Nursery School. A 1984 ne na fara karatun firamare a Gwale Special Primary School, inda na yi shekara biyar na dauki jarabawar zuwa sakandare. A cikin shekarar 1990 ne na je Gobernment Junior Secondary School Warure, inda daga nan na dauki jarabawa zuwa Senior Secondary School Gwale. Bayan na gama a 1997, na tafi Kwalejin Share Fage Shiga Jami’a ta Kano a shekarar 1998. Na yi shekara biyu a nan, inda bayan na kammala, na fara karatu a Kwalejin Kiwon Lafiya (School of Hygeine), inda bayan na yi shekara biyu, ban kai ga yin jarabawar karshe ba, sai na bar makarantar, saboda na samu gurbin karo karatu a Federal College of Education, Kano. Na fara karatu a can, daga shekarar 2001 zuwa 2003, inda na kammala. Wannan shi ne dan takaitaccen tarihina.

Malam Nazir, if we may start, I’d like to hear you answer this question: Who is Nazir Ahmad Hausawa?

As you have mentioned, my name is Nazir Ahmad Hausawa. I was born on 5 February 1980 in Hausawa area, Gwale Local Government Area, Kano State. I started school in 1983 at Galadanci Nursery School. In 1984, I started primary school at Gwale Special Primary School where I spent five years before I took the exams to go on to secondary school. In 1990, I went to Government Junior Secondary School, Warure, which is where I took the exams to go on to Gwale Senior Secondary School. After I finished in 1997, in 1998 I went to University preparatory College of Share Fage. I did two years there, and after I finished, I started my studies at the School of Hygiene, where after I had spent two years, I left the school before I did my final exam. This is because I had gotten admission to Federal College of Education, Kano. I started my studies there from 2001 to 2003, where I finished. This is a brief recap of my life.

Ga shi ka yi fice a fagen shirya wakokin zamani, ko yaya haka ta faro a rayuwarka?
Ka san cewa mutane sun ce ita waka baiwa ce, to lallai ni na amince da haka, cewa baiwa ce. Na fara waka ne a sanadiyyar yawan sauraren wakokin da nake yi, haka kuma mahaifina shi ne Sakatare ko kuma a yanzu shi ne Odita na kungiyar Usha’un Nabiyyi, masu wakokin yabon Annabi (SAW). Su ne suka fara kafa kungiyar mawakan yabon Annabi a Jihar Kano, inda suke tara mutane suna zama suna rera wakokin yabon Annabi, kodayake su ba su hadawa da kida, wakar kawai suke yi, sai dan tafi da hannu da suke dan yi a wani lokaci. Tun ina yaro, mahaifin nawa kan tafi da ni wajen da suke wannan zama na bege, kuma tun daga lokacin nan harkar waka ta fara shiga raina.

Ok, so you’ve come out as a modern musician? How did your life bring you to this?

You know, they say that singing is a gift, and I agree with that—it is a gift. I started singing because I was always listening to music. My father is the secretary or actually now he is the Auditor of the Usha’un Nabiyyi Group, those who sing in praise of the Prophet (PBUH). They were the first ones in Kano State who established a group of praise singers to the Prophet. They would assemble people to sit  and sing praises to the Prophet. They didn’t combine it with drumming, they would just sing acapella. Every once in a while, they will wave their hands around [?]. Since I was a child, my father would go with me to the place where they would sing of their longing. And since that time, the love of music entered my soul.

Za mu iya cewa a harkar waka, kai dan gado ne ke nan?

