Tribute to My Teacher: Dual professorship, borderless scholarship (I), By Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

Muhammed Jameel Yusha'u
Muhammad Jameel Yushau

Continued from last week.

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu was  born in Daneji, the city of Kano, northern Nigeria, and he was employed as a graduate assistant in science education in the Department of Education, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, in 1980. By October 1997, he had become Professor of Science Education and Curriculum Studies – the youngest professor from Kano at the time at 41 years. His undergraduate training was in Biology and Plant Physiology Education (at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1979), and his postgraduate specialization at the Masters level was in History and Philosophy of Science (University of London, 1983), while for his D.Phil. (at the University of Sussex, England, 1988), he specialized in Human Resource Development.

His intellectual internationalization started in 1991 when he was appointed Visiting Associate, Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley, United States as Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar. He was the first person from the north of Nigeria to become a Senior Fulbright fellow, even though at that time he was only 35 years! His residency in Berkeley led to a book “Reform and Adaptation in Nigerian University Curricula, 1960-1992: Living on a Credit Line” published in 1994 in New York by The Edwin Mellen Press. In 1993 he set another record as the first academic from northern Nigeria to be invited  by the Rockefeller Foundation as Visiting Resident Scholar, Bellagio Conference and Study Center, Italy, where he developed ideas for a book on higher education.

In 1999, in the wake of the public furor that trailed the popularity of Hausa contemporary fiction,  he changed the focus of his research to media and cultural communication, starting with observations about the then burgeoning Hausa popular literature – an engagement that led to many lively debates in the pages of newspapers in northern Nigeria, especially the New Nigerian Weekly under the guidance of Ibrahim Sheme who actually facilitated and mediated all the discussions on Hausa popular literature. Prof. Adamu’s deep interest in computing and literary expression led to his developing Hausa hooked characters (Ɗ, ƙ, ɗ, ɓ, Ƙ, and Ɓ) as font sets to facilitate Hausa word processing in 1996. His engagement with the Hausa literati soon merged with similar interest in Hausa video films in 2001 and by 2003 he had facilitated the convocation of the first conference on Hausa video film industry in Kano – a first, not only for the Hausa film industry, but also for any African video film industry; an endeavour which led to a book, Hausa Video Films: Economy, Technology and Society, co-edited by Prof. Yusuf Adamu and Prof. Umar Faruk Jibril (Kano, Center for Hausa Cultural Studies, 2004).

When Internet became available in Kano sometime in 2000 he quickly seized its social networking potentials long before Facebook became a reality in 2004 by creating online communities on Yahoo! Groups channel to discuss Hausa music, literature and film in 2001. This not only brought the attention of the larger networked world to Hausa popular culture, but it also provided an opportunity for others to develop similar virtual communities aimed at discussing all aspects of contemporary life of the Hausa, both at home and in the Diaspora.

His cultural activist engagement in the communicative aspects of Hausa popular culture within the context of what he always refers to as ‘transglobal media flows’ made the Department of Mass Communication to employ him as a part-time lecturer in 2006, where he was given courses to teach that eventually included Online Journalism, Advanced Media Research Methods, Critical Writing and Review, Aesthetics and Film Criticism, and Media Studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

In 2008, Prof. Adamu was appointed country partner by the Volkswagen Foundation, Germany, in its project, Passages of Culture, which networked African (Bayero University, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon and the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) and European Universities (University of Basel, Switzerland and Freiburg University, Germany). The project sought to determine, through extensive research involving some 10 PhD students, how culture moves intertextually between one literary passage to another. Prof. Adamu was also appointed advisory to the proposed board for the Center for Study of Music in the World of Islam, Abu Dhabi (which had its origins in a conference in Morocco), and which engaged him in a project on visual preservation of Hausa children’s songs.

Prof. Adamu is also one of the few that can be called ‘practitioner-scholars’. Not only does he teach media theories and popular culture, he actualizes it. By 2012 he had recorded ethnomusical and religious performances in both video and audio which ranged from re-recording of Aliyu Namangi’s nine-volume Wakokin Imfiraji [Songs of Salvation], to beggar minstrel music, and female Fulani children’s camp songs; as well as Sufi religious performances by both Qadiriyyah and Tijjaniyyah Sufi adherents in Kano.

As a music director, Prof. Adamu recorded what he called ‘Hausa Classical Music’ – a performance of four musical pieces (without any vocals) by three traditional Hausa musicians playing gurmi (sort of shortened lute), duman girke (bongos) and sarewa (flute) in 2006. He called the band, ‘Alfijir’, [dawn], to indicate the new direction he hopes to forge for Hausa music. Three of the instrumental compositions last for over 15 minutes, with the fourth closing the performances at four minutes. In 2008 he obtained private funding to produce a documentary on the Kano Horse Pageantry festival, Hawan Sallah, which takes places after Ramadan and during Eid-al-Hudha. He called the film, ‘Equestrian Elegance’. The film was directed by Bala Anas Babinlata, and was reviewed by Carmen McCain. In addition he had organized seven musical concerts for the British Council when it was in Kano, always introducing elements of fusion – for instance, creating what he called. ‘Kukuma Rap’; rap lyrics with Hausa kukuma beat. He has established a YouTube Channel to share his ethnomusicological recordings.


Read Part 1 of this article here.


Twitter: @jameelyushau
Facebook: Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

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