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Exclusive Interview with Hassan Wayam

Biography of Hassam Wayam

I am residing in Zaria, in a place called Layin Zomo, near Kwangila, but originally from Maradun in Zamfara State.

I came to Zaria in 1968. In fact, soldiers brought me here. There is a town called Mayanci, which was famous for social life. Drivers always made a stop there. It was a very popular town because of its permissiveness, music and other forms of activities.

My boss then was a woman called Hajiya Tata; she owned a restaurant there. There were soldiers too who were driving lorries and other articulated vehicles.

They always stopped over at Mayanci on their way to Sokoto to sort of while away time. One of the soldiers, Corporal Ali Barau, once heard me playing the fiddle and he said, “Wow, this is a talented young man.” He asked Tata “from where did you get this talented boy?” She told the soldier that I found him just like you did now. The soldier asked if he could take me along with him and she obliged, with the condition that he had to get my conscent.

So when the soldier asked me, I agreed to follow him. That was how I came to Zaria. Unfortunately, Corporal Ali is now late but his family still lives in Unguwar Maigwado, in Sabon Gari, Zaria.

How did the name Hassan Wayam come about?

I have a small frame. So some people started calling me Dan-tsito (little) because of that. As for Wayam, any time I sang a song that I am not happy with, or start a verse and fail to finish it the way I want, I would refer to it as ‘wayam’ (i.e. empty). That time I had a big fan and any time he came looking for me he would ask “where is that boy that sings wayam?” And people would rush to call me. That was how the name stuck.

How is kukuma (fiddle) made?

Kukuma is made from a small calabash, a stick and some hairs from the horse’s tail. You also get karo (gum Arabic) which increases the sound output of the fiddle.

Indeed the fiddle has a gear, just like a car, with about ten changes. It gives a different output any time you change the gear.

Which among your songs is your favourite, since you don’t know their number?

Yes, I can’t tell the number of my songs, but my favourite is a song called “Sai Wayam.”

Is it true that you were once arrested in Niger Republic?

You know one thing about fame is that it comes with blackmail. I have been to Niger Republic only once in my life, and that was when the son of late Alhaji Mamman Shata was to get married there.

I went there in the company of late Alhaji Sani Sabulu Na Kanoma and his boys in his own car. And when we went to Niger Republic, we lodged at the residence of Sa’adu Bori.

We came back together after the wedding. Aside that, I have never travelled to Niger Republic to sing or to conduct any business. It is pure blackmail. Let whoever is making the claim come forward with it. Luckily I am still alive.

How was your relationship with Shata and Sani Sabulu?

We enjoyed the best of relationship with Shata. In fact, we took him for a father while he treated us like his children.

It was as a result of that cordial relationship that we traveled to Niger Republic to grace his son’s wedding. As for Sani Sabulu, he was both a friend and a brother. We hail from the same area. We used to do almost everything together. We even traveled together to Niger Republic, like I said earlier.

How did you venture into music?

I inherited it from my late father who was into three different trades – carving, farming and Fulani traditional beat. I took after him.

Can you list the places you visited because of singing?

I visited so many places because of my music. There are very few places I did not visit in Nigeria. I was also in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) to perform the pilgrimage, not to sing (laughs); then Niger Republic for Shata’s son’s wedding.

What will you say you achieved from singing?

They are numerous. I got a car, married and bought a house. I also went on Hajj and take care of my day-to-day needs.

What about problems?

The biggest problem is that of the death of my son, who was married with children. He was keen on taking after me, but his life was cut short in this dispensation. He was shot dead by soldiers, leaving behind five children (my grandchildren).

To my surprise, no government official or military officer deemed it fit to meet me over his killing, let alone pay compensation for the children he left behind.

This is one thing I will never forget in my life. I have 11 children and one wife. I married five women in my life, but now I am staying with only one. Another thing I would also not forget is the promise someone made to me of a car in Yola. It was during fuel scarcity, and we had no money. We kept performing on the way to get some money and finally arrived in Yola only to find that the man was not even in town.

We waited in Yola for three days for the man to come back. When he returned from his trip, we told him that we were there for the car. The man showed us one old land rover with neither engine nor tyres. In fact, only rats were occupying the car. And unfortunately, we have informed people at home that we were going to Yola to collect a car gift.

How old are you now?

I am over 60 because I was around 15 when Sardauna died. And I have spent not less than 48 years singing.

How do you see Hausa musicians today?

Hausa music has been pushed to the background unlike before. Is it that there are no lovers of Hausa music anymore? Today you see people dancing to songs played over cassettes while the people keep spraying. This disturbs me a lot. I hope things will change.

Are you still singing?

Yes, I am still singing. I still go to perform at the Lebanese club in Zaria on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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