To, haka din ne, amma shi mahaifina wakokin yabo yake yi, ni kuma na zamani nake yi. Daga baya ne sai muka kafa wata kungiya ta mawaka, ni da abokina Ali Jamilu a nan unguwarmu, Hausawa. Mun samu wannan kwarin gwiwa ne saboda yawan sauraren wakokin Turai da muke yi, wanda haka ya sanya muka kafa wannan kungiya, wacce muka sanya wa suna ‘kungiyar Nigogin Yabon Ma’aiki.’ Muna yin wakokin yabon da salon nan na Rapping, amma wakokin addini ne, ta salon kwaikwayar wakokin da suka yi fice a kasashen Turai. Kamar akwai wakar Boyz II Men, mai taken End of the Road, wacce muka canza ta zuwa wakar yabon Manzon Allah, inda ake yi mana kida da mandiri, mu kuma muna rerawa. Da farko sai aka rika yi mana dariya, ana kushewa, cewa wane ne zai ji irin wannan wakar yabon, ta salon Turanci? Amma dai ni daga nan zan ce na fara waka sosai. Daga nan ne na hadu da Alhaji Hamisu Iyan-Tama, inda na je ofishinsa, inda na kalli wani fim mai suna ‘Badakala’ wanda su suka shirya shi. Daga nan na fara sha’awar harkokin fina-finai da sauran harkokin nishadantarwa irinsu. A nan na hadu da su dan’Azumi Baba Cediyar ’Yangurasa da su Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino da sauransu. Ni a lokacin, na yi sha’awar in fara fitowa a matsayin jarumi a fina-finai, amma saboda kankantar jikina a lokacin, sai aka ce ba zan iya fitowa a wannan matsayi ba, sai idan ana bukatar fitowar yara, za a sanya ni. Daga nan na zama dan aike a ofishin Iyan-Tama, inda ake aike na kamar sawo abinci ko daukar janereto idan an je daukar fim, da sauran hidindimu irin wadannan. Muna cikin haka sai dan’Azumi ya rabu da Iyan-Tama, ya bude nasa ofishin, wato R.K Studio, ni kuma sai na bi shi. A lokacin ne ya sayi abin kida na zamani wato Piano/Yamaha. A kan wannan na’ura na fara koyon kidan zamani da kaina, har ma na fara iyawa. Daga nan muka samu matsala da shi dan’Azumi, na bar wurinsa, na yi zaman shekara daya ba tare da na yi wannan harka ta kida ba. Na koma makaranta ne sai na hadu da su Salisu Mu’azu, lokacin sun bude ofis din Lenscope Media a Kano. Ya kira ni ya ce in je in fara koyo, inda na je na fara koyon kidan kwamfuta a wurin Ibrahim Danko. Ni ne Bakano na farko da ya fara koyon kida da kwamfuta a lokacin. Da tafiya ta yi tafiya ma, sai aka bar mini kamfanin Lenscope Media na rike shi ni kadai. Ka ji yadda aka yi na fara waka kuma na shiga harkokin kade-kaden zamani.

Could we say that you have inherited your music?

You could say that, but my father sings praises [to the Prophet] and I sing modern music. After some time, we started a singing group, me and my friend Ali Jamilu, in our neighborhood, Hausawa. We did this because we were always listening to Western music,,which is what made us establish this group. We named it “The Nigga’s Who Praise the Messenger.” We were doing this Islamic praise-singing in a rap style. But although they were using the style we learned from Western music, they were religious songs. Like the Boyz II Men song, “End of the Road,” we changed to become a song in praise of the Prophet of God. The mandiri beat would be done for us, and we would sing. At first, everyone was laughing at us and didn’t have any use for us. They said who has ever heard this kind of Islamic praise in a Western style. But from this time, that’s when I really started singing. After that I met with Alhaji Hamisu Iyan-Tama, when I to his office because I had seen a film named “Badak’ala” which his company had produced. From there I became interested in the film industry and the rest of the entertainment industry. This is where I met with ‘Dan Azumi Baba, Ced’iyar ‘Yangurasa, Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, and others. At the time I was interested in being an actor in films, but because I was very small then, they said that I couldn’t appear as an actor unless they needed children, then they would cast me. After that I found employment in Iyan-Tama’s office. They would send me to buy food or carry the generator if they went on a film shoot, and other services like these. I was going along like that, when ‘Dan Azumi left Iyan-Tama and opened his own office, R.K. Studio, and I followed him. At that time, he bought a new kind of instrument, the Yamaha piano. It was on this machine that I started teaching myself how to produce beats, until I started being able to do it. I ended up having a problem with D’an Azumi, so I left his place and spent about a year without doing anything with music production. I returned to school until I met with Salisu Mu’azu, when they opened the Lenscope Media office in Kano. He called me to come learn, and this is where I started learning how to produce music with a computer together with Ibrahim Danko. At that time, I was the first Kano-man who started learning music production on the computer.  As time passed and people left Lenscope Media company, I was left alone holding on to what I knew. [?] So now you have heard how I started singing and how I entered the contemporary music industry.

