Preserving the North through Song

By Aisha Kabiru Mohammed | Jul 8, 2022

In Hausa society, the use of music ranges From storytelling to praise-singing. Hausa music is generally characterized by the beating of calabashes and playing the guitar-like instrument. 


The genre of music predominantly played by Hausa women is called Amada music and it is known for the rhythmic beating on a calabash turned upside down ( kidan kwarya) and the lyrics in the music usually tell the issues that women are faced with and the stories of Hausa women.


The art of storytelling by Hausa women is an ancient practice. In traditional Hausa society, oral art had a more widespread influence as is common with many cultures in Africa, placing women at the centre of it. 


The oldest woman in the Hausa household is the master storyteller. Her old age is a symbol of wisdom and with her storytelling skills, she transfers tradition from one generation to another. 


Music and poetry are forms in which traditional Hausa women tell stories and address the issues around them, preserving what they see in lyrics and lines. Some of the women who we can look to find the art of storytelling through music are Uwaliya Mai Amada and Sa'adatu Barmani Choge.


Uwaliya Mai Amada was a vocal singer and entrepreneur. At the peak of her career, she had over ten assistants, including her husband, Sale Nayaya, who beat the calabash and danced for her.


Uwaliya played the calabash turned upside down, floating on water. It was a revolutionary sound that created the genre of music called Amada music. Uwaliya's lyrics were concerned with Women's empowerment; the power of women. 


Earlier on in her career, she performed lyrics aimed at sarcastic outbursts against the sexual activities of Muslim scholars who used their position of spiritual trust to abuse women sexually. Uwaliya sang for women. With her energetic vocals, she gave women power.


Sa'adatu Barmani Choge was born in Funtua in 1945 Sa'adatu also played Amada music and was called the princess of Amada music. It was in Funtua that her hit song “Wakar Duwai wai,” “The Bum Bum Song,” filled with This was the location where Barmani’s hit song “Wakar Duwai wai,” “The Bum Bum Song,” filled with lascivious lyrics, dropped. In that song, Barmani praised the female appearance and the power a woman could wield over her society. The song was a hit with women. Her feministic leanings showed through her glorification of Hausa women’s economic activities in her songs. 


Amada Music is still practised by Hausa women today and Amanda musicians play at weddings and gatherings. Although it is not common amongst younger generations. Hausa women are still storytellers with their western-influenced styles like rap music and spoken word.

*Accounts of the life of Uwaliya and Sa'adatu culled from Historical Echoes: The literature of Hausa women by Sada Malumfashi. 

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