Local Praise Singers in Nigeria Serve as Tool for Politicians

ABUJA, NIGERIA � Music groups known as praise singers have a long tradition of working for politicians in northern Nigeria. The groups have performed a lot this past week ahead of Nigeria's gubernatorial elections Saturday.

Abdulmumin Umar, the lead vocalist of Alheri, a group of singers in Northern Nigeria, says the group has been singing for more than 20 years, and getting paid for it.

"I use this to help my family and even others," Umar said. "Through this job, I employ people to work on my farm."

Political praise singing in Nigeria dates back several decades and has become a tool for many politicians. A typical song can be an ode to a candidate, or a put-down of his opponents.

Politicians like Temitope Atiba, a campaign rally coordinator with the APC party, invest money in the singers. Atiba says praise singing can build support for a candidate.

"For me it is that resonance, that connection between the people and music and the ability to convey a message through the music," Atiba said.

Praise singers like Abdullahi Ali says they've been reaping the benefits.

"This is very important to me. It is through this I pay my children's school fees and feed myself and my family," Ali said.

When there are no elections in progress, praise singers sometimes get invited to sing at social gatherings and other events. But their forte is the elections.

Source: Voice of America