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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interview (2): Gwamma Malama - A True Love Story in Hausaland

Interview (2)
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Gwamma Malama, A True Love Story in Hausaland

Gwamma Malama is one of the most famous women in Hausaland. She was not famous by her profession but by the heart she shared with the most renowned singer yet in Hausaland – Alhaji Mamman Shata. That was over 50 years ago. But she is still kicking. He in turn composed for her a love song unrivalled by any – in my opinion – among the dozens he made for various women he came across in his life.

At the age of 86, I met Gwamma still strong yesterday in her native town, Kankia, Katsina State, on my return journey from Maradi. She is a jovial lady who must have captivated many during her youth, as Shata acknowledged in his song.

She was picked as a young girl by Native Authority officials and taught specifically how to administer injections to patients and during vaccinations exercises. Recruited in Kankia, she was transferred to Katsina, Kaduna, Malumfashi, and many other places. It was while she was in Malumfashi that she first caught the attention of Shata, then also a slim, handsome boy with long “Afro” hair, marauding from one playing ground to another across Hausaland, but particularly in the old Katsina Province (now Katsina State).

When I mentioned her love affair with Shata, she felt shy, covered her face and laughed until her forehead almost touched the ground. She pleaded, saying, “Please leave that matter, for among us are my children.” But when after she normalized her position, I told her that Shata did love her, she readily replied, smiling: “And I loved him too.” Then came another prolonged laughter before I said, “That made the two of you Romeo and Juliet!”

I think Shata was captivated not by her beauty alone. Gwamma said she used to wear the most expensive dress and bracelet of her time. Combine this with her status as a female health worker – when you hardly meet female public officials in Northern Nigeria - you have a girl that everyone would love, particularly the artist. So if her dress had brought her out among other girls - and you know she had the money to outwit them, being a health worker – her status must have played a subtle role in pulling Shata towards her. When it comes to association with women, man differs from other animals, said Charles Darwin: He often goes for status, not simply biological features.

The affinity between Shata and Gwamma was instantaneous. He must have noticed her during her posting in Malumfashi such that immediately she appeared at the playing ground for the first time they were to meet, the Gwamma pulled his heart like how a magnate would pull iron filings. Shata instantly improvised one of his most memorable songs – Gwamma Malama. When I asked her where she met Shata and how their legendary love started, she answered, saying, “It was right there and then.”

Shata would continue to sing his Gwamma song wherever he went. I watched him repeating it on TV in far away Sokoto in the early 1980s, over thirty years after he invented it. The most comprehensive version of the song was recorded by EMI in Lagos, obviously after Gwamma was transferred to her hometown, Kankia. That transfer pained him, but he assured Gwamma, in a metaphor, that it is the nature of public service – difficult but sweet:

The rodent of the anthill is difficult to dig (and catch)…
But its meat is sweet.
The rodent of the waste heap is easy to dig
Throw it away; its meat is bitter(in taste).
Likewise, public service is sweet but difficult:
Gwamma! I was told that you have been transferred to Kankia.

Yet, distance did not extinguish the fire of their love. Shata continued to visit her in Kankia and later Katsina. She recalled that when he later sustained a fracture, he was treated by one Danazumi there in Kankia. I can easily imagine Gwamma cooking for him throughout those sorrowful days. Her Shata was sick!

Two stanzas that make the song a bit wild to the pious ear except if it listens to them from the perspective of a literati as it does to those of Imru’ul Qais, Abu Nuwwas or Qais Majnun – was where Shata invented a wound and pleaded with his Gwamma to violate her professional ethics and treat him. Listen to him, luring her to his nest:

I have sustained a wound on my body
Come and examine it for me
Oh Gwamma! Come and examine it for me, in camera.
Then give me an injection of aphrodisiac

The relevance of such old songs is how they graphically portray the social condition of Hausaland before leisure was completely divorced from our lives. To me they do not only teach and entertain; they are historical records too.

Having seen Gwamma “live” in Kankia, I asked Sada, my guide, to escort me quickly to a shop. We returned with a small gift, which I presented her with at the end of the brief interview. My remarks then:

“Hajiya Gwamma! Here are two wrappers: This is in recognition of the service you rendered to our people in those days when there were so many diseases but few health workers around. This other one is given in memory of your Shata, who stuck your name on our lips, painted your portrait as a beautiful and expensive girl in our memory, and made you a Mecca for us his fans and students of Hausa literature alike. And this N2,000.00 is for tailoring. Thank you so much.”

She accepted the little gift with all pleasure.

