SHATTA, Mamman

Musician, Philosopher and Social Reformer by(Olumide lyanda). Kalangu music exponent, Alhaji (Dr.) Mamman Shatta was the biggest musician that ever came from the northern part of Nigeria. Everybody north of the Niger would like to be able to sing like him, which shows how popular his music was. While it may not be accurate to say that he invented the popular Kalangu music, it is safe to say that he brought it to its present level of international recognition. He took the music outside the shores of Nigeria, as far as to Europe and a large part of the Arab world. His music was en joyed both by the ordinary people and the highly placed. If Shatta did not sing in praise of somebody, or perform at his party (that is, in the northern part of Nigeria), that person, no matter who he was, was regarded as a nobody. Mamman Shatta did not take just the high or the low road to success he took all roads. Bom at Musawa Village, in Musawa Local Government Area of present Katsina State, Shatta grew up in Bakori, where he lived a life of abject poverty and deprivation. To make ends meet, he started selling kolanuts, and by the age of 13, he was travelling from village to village, especially on market days, carrying kolanuts on his head and music in his heart. He always sang to himself while hawking his wares, to forget his worries. His talent was soon noticed by many people, who were drawn to the fascinating chants from the young kolanut seller. The name Shatta means one who continuously sings beautiful music spontaneously and with ease. In 1948, Alhaji Mohammadu Bashar, then a colonial secretary in the Northern Region, was in Bakori on an official tour. He stopped at the market to buy some kolanuts when he heard Shatta singing. Bashar was instantly enraptured by the ease with which the young man sang. Bashar approached him and implored him to come and sing for him and his family in Kaduna. That encounter with Bashar opened the door to a blossoming career that would last for several decades and produce hundreds of songs. At first, when he formed his small group of Kalangu musicians, they played strictly for pleasure. Later, he yielded to the elite who prevailed upon him to come and entertain them, and he started to perform professionally. Bashar later became the Emir of Daura in Katsina State, and his palace became an arena where Mamman Shatta held musical court and from where his creativity was sold to the rest of humanity. The advent of radio also meant that many more people could listen to the music of Mamman Shatta. Although Shatta became so famous and played for royalty, he never forgot the ordinary people whom he started his life with. He also played for the common people and the lowly placed, just for pleasure. That was his way of contributing to their happiness and joy, knowing fully well that he was once one of them. Music for Shatta was a vehicle for social re form. His music was highly philosophical and the lyrics could move people to action. He used his music to mobilize people and as a vehicle for reconciliation. He sang of unity and the need for rehabilitation at the end of the Nigerian Civil War. He also used his music to enlighten people about the change to decimal currency and left-hand driving in the 70s. On the inter national scene, he sang about the Gulf War of 1991, when America led the allied forces of countries against Iraq. He recognized the importance of music in sensitizing people to events around them, especially when they concern the relationship between the people and government. He used his music to mediate, correct and encourage people to do the right things. The coming of radio and vinyl records ensured that Mamman Shatta's music reached more people and would be preserved for posterity. The Kalangu exponent has a unique record of over 2000 recordings including some of his early hits such as Bawa Driver and Mohammadu Zaria. Later megahits include Bakandamiya, Sarkin Daura Mohammed Bashar, Natsayaga Annabi Muhammadu, A sha run balafiana, and Kudi a kashe. Mamman Shatta's music was also heard in countries like Chad and Niger in West Africa, in all Arab-speaking nations of the world, and in several parts of Europe, on the Hausa service of foreign radio stations notably the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) and the Voice of America (VOA). He was the favourite Hausa artiste of the foreign stations be cause of the craze for his music by people of all classes.