Metrical Studies of

The "Marriage Songs" of Dan Maraya Jos

This page includes links to a detailed study of a group of songs by a famous Hausa musician, Dan Maraya Jos. You can download the full text of a rather long and technical unpublished paper, you can download the full texts and translations of the songs, and you can listen to samples of the songs while viewing a musical transcription and scansion. Click here for a brief bio of Dan Maraya.

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The following "movies" allow you to play a sample of each of the songs, see a musical transcription of each line as you hear it, see the scansion for each line, and get more information on Hausa metrics. Click on a link, and the movie will open in a separate window.

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Brief Biography of Dan Maraya Jos

Dan Maraya Jos, whose name means "The Little Orphan of Jos", was born in 1946 in B'ukur, near Jos in Plateau State, Nigeria. His Islamic name is Adamu, but his father died shortly after his birth and his mother died while he was still an infant, hence the name by which everyone knows him. Dan Maraya's father was a court musician for the Emir of Bukur, who took Dan Maraya under his care when his parents died. Dan Maraya showed an early interest in music and came under the influence of local professional musicians. During a trip to Maiduguri while he was still a pre-teen, he was impressed by musicians there and made a kuntigi, with which he has accompanied himself ever since.

The kuntigi is a small, single-stringed lute. The body is usually a large, oval-shaped sardine can covered with goatskin. Dan Maraya and other kuntigi players are solo performers who accompany themselves with a rapid ostinato on the kuntigi. During instrumental interludes they repeat a fixed pattern for the song they are playing, but while singing, they will often change the notes of the pattern to parallel the melody they are singing.

Like most professional musicians, the mainstay of Dan Maraya's repertoire is praise singing, but Dan Maraya singles out his personal heros rather than the rich and famous. His first, and perhaps still his most famous song is "Wak'ar Karen Mota" ["Song of the Driver's Mate"] in praise of the young men who get passengers in and out of minivan buses and do the dirty work of changing tires, pushing broken down vans, and the like. During the Nigerian Civil War, he composed numerous songs in praise of soldiers of the federal army and incorporated vivid accounts of scenes from the war in his songs.

Many of his songs incorporate social commentary. These include the songs on marriage in the study here, which probably date from the early 1970's. One might argue that they are really one large song, and in performance, Dan Maraya incoporates lines from each of them. However, the recordings that serve as the basis for this study have three distinct musical settings, and the songs themselves have three different themes. "Jawabin Aure" ["Discourse on Marriage"] lists the problems attendant in divorce and admonishes married couples to try to patch up their differences. "Auren Dole" ["Forced Marriage"] decries the practice of families arranging marriages for their daughters rather than letting them decide on their own mates. "Gulma-Wuya" ["The Busybody"] describes a neighborhood gossip who works in collusion with a boka (a practitioner in casting spells, removing evil spirits, etc.) to disrupt marriages by sowing dissension between women and their husbands. The latter song is amusing in that Dan Maraya performs it as a drama, imitating the voices of the different characters as they speak, a technique that he has used in other songs as well.

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