The Interview

Me: We are here today in the company of a famous woman in Northern Nigeria. She is among the health workers during the First Republic and with whom Shata acquainted the acquainted the world for over 50 years now. Her name is Hajiya Gwamma Malama. We will discuss briefly with her. Hajiya! You are welcome.

Gwamma: You are welcome too.

Me: I will ask you some few questions without wasting much of your time. First of all, were you a health worker?

Gwamma: Definitely.

Me: How did it start?

Gwamma: When I was employed, I was asked what work I would like to do. I replied, “Whatever you my employers wish.” They then said, “Okay. Can you administer injections?” I replied, “No one is born skilled. If I will be trained, I can do it.”

Me: Where were you first posted to?

Gwamma: Here, Kankia.

Me: Then to where?

Gwamma: Katsina, then Kaduna…I know everywhere in Kaduna (laughter).

Me: Good. In your work, did you serve under Europeans?

Gwamma: Yes. We worked with Sister… … …

Me: No. No. You don’t have to remember their names. That was up to the First Republic. Right?

Gwamma: Yes.

Me: And you continued beyond the coup and the civil war…

Gwamma: Yes… even after the civil war.

Me: So you used to administer injections in hospitals and during vaccination exercises, when there were many diseases like meningitis, small pox, wounds, etc.?

Gwamma: Yes. Both…

Me: Let me tell you. We were your patients then… (laughter). If I were to show you my legs, you would count over seven large wounds of all kinds… (laughter) but due to your effort all such diseases are now absent…

Gwamma: Yes. They are absent.

Me: May God reward you abundantly. Does the government pay you any pension?

Gwamma: Yes. I receive pension.

Me: How much?

Gwamma: It is not much, just N6,000.00, monthly.

Me. That is good. I will now ask you about something. You are not famous because of your public service. (Gwamma started laughing) You are famous because of the song that Mamman Shata did for you. What was actually your relationship with Shata, if I may ask?

Gwamma: Laughter….Laughter… (After a while she spoke, but still laughing). My children are around. Please don’t ask about that here. (I visited her with some two elderly looking people, Sada and Musa, who are in their 60s, perhaps, and two of my sons - Omar and Omer - were managing the cameras).

Me: But he really loved you…

Gwamma: And I loved him too… (Laughter)

Me: That made you Romeo and Juliet… (Laughter).

Gwamma: (Again she became consumed by laughter)

Me: At what time of your life did he compose the song for you?

Gwamma: I was fairly grown up then.

Me: So did you just hear the song first on radio or…

Gwamma: No. Everything started at the theatre, there and then.

Me: In Malumfashi...

Gwamma: Yes. In Malumfashi. Later, he used to visit me here (in Kankia), then in Katsina…

Me: Now that so many years have passed because as you told me some moments ago you are 86…

Gwamma: Yes, I am 86.

Me: What would you tell the younger generations?

Gwamma: You see I sometimes say there was no war like Hitler’s. Even those of Saddam Huseyn or Ojukwu were not as bad. You know the final moment of Hitler is unknown. Did he commit suicide? No one knows. His body is not found to date.

Me: Finally, what would you like to tell your numerous fans that listen to your song and would love to meet you, one to one?

Gwamma: (laughter). Then, we used to adorn ourselves with cinkuna (?). Do you know them? (laughter)

Me: No. I don’t.

Gwamma: We used to wear them from neck to knee. They are like the gold jewellery of today. If a young man would meet his friend who did not go to the market that day, he would ask the friend: “Did you go to market today?” The friend would say, “No.” Then he will say, “I did. Gwamma was terrific.” (laughter and clapping)

Me: So you were really into fashion then? Wao! You were spending your salary on dresses? That must have endeared you to Shata. You must have stood out amongst your peers so much so that once Shata saw you from afar, he had to enquire about you. (laughter)

Gwamma: Actually, when he sustained a fracture, he was treated here at Danazumi’s house.

Me: Oh sorry! Finally, what advice would you give to younger generations?

Gwamma: Well, they should try to tread the world cautiously, with the fear of God in their mind. For us, our time has passed; only repentance is left. It is now theirs.

Me: Oh. Oh. Thank you. Thank you. Viewers, this is the end of our chat with Gwamma Malama. As you can see she is still strong. She can get up quickly and walk about without any difficulty. Thank you.

Gwamma: Thank you.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


Anonymous said...

Hassan Isah Danrimi
most of the youth nowadays fall in love for the sake of something els instead of status Dr,that of Shata and Gwamma was very outstanding isnt it?
3 hours ago via mobile · Like

Anonymous said...

Abdulrahaman Suleiman
Tnx 4 dis info Dr.

Anonymous said...

Musa Babba
Lovely interview

Anonymous said...

