Falmata! The Last Diva from the Northeast


by Aliyu U. Tilde

Amina Rawaram, a contemporary of Falmata Alaye (Picture left)

I was a child then in the early 1960s. Each time the then Radio Television Kaduna played her extraordinary beautiful voice in Zaben Safe, I couldn’t help but follow her, wondering what she was saying in Kanuri and the beauty she must have been. The voice was enough for there could not be a better one.

Then she died, young. It was sad to learn. To me it was an eclispe and it remains so to date. At her death, even the famous Danmaraya Jos was so touched that he composed a dirge in her honour, or so I thought as a boy:

Falamata allangubro Falmata
Falmata duniyaa ba ta zama ba ce
Falmata lahira ba ta rago ba ce…

Who was Falmata? What was her actual name? From which town was she? Where was she buried? My heart and body would love to visit her.

Wherever you may be lying, I pray for a complete blissful life for you, Falmata. Since your demise, the Kanuri have not produced a diva that made it to the national radio with such elegance as you did, Falmata. In fact, both Kanuri and Fulfulde songs have disappeared from the waves in such Hausa programs immediately after the debut of Fulfulde and Kanuri sections of Radio Nigeria Kaduna in the late 1970s.

When the Boko Haram catastrophe is over – and soon will it be bi iznillah – it is my fervent wish that Borno will reinvent many Falmatas and hit the social and electronic media with their profound melody and voice that none other than them is blessed with. Only then will I know that the sun has risen, once again, over the ruins of a great civilization.

I suggest that when complete normalcy returns to Old Borno, the Borno and Yobe state governments should organise celebrations to grace the return of normalcy in all their major towns, including my town, Bama. In such events, I will look forward to listen to many Falmatas, perchance one of them would match my Falmata of the 60s in both voice and elegance.

Perhaps thinking that my wish for the celebrations may still be far-fetched, the impatient me last night offered to compose a poem in Kanuri if its people will give me just one Falmata. The deal, however, is Falmata first, then the poem; otherwise, I, as a Fulata, will be swindled by the Kanuris.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde