The people of the North are known for complex percussion instrument music and a strong praise tradition. Under Muslim influence since the 14th century, Hausa music uses free-rhythmic improvisation and the Pentatonic scale, similar to other Muslim Sahelian tribes throughout West Africa, such as the Bambara, Kanuri, Fulani and Songhai.
Traditional Hausa music is used to celebrate births, marriages, circumcisions, and other important life events. Hausa ceremonial music is well known in the area and is dominated by families of praise singers. The Hausa play percussion instruments. Examples of Hausa musical instruments include:
Algaita: a popular reed instrument resembling a mega flute.
Timpani: a large copper or brass hemispherical drum with a parchment head that can be tuned by adjusting the tension. It is also called kettledrum.
Goje: this is a one-stringed guitar-like instrument.
Kakaki: an elongated state trumpet originally used by the Songhai Calvary and taken by the rising Hausa state as a symbol of military power. Kakaki trumpets can be more than two metres long, and can be easily broken down into three portable parts for easy transportation.
There are also the Tambura drum and the talking drum (called gangan by the Yoruba).
There are two broad categories of traditional Hausa music: rural folk music and urban court music.
Ceremonial music (rokon fada) is performed as a status symbol, and musicians are generally chosen for political reasons as opposed to musical ones. Ceremonial music can be heard at the weekly sara, a statement of authority by the emir which takes place every Thursday evening.
Courtly praise-singers like the renowned Narambad, are devoted to singing the virtues of a patron, such as a sultan or emir. Praise songs are accompanied by kettledrums and kalangu talking drums, along with the kakaki.
Rural folk music includes styles that accompany the young girls’ asauwara dance and the bòòríí or Bori religion both well known for their music. It has been brought as far north as Tripoli, Libya by trans-Saharan trade.
The bòòríí cult features trance music, played by calabash, lute or fiddle. During ceremonies, women and other marginalized groups fall into trances and perform odd behaviors, such as mimicking a pig or sexual behavior.
These persons are said to be possessed by a character, each with its own litany (kírààrì). There are similar trance cults (the so-called “mermaid cults”) found in the Niger Delta region.
Popular Hausa music artists include Muhamman Shata, who sings accompanied by drummers, Dan Maraya, who plays a one-stringed flute called a kontigi, Audo Yaron Goje, who plays the goje, and Ibrahim Na Habu, who plays a small fiddle called a kukkuma.