By BUKAR USMAN
It is an honour and privilege for me to address this international conference organised to discuss philosophy in Hausa musicology with some prominent Nigerien and Nigerian musicians as case studies. Among the musicians to be discussed are Dr. Mamman Shata from Nigeria and Mahamadou Gao Filingue, Mu’azu Dan Allalo, Garban Bojo and Mahamadou Maitama (Sogolo) from Niger. They all sang and entertained displaying great mastery of the Hausa language. Unfortunately, all of them are no longer alive. Thus, their works will be analysed posthumously. This is a great lesson for humanity. Great deeds and ideas outlive people. By studying their works, we would, deservedly, be paying tributes to them as well as benefitting from virtues they extolled in their music.
In paying philosophical attention to the music of these Hausa artists, the presenters and discussants may unravel for us some of the principles, concepts and beliefs underlying the lyrics of these traditional performers. It would be interesting to know what these artists, through their music, tell us about philosophical concepts of truth, existence, freedom, marriage, and anti-social behaviours, among others. As griots and praise-singers, these artists vocalised their perspectives on the events and important figures of their various societies. By studying their folkloric renditions, we identify the customs and practices behind their songs and what they say about various topics.
The resource persons who have come from far and near are expected to present the forms and philosophical contents of the songs of the various artists and highlight their relevance from socio-economic, political, religious, cultural and literary points of view. I trust that they would tell us much about the work of each artists. I believe that, at the end of this conference, we would have learnt so much to better appreciate the contributions of these Hausa musical performers.
Some people may recall the humble beginnings of some of these singers. Often, they start off as mere street urchins using rudimentary musical items to back up their performances. Soon, people are attracted to their captivating rhythms and meaningful lyrics. Over time, they grow in fame and perform for the rich and other notable personalities.
Even though the artists being discussed in this conference took to singing as a profession primarily to entertain and earn a living, their lyrics mirrored the society and conditioned social behaviours. They not only focused on some individuals but also topical issues. Sometimes they do so humourously and caused no offence. They extolled virtues worthy of emulation and condemned societal ills. They put forward ideas in a soft and subtle way. They reasoned logically and carried their listeners along.
For example, the nagging issue of women of easy virtue became a subject of an argument between Dr. Mamma Shata and another musician, Ibrahim Danmani Caji. While Shata condemned prostitution, Caji reasoned that the society should not blame those engaged in the trade. To him, it was those who patronised them that should be blamed. His simple explanation was that, if one puts up an item for sale for days and no one turned up to buy, the vendor would not continue to display the goods.
The creativity of these folksingers who blossomed in our environment should be acknowledged. It is of interest to note that none of these artists significantly benefitted from Western education. Probably none of them formally studied music. They were simply gifted composers and singers. Some of them composed and rendered their songs spontaneously.
Though some of them lived in modern times, they relied almost exclusively on usage of traditional musical instruments for their performances. They dressed normally and led simple lives. They became notable artists with unique voices and musical sounds. Some of them became great social mobilisers, especially among the youth whom they advised against anti-social behaviours. Although some of them sang for the rich and important members of the society, others sang for ordinary individuals, elevating them to levels beyond their imagination. Their music and songs were enjoyed by many and mimicked by their admirers beyond the borders of their countries. This gathering is sufficient testimony to the fame and achievements of these folksingers.
However, we stand the risk of losing our indigenous musical heritage unless something is done to preserve this vital aspect of our culture. The youth of today, carried away by Western music, do not seem interested in inheriting their artistry. It, therefore, becomes imperative that we should urgently adopt a means of recording and documenting the musical arts and performances of this brand of folk artists for future generations. Since their songs are orally delivered and hardly written down, documenting the performances of the few folk artists who are still alive, though advanced in age, would enable us to capture their indigenous musical contributions for easy retrieval in future. It is risky to leave the task of preserving our folk musical heritage to oral tradition.
In our appreciation of the musical contributions of artists generally, there is need for caution as some musicians tended to encourage the committal of crimes and other social vices and need not be eulogised to the wider society.
Permit me to end this address by commending the collaborative effort and initiative of the Tahoua University of Niger Republic and Pleasant Library and Book Club, Katsina State of Nigeria. The collaboration is one of the healthy trends which I observed in recent times. Such earlier collaboration between organisations of both countries was that of the indigenous writers of Niger and Nigeria who came together in 2014 to honour a notable Niger academician, Prof. Hambali Jinji. Another was an International Colloquium on Cultural Diversity and National Identity by Abdou Moumouni University, Niamey, Niger Republic in 2016, to which Nigerians were invited. A more recent collaboration between Burkina Faso and Nigeria was that of the National Museum of Burkina Faso and Association Makaranta of Burkina Faso and Al-huda Women Educational Centre, Kano, Nigeria. These groups organised an international Hausa conference and cultural festival in Ouagadougou in April, 2017. It is my fervent hope that the trend would continue as that would promote healthy socio-cultural relationships and the pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of our peoples and countries.
Being a Keynote Address given by Dr. Bukar Usman on the occasion of the International Conference on Philosophy in Hausa Musicology, held at the University of Tahoua, Niger Republic, August 17-20, 2017.