Wace waka ce ka fara yi a rayuwarka?
Tirkashi! Kana nufin tun ina yaro ko kuwa dai bayan na shiga harkar? Lokacin da na yanke hukuncin cewa na zama mawaki, wakar da na fara ta farko ita ce, ‘Kano Ta Dabo Tumbin Giwa.’ Na yi wannan waka ne tare da Adam A. Zango da kuma Billy O.

What is the first song you did in your life?

Tirk’ashi! Do you mean since I was a kid or after I entered the industry? When I made up my mind that I had become a singer, the first song I started with was “Kano ta Dabo Tumbin Giwa.” I sang this with Adam A. Zango and Billy O.

Maganar alabe ko faifai fa, ya zuwa yanzu ka shirya alaben wakoki guda nawa?
Ina da alabe guda daya da na gama shiryawa, wanda na sanya wa suna ‘Kyandir’ amma ban kai ga sakin shi kasuwa ba. Yana dauke da wakoki ne a kan soyayya ta matasa sai kuma waka guda daya da na yi kan Arewa. Na yi kokarin nuna cewa mu ma a Huasa muna da salon wakoki, wato ba kwaikwaya muka yi daga Turawa ba. Wato muna da su tun da dadewa, a yanzu dai mun zamanantar da su ne kawai.

So, let’s talk about your album or record. How many albums have you produced?

I have one album that I’ve finished producing, named “Kyandir” but I haven’t released it to the market yet. It’s comprised mostly of songs on love, and then there is one song that I did on the North. I tried to show that we Hausa have a style of singing that we didn’t copy from Europeans. We’ve had this music for a long time and now we are just modernizing it.

Cikin wannan lokacin, masu sana’ar kade-kade da wake-waker na fuskantar wani kalubale ko kuma abin da wasunku ke ganin kamar takurawa daga Gwamnatin Jihar Kano, me za ka ce game da wannan rashin jituwa da ke tsakaninku da hukuma?
Wannan badakala dai tana faruwa ne saboda wasu mutane da suke ganin kamar sun fi kowa ilimi, sun fi kowa sani, kai ba ka iya ba. A matsayinka na mai basira, mai fasaha, shi sai ya zo ya yi maka jagora, ya nuna maka ga yadda yake son ka yi abin da ke cikin tunaninka.

So during this time, musicians are facing pressures or what some of you see as restrictions from the Kano State Government. What can you say on the lack of harmony between you all and the [censorship] board?

These problems are occurring because some people think they have more knowledge than anyone else, they know more than anyone else—[saying] you aren’t able to do this. In your position you are talented and skilled. Then he comes and says he will guide you and show you how he wants you to do what you already know. [?]

Ba ka ganin wannan kalubale daga gwamnati zai iya dakushe muku azama?
Sosai ma kuwa, wannan abu ya dakushe mana azama kwarai da gaske, domin idan ka kalli harkar, da dama daga cikinmu mun dauke ta sana’a, mun dauke ta a matsayin hanyar cin abinci, wasu kuma sun dauke ta a matsayin kamar wani abu na iskanci. Ni ba na cikin wadanda suka dauki wannan harka a matsayin iskanci. Ni na dauke ta ne a matsayin sana’a, domin kuwa albarkacinta ga shi na zama Injiniya mai sarrafa sauti (Professional Sound Engineer). Na yi kwas a birnin Paris na kasar Faransa, na yi kwas a Ingila, ga shi kuma a yanzu ina aiki tare da BBC. Na samu wannan daukaka ne duk albarkacin wannan harka da wasu ke ganin kamar iskanci ce, mu kuwa muka ce sana’a ce.

You don’t think this pressure from the government could hinder your progress?

Sure it can, this thing has really, truly hindered our progress.  Because if you look at the industry. It is the opportunity that some of us have to take up a profession. We take it as the path to earn our daily bread. Others take it as a way to live immorally and get into trouble.  I’m not among those who are in the industry to be immoral. I take it as a profession. I have been blessed to become a Professional sound Engineer. I have done a course from Paris, France, and I’ve done a course from England, and now I’m working with BBC. I have found opportunities and all the blessings of this industry that some see as mere immoral living. But we say it is a profession.

