Three Hausa poems from northern Nigeria, praising a professional drummer whose skills, with Allah’s help, have made him a wealthy man.

1

The drum drums health,
The drum drums wealth,
He takes his wife six hundred thousand cowries. (1)
The drum drums health,
The drum drums wealth,
He takes his son six hundred thousand cowries.
The drum drums health,
The drum drums wealth…

2

If I were like Mai Zaria,
I would not farm, I would not hoe,
I would not even go to market
If I were like Mai Zaria.

3

Son of the house, take out your money,
Take it out and give me some,
Take out your money and give it to me;
Indeed, friends are made with laughter,
Cheeriness is what takes a man.
You aren’t like the orphan
On whom Allah turned his back,
Because you have your parents,
You have gifts in your house,
You have inherited happiness.
For your mother looks at her son,
Your father looks at his son,
Indeed, you’ve inherited gifts in your house.
Because your mother sees her son,
Because your father sees his son,
Take out your money and give it to the singers (2)
Because you inherited such gifts in your house.

from Baba of Karo (1954);
May K. Smith


Footnotes

  1. In West Africa, cowrie shells were the usual tender until the mid-nineteenth century. They are still widely used in divination.
  2. Because of his wealth, Mai Zaria is the target of praise-singers hoping to be rewarded. See also The Wealthy Merchant.