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  • Muslim Hausa Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song
  • Sani Abba Aliyu
Muslim Hausa Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song By Beverly B. MackBloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. 103 pp. ISBN 0-253-21729-6.

Muslim Hausa Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song by Beverly Blow Mack is an important addition to the burgeoning body of new scholarly publications on literature and popular culture in Hausa. The coauthor of the exceedingly valuable One Woman's Jihad: Nana Asma'u, Scholar and Scribe (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000), Mack is indeed an authority on Hausa women's literature of Nigeria. The book is divided into two parts: in part 1 (pp. 11–129) we are presented with the main analytical components of the work, while the appendices, in the form of poems translated into the English language, make up part 2 (pp. 133–278).

The book's significance lies centrally in its unabashed celebration of the unacknowledged, creative, and highly productive roles of Hausa Muslim women in Northern Nigeria. As Mack indicates, "Muslim Hausa women's poetry and song demonstrate that women's status in Northern Nigeria is neither subservient, static, nor stoic. Women are their own agents, their roles are flexible and negotiable, and they insist on lives that incorporate creative activity into the demands of their private domestic roles. Muslim women not only sing, they dance and create fun in their lives, even in the context of their traditional patriarchal Muslim setting" (3–4). In justifying the selection of six women poets and singers for the study, the author continues the "war" against men by stating that the book "contains the poems that men say do not sing. In truth, many Hausa women performing artists compose for themselves and their audiences of other women" (4). Thus, two of the women are educated composers of poetry (Hauwa Gwaram and Hajia Yar Shehu) treated in profiles 1 and 2; three are performing artists (Maizargadi, Hajia Faji, and Hauwa Mai Duala) handled in profiles 3 and 4; the final profiles (5 and 6) present the most popular of them all, Barmani Maimuna Choge and Binta Katsina. In these profiles, Mack captures the highly variegated and informative professional and social fortunes of women creative artists in the patriarchal, Islamic setting of Hausaland in Northern Nigeria. In contrast to the presumed enshacklement of the Hausa Muslim women, Mack attests that though domestically oriented and minimally educated, "many Hausa women find ways to exercise their creative and entrepreneurial talents in spite of cultural barriers, circumventing the social limitations placed on them. Hausa Muslim women are not restricted by their social roles" (11).

The portraits of Hauwa Gwaram and Hajia Yar Shehu exemplify the combined influences of Islamic and Western education in instituting poetic compositional practices in Hausaland. Though important as poets, these women are certainly less well known compared to male composers of far less merit. A significant part of this book is the focus on the dying, little-celebrated but historically important role of the Zabiya tradition as illustrated in the career of the praise singer of the royal court of Kano, Maizargadi. It is clear that the author's access to the palace of Kano, her friendship with one of the emir's wives, and her ability to speak Hausa, as well as her residence in the old city actually enabled her to highlight the classical patron/client phenomenon of Zabiyanci in the palaces of Northern Nigeria. [End Page 196]

In profile 4, two singers, the Kukuma-playing Hajia Faji and Maizargadi's friend, Hajiya Mai Duala, the official Zabiya for the Emir of Ningi, Bauchi State, Nigeria, are in focus. Profile 5 dwells extensively on Barmani Maimuna Choge's extemporaneous performances full of "narration and non-verbal notation" (99). The author further aptly states that "Choge's performance is raucous entertainment; she makes use of body movement, gesture, and suggestive metaphor to convey her satiric message. Her bawdy allusions and spirited performance style make her a popular entertainer" (99–100). About an interesting reversal of roles in the male-dominated Hausaland, unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Mack, she reports: "[W]hen I visited [Choge] in Funtuwa, I found her husband at home with the children...


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