Mamman Shata, who was born in 1923 in Musawa local government area of Katsina State, died on 18 June 1999. Shata, a famous Hausa poet, has the largest number of recorded songs. His vocals were often accompanied by talking drums, known as kalangu. He performed for the Hausa people of Nigeria and some parts of Africa and even non-Hausas for more than half a century.
Mamman Shata’s mother, Lariya, was of the Fulani ethnic stock known as Fulata-Borno, the Fulani people who migrated from the Borno Empire after the Fulani Jihad of 1804 and settled in parts of Hausa land. She met Shata’s father, Ibrahim Yaro, when she went there to visit a relative. Subsequently, they got married with three children: Yaro, Mamman Shata and his sister Yalwa.
Below are some of the facts you may not have known about Shata:
Shata acquired his nickname ‘Shata’ from a man called Baba Salamu, a relative of his.
Shata as a young man was engaged in selling kola nuts and after the sale he would share the profit to people he met on his way home or in the market and came back empty handed. When asked what he did with the money he made, he would answer, “Na yi shata da su,” i.e. he had given it away. As a result, Baba Salamu would be calling him ‘Mai-Shata’, meaning one who fritters away his takings.
Shata had been to Hajj once in his life time
Although visited many countries of the world like the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America, Shata had been to Hajj once in his life time. It was reported that one Haru Dan-Kasim, a Kano-based popular merchant sponsored Mr Shata to perform his Hajj in 1954 (?)
Shata was a politician, held different political positions
Shata participated actively in partisan politics throughout his life. His politics was largely left-wing even though his benefactors (the royal and the business classes) were mostly on the right.
In the 1970s, he won an election, becoming a councillor under Kankia Local Government Area of the then Kaduna State. In the Second Republic (in the ’80s) he was first in the centre-of-right GNPP and then moved to the conservative ruling party, the NPN.
In the Third Republic he was elected as the chairman of SDP in Funtua Local Government Area, a position from which he was impeached due to his left-wing character and brush with the party’s main benefactor in Katsina State, retired Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua
Shata’s singing prowess started manifesting from childhood
Shata began singing with other youth for fun at the village square (“dandali”) after the evening meal. His prowess grew until he outshone the other youngsters. But he was doing that not for any monetary gain. It was merely a vocation for the youngsters.
Shata’s father did not want his son to become a musician.
Ibrahim Yaro disliked the idea of his son becoming a musician due to widely held belief that music or praise-singing was a form of ‘roko’ or begging. His father, being a Fulani man, expected the young Shata to become a farmer or a trader, either of which was a more dignified occupation. Shata’s insistence on becoming a musician was therefore seen as a rebellion against the norm.
Shata spent 30 years in stardom, became the one of the longest bestselling Hausa artistes in the world
In 1952 his stardom began to manifest in Kano after he performed at a wedding part known as “Bikin ‘Yan Sarki” (Wedding of the Princes) where some 12 notable Kano princes married. He was a highly respected folklorist. He spent about 50 to 60 years in the music industry. Shata could not recall or remember how many songs he produced. Many of his songs, especially those he produced in his teens, were not recorded.
Shata was a moralist
Shata was famed to have sung for every topic under the Hausa land’s sun: agriculture, culture, religion, economy, politics, military, morality and etiquettes, animals, trade, etc.
Shata received many national and international awards, including a PhD.
Shata received many awards, including those from the Federal Government (which gave him the Member of the Order of the Niger, MON), the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), the Kano State Government, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, University of California, Los Angeles, and an honorary doctorate degree by Ahmadu Bello University in recognition of his contribution to both national development and letters.