Ibou Zakara


Ibou Zakara – Tooru incantation

Ibou Zakara interview

Ibou, he says, has found himself in his position, rather than seeking it out as his inheritance would lead to serving as the chief priest for the Agadez Sultan’s territory. It was his grandfather though who had settled here after solving a local curse that many others could not conquer.

As a Zarma in a mainly Hausa and Tuareg city, the mixing demonstrates the evolving urbanization, blending with traditional styles of internal migration associated with musical or spiritual learning. Coming from Baleyara to Agadez is quite a journey in itself, making the relation more unique.

As host to numerous private, neighborhood, and citywide ceremonies and provider of ceremonial functions, Ibou whips through an incantation for the nature spirits, the oldest and the most powerful for Ibou’s compound. His main spirit hangar is dedicated to one of the nature spirits.

High status does not always come with financial prosperity in the world of spirit priests. Most meetings, professional or leisurely, take place where one recites the incantation, in the thatch-mat (zanna mat), shade hangar, on one side of the compound. Sheets, curtains, and cloth help block wind, dust and rain, when each time comes.

The only way to recite the incantation is in its entirety, according to strict rules about use. Always attentive to each word, despite the speedy pace, Ibou is careful to perform directly to the spirits when engaging these words.

Two metal containers placed on the ground have trinkets of a spiritual nature, soaked with the aroma resulting from multiple drenchings of perfume and other offerings over a long period of time. They function as communication portals and sacred containers for the priest’s relationship with one or more spirits. They are taken out, opened, spoken into, closed, and put away.

Speaking to, with, in the place of, or for spirits links communication as a strength of the priest, whereas non-verbal communication like dreams or images, priests explain, is the more direct form for a spirit to communicate a message. Priests have a major role as guardian of sacred language texts of significant length.

In thinking in a ceremonial context, the priest, the sorko, and the musicians are all present and each has their own discourse for the same spirits. There is a multi-faceted nature to the language styles used in the charged context of a possession ceremony. Each defines a different avenue for voices from the three sub-groups within the network of practitioners, all manipulating words differently, at different times. The incantation seen here would be performed before a ceremony, but a sorko may choose to do a similar one to incite possession during the ceremony itself.

  • Ibou Zakara – Possession priest
  1. Ibou Zakara – Tooru incantation – 12:02
  2. Ibou Zakara interview – 13:40
  • Ethnic Group: Zarma
  • Language (dialect): Zarma (Zarma-Tarey)
  • Country: Niger
  • Recording date: March 26, 2016
  • Recording location:
    Toudou neighborhood, Agadez, Niger
  • Total Recording time: 25:42
  • Technician: Brian Nowak
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