Naziru M. Ahmad is one northern Nigeria’s popular musicians. In this interview, the Kano-born artiste speaks about his style of music, his love for Hausa music icons like the late Mamman Shata, and Dankwairo. Also popularly known as Sarkin Waka, he opens up on his relationship with Kannywood actress, Hadiza Gabon, and more.
Weekend Magazine: What attracted you to music?
Naziru M Ahmad: To be candid, I can’t specifically say what attracted my soul to music, but I had nurtured a dream of being a musician since I was seven. I started singing when there was no music studio in Kano. I would sing in front of gatherings and even as then I was applauded and celebrated. I went fully into music in 2000.
WM: What inspired you to choose the style of singers like late Mamman Shata and Dankwairo?
Naziru: Their style is fast fading or rather going extinct. Nobody wants to keep them or their good works alive. A lot of musicians don’t want to follow their style or footsteps because it requires thorough thinking. When you are able to compose a song like that of Shata or Dankwairo, you will know that you have done an exceptional song because it requires time, good thinking, special dictum and meticulous execution. Those types of songs deal with royal families and you know the issue of royalty in the north is very big and sensitive.
WM: What’s your relationship with the royal families like after you’ve composed songs for them?
Naziru: I have cordial relationship with them. I can say that I had strong ties with almost all the people I compose songs for, even before I did the songs. I am not the kind of person who bombards them with calls and complains.
They give me gifts when and if they feel like giving me. I sometimes acknowledge those gifts in my songs but it doesn’t mean that I asked or begged for it. I don’t call them for my personal problems. I speak with first class emirs, governors, senators and prominent people on daily basis, and anytime I call them, they pick my calls. Even when they miss my call, they call me back. A lot of them call me from time to time.
One thing with me is that I can’t sing a song for somebody just for the sake of singing. First, I would have a history with him, and I must know many things about him. That’s why most of them take me like their son or brother.
WM: How many songs have you composed so far?
Naziru: I have lost count of the total number of songs I’ve done so far. I can’t give you an exact figure, but based on estimate, I can say I have more than 300 songs.
WM: Which of your songs do you love the most and why?
Naziru: I have two songs that I love. The first one is ‘Sardaunan Dutse’ and then ‘Dan Adalan Mubi.’ I saw everything I described in these songs. I like the songs’ instrumental, rising and falling intonations, cute verses and the messages they contain. The songs have me wondering all the time if I was the one who composed them. The songs gladden my heart and refresh some memories.
WM: Recently you released a song for Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State and it differs from your usual style. What made you shift your attention to politics?
Naziru: As a musician, it is a bad idea to just stick to one theme, genre and/or style. A musician shouldn’t be as rigid as an iroko tree; you have to be flexible, ductile and malleable. This time around, I want to shift attention to politics and Ganduje is my starting point. My plan this year is to release many political songs devoid of malice against any politician.
WM: There’s an allegation that Governor Ganduje rewarded you with N50 million after you composed a song for him?
Naziru: It was a baseless allegation. I had a closed-door deal with Ganduje’s representatives and I will not disclose what was given to me.
WM: What is the secret of growing long hair? Does it make you sing better?
Naziru: My hair has nothing to do with my songs. I am a very busy person; I am always in the studio or attending different functions and truthfully, I found it difficult going to the salon or inviting a barber over, so I resorted to growing my hair. Then in my video albums, I wanted to have a unique appearance such that even from a distance, someone could easily identify me.
WM: Are there challenges you are facing despite your success?
Naziru: Yes, there is this mentality of our people not loving their own. They have more respect for foreigners. Some people in the north look down on their musicians; some see singers as not being religiously sound. Although the stigmatization and stereotyping is a bit reduced, but we are still facing that challenge.
When you mention Naziru, they would say ‘that singer who begs.’ Let me ask them, yes I am a singer but have I done anything wrong or committed any offence? I haven’t done anything wrong; I love music and I am proud to be a musician. Even in another world, I would still love to be a musician.
WM: Do you have a special or preferable time to work in the studio?
Naziru: No, I don’t. I work anytime, sometimes it wouldn’t take me 30 minutes to compose a song and at other times it takes me days. It just depends on my schedules, focus and soundness of mind. There’s a popular song titled ‘Mata Mu Dau Turame’ which I recently did for the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. I didn’t spend more than 30 minutes composing it and the song was a hit.
WM: Do you have plans for Kannywood in the future?
Naziru: I don’t know yet, but if you recall my song was featured in some films like ‘Wani Gari’ and others. To sing for Hausa films isn’t my style. Although I want to sing for Hausa films but I want huge, blockbuster films in terms of packaging, storyline, budget and cast. I have a standard. I just don’t sing for the sake of singing. Some of our films are trash and because of what I will be paid, I wouldn’t want to waste my talent.
WM: What’s your happiest moment when it comes to music?
Naziru: To sing a song that would entertain, educate and inform my listeners.
WM: What is your reaction on the rumour that your wedding date with Kannywood actress Hadiza Gabon would soon be announced?
Naziru: We are deeply in love with each other, I can’t deny that. Hadiza Gabon is a special woman to me. She is a kind-hearted, generous and loving woman. But we didn’t fix any date for our marriage; it is in God’s hand. We don’t know his plans for us.