Me ne ne  sakonka ga al’umma dangane da wannan sana’a taku ta kida da waka?
Kirana ga al’uma shi ne, ka ji, ka ki ji, ka gani, ka ki gani. Duk abin da aka ga matasa mun taso muna ta yi, a yi mana kyakkyawar fahimta, a daina yi mana kallon cewa mu ’yan iska ne, wai muna bata tarbiyya, wai muna kaza-kaza. Ko ana so ko ba a so, idan mu an hana mu wannan harka, an danne mu ta karfin tsiya cewa ba za mu yi ba, to fa sai an sayi wakokin Timaya a Kano, sai an sayi wakokin P-Skuare a Kano, sai an sayi wakokin Dbanj a Kano, wanda lalatar da ke ciki ta ninka sau dari fiye da namu na Hausa, balle ma wakokinmu na Huasa babu wani abu na lalata a cikinsu. Wasu na cewa ai su wakokin su Timaya da Turanci suke yinsu, to a tuna fa, wadanda ke saurarensu a Kano sun je makaranta fa, suna fahimtar duk abin da suke fada. Ga shi kuma ba a hana sanya wakokin nasu a gidajen rediyon da ke Kano ba, har gobe ana sanyawa. Amma wai namu saboda da Hausa ne, ga shi nan ana hanawa. Don haka, ina kira da cewa, ya kamata a bi mu a hankali, ba a yi mana karfi-karfi ba.

What is your message  to the readers about  your music profession?

What I have to say to the readers is this: whether you hear or you refuse to hear, whether you see or you refuse to see. Everything that is seen as a profession, we have introduced it and we are still doing it. Understand us very well and stop looking at us as if we are rogues, or that we are spoiling the upbringing of children, or we are doing this and that. Whether you like or you don’t like, if we are kept from this industry, if we are weighted down into destitution by those saying, we aren’t allowed to do it, well, then people will buy Timaya’s music in Kano or they will buy P-Square’s music in Kano , or Dbanj’s music in Kano, which are a hundred times worse than our Hausa songs. And there is not anything bad in our Hausa songs. Some are saying, oh, that Timaya’s songs are in English, but remember, those who are listening to them in Kano have gone to school, they know what’s being said in them. And those songs haven’t been banned from the radio stations in Kano. Until tomorrow they will keep playing them. But ours, supposedly because they are in Hausa, they ban them. So, I am saying that they should take care how they treat us and not be too hard on us.

Kano State Censors Board bans films on the history of Islam and the prophets and shuts down 15 shops

"Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops," Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, p. 33

Two days ago (my internet has been down for a day and a half–thus the delay in posting this), I read in the Sunday Trust and the Hausa language weekly Aminiya a story I had heard from filmmakers a week and a half ago before my trip to Abuja. I hadn’t blogged about it because I had only heard ji-ta-ji-ta (rumours) about it, but the newspapers confirm the story.

Apparently, according to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, page 33, “Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops,” the Kano State Censorship Board closed 15 video shops over “selling tapes of the history of Prophet Yusuf.” (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the link to the article online. If I find it, I will link to it here. In the meantime, here is a photograph of the article.)

The Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, “said in an interview in Kano that

“banning the sales of such films has become necessary as it is against the teachings of Islam and therefore will not be allowed in the state.”

Rabo also mentions that

“under aged children who can easily be influenced are also involved in hawking such films along the streets without knowing the implications. He also said the ban was as well in the interest of potential customers who might not get to these children even if they found the films were bad.”

In response,

[S]ecretary of the Kano film sellers association, Malam Isa, described shutting down the shops by the censorship board as unfortunate as the director general of the board did not keep to the promise of briefing them on what stand it is taking on the sales of the film before acting.

“I can recall that the DG sometimes in October last year invited us for a meeting at A Dai Daita Sahu and during the meeting, one Islamic scholar, Malam Aminu Daurawa, mentioned that watching the film was not appropriate and after the meeting, we met the DG at his office on the matter and he told us that was just a dialogue among scholars which does not involve us. He then promised that he was going to inform us on any development thereafter but unfortunately he didn’t. The next thing we saw was the closure of the shops” he said.

Malam Isa said that the film sellers:

“have reported the case to the Emir of Kano and as Muslims we are ready to comply with the ban so long as it is Islamic scholars that will come together to prove that the film is contrary to the teachings of Islam.”

He also lamented the loss of business this was causing to the shop owners saying:

“business has been their major source of livelihood and now that the board has closed the shops, these people are finding it hard to survive.”

