Four Women Musicians from Niger

Safiath, ZM, Habsou Garba and Fati Mariko: producing diverse sounds in rap, hip-hop and soul.

Fati Mariko, Youtube Screen Shot.

Women musicians in Niger are a notably socially conscious group. While they sing about the universally popular topics (like lost or new love), many of them also often use music to open a dialogue about issues in gender, health, poverty and politics. In a country where resources are extremely limited, these artists are producing diverse sounds in rap, hip-hop and soul. They both collaborate internationally, and draw on the traditions of the countries’ various ethnic groups.

If you’d like to check out some of the women musicians from Niger, start with the following four:

Safiath: The work of Safiath is characterized by her rich, velvety vocals. She works in a wide variety of genres, as a solo artist, and also with the group Kaidan Gaskia.

Click for a link to one of her latest videos, “Tazedar”, sung in Zarma and Tamachek.

The next song by Safiath, is the bluesy and beautiful “Yaro,” inspired by an old Zarma song, and sung in Hausa. It is about the sorrows of children facing mistreatment while living or working away from home. Safiath said she’s inspired to sing this song because the rights of children are “an issue that needs to be addressed.” Be sure to watch until the music picks up, about 45 seconds in.

Safiath has serious range, and has collaborated with other musicians from the continent. She recorded the soft, harmonious “Dans La Vie” in Burkina Faso, collaborating with Senegalese producer Ali Diallo, and hip-hop collective United Artists for African Rap (AURA).

ZM (Zara Moussa): ZM creates catchy and sassy Sahelian rap. In one of her new tunes “Mes Ailes” or “my wings,” ZM sings about finding strength through music while going through a difficult divorce. Recently, she’s worked with independent Canadian music producer Teaville Bourque to record songs. ZM also addresses public health issues in her song “Et Si” (“and if”), about the importance of giving blood. This song, sung in Zarma and French, references maternal health, a pressing issue in Niger. Woman who loose blood in childbirth can need blood donations to survive.

Habsou Garba: A singer very popular in Niger, Garba is profiled in the book Engaging Modernity: Muslim Women and the Politics of Agency in Postcolonial Niger, by Ousseina D. Alidou of Rutgers University. Alidou highlights what makes this singer so important and unique, analyzing her creative, dynamic record of subverting patriarchy and colonialism. As a child, Garba left an elitist French school to attend an Arabic-French madarasa (school), where she was able to sing. At the start of her career, Alidou writes, her emergence “as a famous public performing artist in Niger was of such political significance that she quickly earned a state appointment as a waged worker at the city hall”. Today, she’s enjoyed a dynamic career as a talk radio host and a singer. Her videos also feature the entertainment troupe Annashuwa, and cover a variety of themes including love, public health, and religious life. Alidou writes that the entertainment troupe Annashuwa is a unique “brassage given its multiethinic and multigendered membership”.

Here’s another one of her energetic songs, produced by studio Seydey Haouchi.

Fati Mariko: A singer and song-writer who sings with the band Marhaba. Mariko has been singing since 1986, she says, and does so “because its my destiny.” Her third album, “Inch Allah,” is on iTunes and Spotify. Try the tracks, “Erdi” (about cattle herding) and “Rigia” (about happy love). “Hôpital” was produced at the request of the National Hospital in Niamey; the lyrics encourage people to support and take care of the facility. This extended video features her singing, as well as long shots of Nigerien landscapes and daily life.  She sings in four different languages.

  • This list is by no means exhaustive. Keep an ear out for music coming out of Niger. As access to technology and online resources increases in the country, hopefully so will the world’s ability to enjoy its music.

Further Reading

The culture wars are a distraction

When our political parties only have recourse to the realm of identity and culture, it is a smokescreen for their lack of political legitimacy and programmatic content. It is cynically unpolitical, and it’s all bullshit.