^ Myriads of request programmes are devoted to his songs on such stations, with advertisers scrambling for sponsorship because of the popularity of his music. Despite his immense success as an international music icon, Shatta continued to play at social and informal gatherings^This was because Kalangu is a social type of music that is synonymous with naming ceremonies,festivals and other functions. It isa highly percussive music, with a big talking drum that has anopenend,usually slung over the shoulders, as its major instrument. Small drums known as kutwiku are also used to boost the rhythm and balance of the mu sic, and there are back-up singers, who follow a pattern dictated by the leader. Shatta's band was usually made up of 12men- six drummers and six singers. His records were such monumental successes that he was the toast of the multinational record companies which operated in Nigeria. When he was with EMI, he was their biggest star. At a point, his music virtually kept the company in business. He later left EMI and went to Polygram Records. Lacking in Western education, Shatta's music was rendered in Hausa, a language he was very versatile in. His use of the language was masterful; he used words that advanced the frontiers of the language. Many Hausa-speaking people have marvelled at his mastery and use of the language. Commenting on this, Abdullahi Sani, a principal producer of Hausa musical programmes on Radio Kano said: "One is thrilled by his symbolic use of the Hausa language.. . the vocabulary of his lyrics are shocking and intellectually stimulating." He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for eloquent use of the Hausa language.Other awards he received include: Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) and a Performing Musician Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN) award for excellence in traditional music in 1998. Singing the praises of royalty and rich people brought Shattaa lot of material gain.His music gave so much pleasure to the Hausas that they showered him with all sorts of gifts, as a token of appreciation. He got expensive jewellery and sometimes brand new cars from his fans. One such case was a brand new Mercedes BenzS-Class from Alhaji Dan Kabo, Chair man of Kabo Airline. All his cars had the same inscription on their number plates - Shatta Ne (This is Shatta). Other gifts were in the form of pieces of land in choice areas all over the North. The people who remember Shatta the most, however, are the ordinary people. Suya sellers, petty traders and many other peasants always tune to the Hausa service of radio stations where his music is played. Trailer drivers also play his music on their radios while on the road. The sound of his voice and the beat from his drums have a calming effect and breaks the monotony of their usually long journeys on various rough roads. Shatta enjoyed the friendship of the talaka was (peasants) and continuously identified with their struggles. He was a very loud voice against oppression. When the' Abacha must stay campaign' was at its peak in 1998, organizers of the 2- million-man march invited him to come to Abuja to sing at a concert organized by the Daniel Kanu-led Youths Earnestly Ask For Abacha. Shatta accepted the invitation. On D-day, he got on the stage to per form, but hardly had he opened his mouth when angry security agents disrupted his performance. He got that treatment because while others were urging the late dictator Abacha to stay in office, Shatta advised him to regard all those present at the march as sycophants, who will not be there for him when he needs them. A year earlier, at the command performance to launch the Abacha Foundation for Peace and Unity at the Sheraton in Abuja, Mamman Shatta angered the organizers, not only by performing longer than his allotted time, but for reminding Abacha and others in power of the consequences of bad leadership. This was a very dangerous act in the days of Abacha, but even the dictator himself could not harm Shatta, who was the darling and card-playing mate of generations of army generals. Shatta also participated in partisan politics. He was a member of the late Aminu Kano-led People's Redemption Party (PRP) in the Second Republic. In the aborted Third Republic, he was a member of the Social Democratic party(SDP) and he won the chairmanship of the Funtua Local Government Council. Many musicians have been inspired by Shatta, and quite a number of them have patterned their music on his style. Musicians such as Sani Nabulu and Sani Ndanindoare following in the footsteps of Shatta. The importance of singing like Mamman Shatta was not lost on organizers of the Benson and Hedges Golden Tones concert. When they took the show to Kano, they included Sani Ndanindo on the list of musicians because they knew that Shatta's style was enough to pull a large crowd. And it did. Shatta is regarded as the Fela of the North, and his zagi (yabis) during lives hows compares favorably with Fela's. Veterans like Dan Maraya-Jos and Balla Miller also drew inspiration from him. His last public show was at the Katsina Polo Ground, during the inauguration of Alhaji Musa Yar'Adua, the current governor of Katsina State. He was already weak and his body had shrunk, but he could not turn the people down. He died a month later, on 18 June 1999 at the age of 76 of a heart related illness. He was buried in the city of Daura in Katsina State, which is considered to be the place of origin of the Hausa. This gesture is fitting because of his numerous contributions tothe people of Hausa land and his-role in propagating their culture to the world. He was survived by three wives, 20 children and 28 grandchildren. Millions of his fans will always remember him because his life and music give them hope and joy. He was born poor, lived happy, died rich, and tried not to hurt anyone along the way.
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