The Hausa weekly Aminiya, 12 February 2010, provides more details. I will provide a summary of the article in English here—please note that this is NOT a direct translation but a summary in my own words.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi writes in “Hukuma ta haramta sayar da fina-finan tarihin Musulunci a Kano” (p. 21) (“The [Censor’s ]Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”) that the director of the censors Board Malam Abubakar Rabo went to the Kofar Wambai market and closed four shops where they were selling films on the history of Islam, specifically the film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf [Joseph] and the film The Message.

In a radio program on Radio Kano, DG Abubakar Rabo said that “the censors board had closed 15 shops in Kano and he warned others who were selling the films.”

Aminiya reporters went to the Kofar Wambai market to see the shops that had been closed, and one of the film marketers, Musa Abdullahi Sanka who started selling film cassettes in 1976, said that the story was true. The Censors board had come and closed shops selling films on the history of the Prophet Yusuf and the history of Islam, The Message.

When Aminya asked Abdullahi Sanka what reason the Censors Board had given for closing the shops, he said that the censors said that they should stop selling the film because apparently there were some Islamic scholars who had issued a fatwa on selling films on the history of the prophets, saying such films were not appropriate.

The marketer responded saying that the businessmen wanted the well-respected Islamic scholars in Kano to come together and say whether the films were appropriate or not. If they said they were not appropriate, then how could they correct them? If they gave very strong reasons for banning the films, then the marketers would stop selling them.

The marketer told Aminiya that four shops in Kofar Wambai had been closed: that of Alhaji Salisu, that of Ahmadu Hussaini, that of Anas, and another Igbo marketer whose name he did not give.

He said that the film sellers got the films from Misira, others from Lagos, others were brought from Arab countries. He said that he had heard that the film on the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was made by Shi’a in Iran, and that is why the Censorship Board had cooperated with the fatwa of an Izala scholar against the film.

When he was asked if he had seen the film and if it seemed to be appropriate, he said that he hadn’t seen the entire film but that he remembered how when he had been fifteen years old, the late Islamic Scholar Sheikh Nasiru Kabara had told the history of the Prophet Yusuf, and what he had seen of the film followed exactly what the scholar had told them.

The Secretary of the Film sellers association of Kofar Wambai Market, Malam L. Isa said that the discussion with the Censors board had started last year. The Censors Board had invited them to a meeting organized by A Dai Daita Sahu (the government sponsored Societal Reorientation Directorate) on 24 October, where it was said that Sheikh Aminu Daurawa had preached a sermon in which he said that it was not right to watch this type of film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf. “When we heard this, we asked the director of the Kano State Censorship board about this. He told us we shouldn’t worry that it would not affect us. But we were surprised that day, without notice, without letting us know, people came to the market and closed shops belonging to those in our association.”

He said that after the shops were closed, they complained to Malam Rabo who did not listen patiently to them. This is why they went with their complaint to the Emir of Kano. “What is happening with us right now. We went to Director Malam Rabo, but he didn’t listen to us or give us any good answer. He even kicked us out, so we got up and we went to our father, the emir of Kano, and carried our complaint to him. Since there are big men in power, we should let them know what is going on with us—If they don’t know what has been happening, they will now know.”

The Secretary continued,” We called on the emir to negotiate between us and Malam Rabo because we have been obeying the government and the censors board, but now there is no understanding between us. People were sent from the board to us without anyone letting us know there was  such a law.”

Another marketer Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim K’ok’i, better known as Palasd’inawa, also expressed his unhappiness at the actions of the Censor’s Board. He said that they had been watching films on the lives of the prophets since they had been children. On Muslim holidays, the Kano state television station used to play them.

“It shouldn’t be that the judgment of a single Islamic scholar becomes the basis of the entire Muslim culture. Now Malam Rabo should tell us what kinds of films that we should be watching, because they have banned Hausa films saying that they are spoiling women and children. So now why are they banning films on Islamic history, since no one can say they are spoiling culture?’

The director of the Kano State Censors Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim explained the reason for the ban. He said that it is in accordance with the culture and the findings of Islamic scholars who said that such films were not fitting as they were not respectful to the prophets.

The gist of Malam Rabo’s statement was that the Kano State Censors Board was created keeping in mind Islam and the judgments of Islamic scholars who guide the community. The board had heard from the association of Islamic scholars and other religious organizations that people were trying to make money on offensive films made about the lives of the messengers of God. He also noted that they had called a meeting through a Dai Daita Sahu (Societal Reorientation Directorate) where one of the Islamic scholars had shown the danger of these types of films that were insulting to the Messengers of God and culture.