Aishat Abdulrauf

Anonymous said...

Murtadha Abubakar
i really enjoy the interview thank u doctor tilde

Anonymous said...

Hassan Ahmed Rufa'i
Entertaining moonlight tale.

Anonymous said...

Muhammad Guiwa
Thank you Tilde, I enjoyed the interview.

Anonymous said...

Tnx 4 dis info Dr.

Anonymous said...


Sahabi said...

The video of interview and clip from Shata's song, pls?

Bashir said...

that song still remains my best in my Shata's collections. I have it on my handset, on my disk and i always cant resist listening to it no matter the situation. Thanks for this grat interview.

Abubakar Sadiiq said...

Wow! Thumbs up Dr. Tilde. I have really enjoyed this your enterview with the famous Gwamma Malama. I am an enthusiastic fan of Shata. I love his songs. In fact, in several times I had to ask my mum to get more light on what said the talented Shata in many of his lovely songs. Count me among those that listen to Shata's song and comprehend all he had to say. Yet, I could not get from where the title 'Malama' in the fine track of Gwamma Malama until now.
I tell many of my friends that if they want to be sound in the language, the should be listening to those traditional songs. They are very educative.
Thank you Dr. Tilde. I learnt alat - this interview is rich in hausa oral traditions. I really love it. If not of you, how could I know that Gmamma Malama is still alive? How could I get to know about her selfless health services. Well done once again Dr. More grease to your elbow.

Verse: '' Gafiyar shuri mai wuyar gina, amma naman ta zaki. Gafiyar juji ba wuyar gina, amman ta daci. Ku zubar naman nan! Kai ku tai ku zubar naman ta daci garai! ''
Chorus: '' Hakanan ne Mamman kanen Idi wan Yalwa.''
- Listen to Shata in the track of Gwamma Malama. What a lovely song!

Bahaushe Mai Ban Haushi! said...

Very, very interesting. Another hit from Malam. Mun gode.

Muh'd-Sani said...

This kind of thngs is wot young ppl lyk me need. It has helpd 2 plant d values of socio-cultural interactions of Hausa tradition in d young minds. Xank uu baba 4 anoda refresher in Hausa literary history.

Aliyu Dange said...

Historically, the song may fall into oral literature of the pre-independence era. While the lyricist is gone, the song is still very much with us. Thanking my name sake for the stock of information gathered for us, Gwamma deserves commendation for the interview granted!

jameelrabo said...

A great work Dr.I did really enjoy
this piece, shata well remembered
here. And you can tell the passion
with which they do things those

Abdurrazaq N. said...

Let my generation be creative in arts, music, science, technology, literature and theology like our past

Bilya Bala said...

You should also try to find Barira Diyar malam Abulle. "Duk mai son Barira ya je dutsen Kwatarkwashi, ya fado, ya karya kafa da hannu sannan ya ce Allah ya kawo!"

Bilya Bala

Abdullahi Musa Na-zaria said...

Yes, this Interview is part of the Series of your Good work, that the History recoded.

Muhammad said...

I could not figure out the marital/family status of Gwamma from the interview. Was she ever married? Was she married before Shata met her or afterwards? And children?

Gwamma was an intenerant worker moving from one place to another. It will be interesting to know how she coped with marriage challenges.

Prof. Rafindadi said...

A great piece of work. I admire the academic approach given to it. I am also pleasanttly surprised that Gomma Malama is still with us considering the length of time that has passed since this epic Shata song, which I consider as one of his master pieces. I still hum the tune loudly and silently. By my count there are about 4 versions of the song that are publically available, but the one I like best is still the original studio recorded version. Thank you Tilde for scratching this important part of our culture.

Anonymous said...

That was a fine piece, evidence of good investigative journalism. Gwamma Malama contributed greatly to the society in which she lives.
Alh Lawal K Hamisu
Jakadan Kankia

Anonymous said...

This only reminds us the youth that love has no status,being a Dr does not mean your better than a musician as far as one has a honest profession and mostly the fear of God we should accept them

suleiman said...

lovely and sweet. Beautiful, and poetic song of love. Thanks Dr.

jazuli said...

My Dr this is quite inspiring. I learnt alot from this brief interview. Perhaps I wil need to write a biography of Gwamma

Anonymous said...

By. Ibrahim H Ibrahim Tilde. Tnk u, my town legend. Please keep on enlighting us with the technical meaning of such traditional tracks

Hammadu Kakara said...

How come I missed this all this while? I like that part of a "society devoid of any leisure". Pretensious Salafism and Too much work with no results had taken it away. Thank you Dr Tilde.

Hammadu Bello Kakara