Monthly Archives: November 2009

“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)


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




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


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

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


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

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

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
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!)

Rawa da waka a finafinan Hausa/Singing and Dancing in Hausa films

In my recent interview with VOA, I mentioned that one of the things that first drew me to Hausa films is the singing and dancing.  Let me explain a little bit more. I love the singing and dancing in the films because it is both an enjoyable break from the storyline with a bit of spectacle and, often, an important moment in commenting on the overall storyline (whether foreshadowing, summarizing, or sermonizing upon the larger events of the film.) The singing and dancing is pleasurable to watch and  also tends to be more tightly edited and choreographed than the rest of the film.

While I know many critics who don’t like the songs and dances and also know quite a few filmmakers who tell me they want to make films without singing and dancing, I hate to see this aspect of Kannywood films be dismissed without thought.  The song and dance sequences are what distinguish Hausa films from their Nollywood neighbors and, when well done, add a great deal of pleasure to the experience of watching the films.

In the interview I mentioned a few videos, which I will insert here.  [Please note that the videos embedded here are being used under FAIR USE laws, for review purposes.] The first is Jamila Chassis with Sani Danja and Mansura Isa (who later married in real life). I have actually only seen the song and dance on YouTube and have not watched the entire film. But it is one of the most delightful Kannywood song and dances I have ever seen, both for the catchy song but also because of the goofy flirtatious dancing. While I know many are concerned about the objectification of women in these dances, the dancing here is playful rather than sexual–and milder than most dancing I’ve seen at wedding bikis in Kano.

I also mentioned the song “Zazzabi,” again with Sani Danja and Mansura Isa, although this time the main characters are not dancing. The cinematography here is a bit grey, static and unimpressive, but I think the editing to the music is well done. Most impressive are the lyrics, sung by Sadiq Zazzabi, and the way in which the song edited together with shots of the main characters metaphorically encapsulates the story of the film.  I will not elaborate here because I don’t want to ruin the twists and turns the story takes. However, the song interacts with the larger story brilliantly. [UPDATE. 27 December 2013: In a later post, I translate the lyrics of “Zazzabi.”]

Finally, I mentioned the choreography in Albashi 2 (starring Abbas Sadiq, Zainab Idris, and Adam A. Zango), which I think is quite well done. I also love the costumes and the attention to colour here. I have here a trailer for Albashi 2 rather than a selection of the entire song (the genre of the trailer for Hausa films is worthy of a post in and of itself), but I think it illustrates what I mean. The pleasure, at least for me, is not in the “shaking body” of the female dancer (as is sometimes asserted in critiques of the dancing in films) but in the choreography and colour of the piece. Start watching at 1:08.

There are other examples I will elaborate on this blog another time, but let me share one last delightful example from the trailer for Shugabanci. Start at timecode 1:37. How can you not love a dancing “Nigeria”?!!

Please note that these videos are used according to Fair Use policies for review purposes.


For other happy posts on Kannywood, see

Congratulations to Abba El Mustapha and Fatima M. Shuwa on their wedding celebration.” 19 June 2010

“The ‘second coming’ of Kannywood.” 26 June 2011

Congratulations to Kannywood actress Sakna Gadaza and Musa Bello on their wedding 9 July 2011.” 5 August 2011

“Translating (and Transcribing) the Hausa film song Zazzabi [Fever].” 8 November 2013

“Kannywood Award 2013.” 22 November 2013