Malam Rabo said that this is the reason the Censor’s board said that the selling of these types of films must stop because it was not fitting to show another man in the film claiming to be the Messenger of God. He further said that the Board would continue to hunt down those who brokered and spread films in Kano state, especially, he emphasized, those who were selling films on the sides of the roads because this is illegal.

To read the article in Hausa, see the photo of the article here:

Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”], Aminiya, 12 February 2010, p. 21″]
About these ads

Interview with me in last week’s Aminiya

Here is an interview Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi of the Hausa language weekly Aminiya did with me in December while at the Indigenous Language Literature conference in Damagaram, Niger, December 2009. It was published in last week’s Aminiya, 5-11 February, on pages 20-21. Despite the awful pictures of me, I was quite pleased with how the interview turned out (and pleased with how he edited and corrected my Hausa!). To read the interview, you will probably have to download the photos and open them at 100%. (If the photos are showing up too big to read, try clicking on my home page link. It should allow you to access beyond the margins. UPDATE: 13 February 2010: Actually probably the best way to read the article(as pointed out by Desertgills) is to click on the photos–that should take you to my flickr page. After that click on the All sizes icon at the top of the photo and pick “original size”–that should make it big enough to read… UPDATE 7 April 2010, I actually just found an online version of the interview, so no need to go to all the trouble clicking on photos.)

There were several funny things I thought I should note. First of all, the headline on the front page of Aminiya is “Ta Karya Hannun Mijinta kan Kud’in Cefane”/”She broke her husband’s arm over cooking money.” Aminiya typically features sensational tabloid-style headlines to human interest stories like this. I laughed when I saw it though, because of all the photos on the front of the paper, mine is the only one of a woman. So, naturally, the reader might think that there is this crazy baturiya who broke her husband’s arm….

from Aminiya 5-11 February 2010, pages 20-21

The second cringe moment comes on the second page (page 21) when I am talking about 19th century writers who were writing about “love” in addition to other social issues. I was making a point about the dangers of judging novels as “merely” romance novels because they include elements of romance, and also pointing out that Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and other literary icons of the early 19th century were writing in a reading culture that was filled with the popular “Gothic romances,”  often called “trash” in their day. Jane Austen mocked these novels in her satirical Northanger Abbey, while Charlotte and Emily Bronte took the tropes of the Gothic Romance to the next level in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. My point was that these writers were reacting to and building on this popular literature and a reading culture that is necessary for the emergence of any literature. I remember in the interview, talking about “Jane Austen” and the “Charlotte Bronte.” Unfortunately, that somehow got transcribed as “Jeane Austin” and “Sheldon.” Please note, that while Sidney Sheldon is a popular writer, he was not writing in the 1800s, and he was not whom I was referring to…

Here is a summary of the interview in English.

Malam Bashir asks me how I started to become interested in Hausa.

I tell him that I grew up in Jos, where my father is a professor at the University of Jos, and I started learning Hausa there. But when I started my MA degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I was required to learn an African language and decided to continue with Hausa. I went to Sokoto, where my teacher Dr. Malami Buba brought me Hausa novels and films.  I had been planning to base my research on English language Nigerian literature, but when I started watching Hausa films and reading Hausa novels, I realized that there were a lot of people outside of Hausa speaking areas who had no idea it existed, even to the point where people often complain about the lack of reading culture in Nigeria. But I saw it was not the case in the North where people were reading Hausa.

He asked me what I could say about Hausa writers and filmmakers.

I said that they really impressed me. I said I had always been interested in writer’s movements and the history of literature [such as the Romantic poets etc]. When I came to Hausaland, I realized that the sort of literary/art movement I had always been interested in was happening here in Hausa. I said that I was impressed by how writers and filmmakers and singers often worked together. I mentioned Ibrahim Sheme’s novel ‘Yar Tsana as particularly impressive and said I also loved the novels of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Nazir Adam Salih, etc.

He asked me about which films most impressed me. This was the most embarrassing part of the interview because there were films I wanted to talk about but I couldn’t remember their names. I mentioned Sani Mu’azu’s film Hafsat and the film Zazzab’i.

He asked me about the importance of the Hausa language in the world.

