Zarma Wedding songs




Eehiye Haye Iyo


Si Hen Nyale

Iri walla iri man ma

Baba Fo Izo


Things have changed a lot at Zarma weddings throughout Zarma country and this group represents the tradition of women’s groups singing songs throughout a wedding. The songs begin with a blessing and continue to advise the bride, and the bride’s family of their responsibilities and the importance of upholding a respectable reputation for one’s role in the families that have newly come together. In Niger, weddings often seem more for the two families than for the bride and groom.

Weddings now have been influenced either by new modern music with radios or a much quieter scene as more conservative new ideas about music being anti-Islam become more popular. This particular group now functions more as performers as a bride’s family may hire them to come to perform at a wedding. The women are often paid to perform but are also showered with money as happy family members publicly gift money during the performance when moved by the music enough to do so. The group has been known to make over $400 at a wedding in the capital of Niamey.

At a simple gathering at Gambi’s house in Niamey, a group of more or less experienced women come together to sing, like generations of married women coming together to sing at an actual wedding. The spontaneous nature of a typical Niamey wedding results, especially with a plastic bottle also used as a percussive device.

These plastic bottles are international and local soda bottles that get recycled for homemade juices, that are sold in neighborhoods and at social gatherings, including weddings. Found objects often find their way into more participatory, as opposed to performance-based, music genres in crude form. In more professional contexts, a found object, like a can, might be manipulated to become an integral part of an instrument, a crafted, finished product.

The sticks are also found in this more modern setting, which also points to an absence of millet or sorghum stalks that would be used in a rural setting in the days of these women’s grandmothers. The lack of agricultural fields does not affect the striking clack sounds that two women share, with different rhythms, over the same inverted calabash.

The beginning of a wedding ceremony and even performance or anything with an Islamic benediction is a standard practice which most Muslims recognize. Bisimillahi, is the benediction to clear the way in the name of Allah, including protection from djinn, or spirits. Its incorporation in the wedding songlist as a standard opener, points to the negotiation and incorporation of Islamic elements into many everyday, common examples.

Si Hen Nyaale is a wedding standard that can now be found in abundant diversity, and across ethnic lines into Fulani groups settled or camping in or near Zarma-Songhai villages. It can also be sung with friends simply clapping without any instruments. Some Fulani in the Makalondi area sing outside the new home that the bride has just been delivered to. The door is closed and it is as if the new bride has only the words she can hear from the other side to comfort her as she is starting a new life.

  • Gambi Abdou Baki – Lead vocals
  • Foudi Hotto Saley – back vocals
  • Kadi Tahirou – back vocals
  • Salamanou Amadou – back vocals
  • Zongo Gantou – back vocals
  1. Bisimillahi – 3:03
  2. Weynyaney – 4:51
  3. Eehiye Haye Iyo – 3:48
  4. Yahaye – 4:13
  5. Si Hen Nyale – 2:32
  6. Iri walla iri man ma – 4:48
  7. Baba Fo Izo and Dara Nya – 9:25
  8. group interview – 7:16
  • Ethnic Group: Zarma
  • Language (dialect): Zarma (Zarma-Tarey)
  • Country: Niger
  • Recording date: September 8, 2015
  • Recording location:
    Poudriere neighborhood, Niamey, Niger
  • Total Recording time: 39:56
  • Technician: Brian Nowak
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