Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Regional Music: Amairam

Malam Maman Barka: Amairam


From southeastern Niger, Malam Maman Barka is a teacher, musician and poet. Barka has been performing on his 2-stringed gurumi for over 20 years. The gurumi's body is a calabash shell, and its skin head comes from an iguana. While his music is deeply rooted in the traditions of the Hausa civilization, Barka has composed over 250 new pieces that document life experiences, address contemporary issues, build bridges across cultures, make political statements, and provide optimistic direction to deal with life's struggles. It's understandable how Malam Barka's captivating vocals and intriguing gurumi have built him a strong fan base among Nigerians.

While the musical ambassador has traveled internationally, this is his first album to be released outside of Niger. Accompanied by percussionist Oumarou Adamou on douma and kalongu, Barka's music is being disseminated through the efforts of the album's producer Nathaniel Berndt who collected these field recordings on location for our education and enjoyment. I may not be able to speak or understand Barka's language, but I appreciate what he's trying to accomplish as a contemporary African bard.

With the song “Amairam,” Barka is singing an ode to a woman who is “very beautiful, beautiful like a gazelle” (from the translation offered at The song has many beautiful and heartfelt sentiments, but the recurring theme may be best expressed as follows:

Amairam respects me,
Amairam is respectful,
Come next to me with your smile,
Come next to me with your laugh,
You have taken my spirit
Friend Amairam, darling Amairam, for the love of God trust in me

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