I said it was one of the most important languages in Africa, that some statistics show it has more speakers than Swahili, which means it is the largest language spoken in Africa after perhaps Arabic. I also thought that the proliferation of Hausa films and novels was helping the development of Hausa. I gave the example of those who were not of Hausa ethnicity but who enjoyed the films. I mentioned also that when visiting the office of VOA-Hausa earlier that year, one of the reporters showed me some Ghanaian Hausa films made in Accra.  I further mentioned the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o who is always talking about the importance of writing in African languages. Also if we look at the history of literature in English, if writers like Shakespeare [Chaucer] etc had not chosen to write in their own languages, although English was not yet the language of power at the time, English would be a much poorer language and we would not have these great literary works with us.

He asked me if I was thinking about writing a book in Hausa.

I said that there were certainly writers who wrote in languages of their adopted countries, like the Polish-British writer Joseph Conrad and the Russian-American writer [Vladimir Nabokov]. However, I said that my Hausa was not strong enough to write a book yet, but maybe if I lived in Northern Nigeria for the next fifty years, my Hausa would be good enough to write creatively in it. Right now I write in English.

I’ll skip the next question and move on to the first question on page 21, where he asked me what I think about what happened between filmmakers, writers, and the Kano State Censorship Board.

I said that I had much to say about this but I would focus my comments on my own area of expertise. Since I know about literature and the history of literature in English, I would talk about the parallels between what I saw here and what happened then. I said that Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters [which somehow got transcribed as “Jean Austin and Sheldon”] were writing in England during the 1800s, and they were writing about love. They were writing during a time when there were lots of books floating around [Gothic romances etc] that people said were not great literature, that these novels were spoiling the upbringing of young girls etc (the same things that are being said now about Hausa literature). But I said that though the novels of Austin and the Brontes talked about love, they also talked about other social issues of the time, poverty, and class and injustice.  I said that we could draw a parallel between this English literature and contemporary Hausa literature. Although there are films and novels that focus on love, there are also a lot of other social issues that are caught up in these stories. During the conference in Niger, Malam Rabo (the head of the Kano State Censorship board) proclaimed that he would not read any more love stories for a year [he said that writers should focus on more “important” social problems like declaiming drug use, etc]. But I would ask him, if he says he will ban love stories, what will that do to Hausa literature and films? There is danger if there is someone sitting in the government saying that writers and filmmakers must write or make films about certain prescribed issues and not about others. There should be some amount of distance between creative artists and the government, because the writers and filmmakers are the voice of the ordinary people. They have the power to present problems that ordinary people suffer, so they shouldn’t be prevented from bringing these things out. Also, if Malam Rabo says that for a year he will refuse to read love stories at the censorship board, this is a way of suppressing the voice of women, because many of the stories classified as “littattafan soyayya”/love stories are those novels written by women. Also, these books might deal with romantic love but they are also about problems of the household and the relationships between husbands and wives. If you say that writers must write about the problems of drugs etc., it seems that you are saying that the problems on the street are more important than the problems of the household or the family. I believe it is very dangerous to say you are going to ban an entire theme in literature and only allow the themes you are interested in. Each writer should be allowed to write on those things that he or she wants to write about. If you want to send a message to the readers, then you can write your own book. If the readers like it, then they can read your book and leave behind the love stories, but one mustn’t prevent writers from writing about their lives. There are a lot of complaints about writers writing on adult themes that spoil the upbringing of children, but there are other avenues to address this beside issuing bans. For example, there could be a law passed [like that of the National Film and Video Censors Board] that books with adult themes cannot be sold to children–there can be a differentiation between books written for children and those written for adults.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi asks me about what I think about Malam Rabo’s statement at the writer’s conference about how the foreigners and Europeans who said they were interested in Hausa language and culture were not really interested  in it–that they were just tricking and deceiving people for ulterior motives.

I say that I can only talk about myself–that there is no way that I can know about the motivations of every other European or foreigner who comes here. But I said that I truly do love Hausa language, literature, and culture. I came here to this country to do research and I would love to stay and live here and continue to raise the interest of those outside in Hausa language and culture. I am certainly not lying about this. I truly love Hausa and Hausa people.

He finally asks me about my marital status and whether I could marry a Hausa man and live here.

I said that marriage is according to God’s will, and that I will follow whatever God has prepared for me.