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This research explores the court praise songs of Zazzau Emirate. This particular research focuses its attention on who are these singers, what are their songs about and what constitute the themes and the literary styles employed in their royal court songs.The study features the songs of court singers in Zazzau Emirate such as Sarkin Sankiran Zazzau, Wazirin Zagi and Barayan Sarki. It also includes Rabi Bazamfara who is the only female court singer in Zazzau Emirate that chants epithets within the inner compound for the Emir and his wives. These royal praise singers were randomly selected.To foreground the society it discusses, the formation of Hausa States and the myths of the origin of songs in Hausa land and a brief biography of the Emir of Zazzau is given. The research adopts the functionalist approach as its theoretical framework. The aim of using the functionalist approach for this research is to explore the unique nature of Hausa oral art forms particularly the praise poetry, using the field work method and also to explore the different factors of Hausa culture.The researcher also analysed the various literary and stylistic devices found in the selected songs such as the themes of praise, eulogy and satire; also the figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, personification, allusion, repetition, have all been analysed. The significance/functions and the role of the court singers are well discussed. The convergence and divergence of the themes of the songs were also looked at. Finally, the state of praise singing has also been discussed.
To talk about poetry raises the question of what relationship, if any oral poetry has to
do poetry. Talking about the two we are essentially talking about the culture of a group of
people. This culture is given expression by the language of the people. It is poetic language
that is used to express their ideas. Words and common words are spoken everyday by the
masses in communicating with one another. When these words are spoken, it resupposes that
the listener is not mute. The listener is also able to speak and make appropriate responses.
Poetry here refers to as rhythmical form of words which expressed the imaginative-emotional
intellectual experience of the poet in a way that creates a similar experience in the mind of
the reader or listener. This pronouncement shows that the poet uses a combination of words-
symbols to convey his ideas. Whether or not he succeds depends on how well he manipulates
the word-symbols. He uses common words that touch us emotionally and spoken orally.
Oral poetry is poetry that lives in the mouth of the people and is transmitted verbally
from one person to another.
The concise Oxford Dictionary defines “oral” as “spoken, verbal, by word of mouth”.
Oral poetry is unwritten poetry. According to Finnegan (1970:14).
„Oral tradition‟ (including whatever should now call oral literature) is passed down word for word from generation to generation and thus reproduced verbation from memory throughout the centuries or alternatively, that arises communally from the people or the „folk‟ as a whole so that there can be no question of individual authorship or originality.
Oral poetry essentially circulates by oral rather than written means. In contrast to written
poetry, its distribution, composition or performance is by word of mouth and not through
reliance on the written or printed word. Cuddon (1977:465) says;
Poetry belonging to this tradition is composed orally or made up as the poet goes along. As a rule it is usually sung, chanted or recited and it is the earliest of all poetry, in the sense that it precedes written poetry.
This is the poetry that is fading away in many parts of Hausa lands because of the fast
emerging technology that comes with modern musical equipment. As literacy is now
speeding throughout the entire world at a rapid rate, oral poetry seems destined in time to
disappear if it is not collected and stored in accordance with one of the objectives of this
Praise poems exist in many different parts of Africa, its laudatory verse is addressed
to Emirs, chiefs, and even ordinary persons including children. In a way the term “praise
poetry” is a misnomer since such poems contain elements of satire and at times whole
passages can be abusive. The subject of the praise poem may include anything from people to
lifeless objects. In this way we may talk of poems composed in praise of practically anything.
The poem may be partially narrative or wholly descriptive. When the praise poem is in the
form of narrative, it glorifies the deeds of individuals and gives details of successful battles
waged. When it is descriptive, some attributes of the addressed is usually sighted out for
Historical Evolution of Oral Songs in Hausa Society
In the writings of Leo Africanus, Al Magriz; and Ibn Batuta in Bargery, (1933) the
term Hausa is not found, but other names of countries or peoples being used made it clear that
the forerunners of the present Hausas are intended. It is, however, most interesting that in the
earliest of all the writings mentioned, those of Ibn Said (died 1286), the form al Hausin is
found. It is used to designate a tribe living west of Lake Chad and spoken of as a branch of
Zaghawa, a people who lived in Kenem. This corresponds to a modern term Aussa reported
as sometimes found now in use among peoples of the Chad Basin, and in particular, as used
among people living in the certain shores to denote the people living on the Western side. It
can be argued from this that, the ancestors of the Hausas lived in the farther East than the
Hausas of today. Bargery, (1933)
A somewhat fuller record was gotten from Leo Africanus (1492 – 1526: his book was
published in Latin in 1556). Although he mainly described the several regions which are now
part of the Hausa land and in which Hausa was spoken and is spoken. These are Gubar (i.e.
Gobir), Agades, Kano, Kesena (Katsina), Zegzeg (i.e. Zaria), Zamfara, and Guangara (i.e.
Wangara). From his description of the people of Agades and Gobir, it is clear that he is
describing rather Berber tribes who had come from the north in the former and Berber or
Fulbe (Fulani) herdsmen in the latter, then Hausa as we know them today. Bargery, (1933)
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