An extract from a Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (c.f., The Sultan of Bornu, Queen Gumsu, The Yerima Mohammadu, In Praise of Yerima Aji, and The Song Sung to Kaigama Anterashi, son of Lima). The Sultan had three official praise singers, who walked beside him procession, or stood before him in audience. Their titles, in order of precedence, were Ngijima, Babuma and Zakkama. The praises are addressed by the Zakkama to Sultan Aman Alimi, who reigned 1793-1810.

You, son of Gumsu, Gumsu Amina, daughter of Talba, you Ibrahim,
Have attained to your father’s place among the great.
One rainy season gives seven harvests, (1)
A he-goat gives milk and an oxen gives milk.
Because of his power, you men of his set forth to war,
Because of his good fortune, you set forth to war.
You, son of Haji, who are the owner of Ngeleru,
whose mother was Gumsu, (2)
Gumsu Amina, Talba’s daughter,
You have attainted to the greatness of your father Arri, son of Umar,
And Amadu was Arri’s son;
You have attained to your father’s greatness,
And Ibrahim was Amadu’s son,
You have attained to your father’s greatness,
Son of Dalatu, Mai Arri of Minarge town,
You have every attribute of power.
To the East, we look to worship, pray, give alms and sit in congregation, (3)
Today, you hold it with a rod of gold.
The West, the world’s back,
You hold with a rod of gold.
The North, the world’s foot,
You hold with a rod of gold.
The South, the world’s head,
Today you hold with a rod of gold.
May Allah put a future of health before you,
May Allah leave a memory of happiness behind you:
Reign in heath, the health of Fusam, (4)
Long life, good fortune, perfect health be yours,
Reign amidst happiness.

Here is the poem in the original Kanuri:

Gunsumi, Gumsu Amina
Talbarambe Brem,
Kumbi abanembe mbulumi.
Ningeli tilowa, kembigelanze tulurwa,
Dallan chamwa, dalolan chamwa
Kermainzero safurnogobe,
Kentabonzero safurnogobe.
Hajigana Ngeleruma, Gumsumi,
Gumsum Amina, Talbarambe
Abanem Arri Umarmibe kumbiga yikumbulumi,
Amadu Arrugana;
Ananembe kumbiga mbulumi,
Burra Amadumi,
Ananembe kumbiga mbulumi,
Dalatumi, Mai Arri Minargema,
Kumbi kanduluro mbulumi.
Gidi, addinam, sallaram, sadagaram, kutubaram,
Kusketu wazila dinarben tunnomi.
Fute, ngabo duniabega,
Wazila dinarben tunnomi.
Yela, shi duniabega,
Wazila dinarben tunnomi.
Anum, kela duniabega,
Kusketu wazila dinarben tunnomi.
Allah fugunemye lafiya,
Allah kadugunemye lafiya
Lafiyaga, lafiyala Fusamlam degai,
Kabun, kentabon, lafiyalan degai,
Lafiya lafiyalan degai.

from Kanuri Songs 30-31,
(Lagos, 1926),
J.R. Patterson


  1. These formal praises could be absurdly flattering. This, and the following, are obviously impossible, but are meant to suggest the productiveness of the Sultan’s reign.
  2. Gumsu was the title given to the Sultan’s senior wife. This, though, is the same Gumsu as in the praises addressed to “Queen Gumsu”, as the lineage makes clear.
  3. That is, to Mecca.
  4. Fusam was the daughter of Umar (mentioned in the lineage), who became Sultan at the age of 60 and is said to have reigned for 60 years, his long life attributed to the care taken of him by his daughter.