Hussaini Umar & Aliyu Mansur
The Koroso dance is a traditional colorful, athletic dance of Hausa/fulani origin that has been performed for centuries. The dancers are adorned with colorful costumes wearing beads, bracelets and anklets made of rattling beads called ‘Koroso‘, after which the dance is named.
Even before the arrival of the Sokoto Caliphate, social life of the Fulani and Hausa people dominated various
cultural activities which usually occurred during the harmattan season. Cultural and traditional activities are organized to celebrate the season. During that period, entertainment to the general interest of the people was usually staged to mark the end of the year and the beginning of the New Year.
However, as years went by and with contact with other civilized nations, the idea of mixing Sarewa (a traditional musical instrument of the Fulani, that provides a soothing and interesting rhythm with the Hausa musical instruments such as Ganga, Kanzagi, Duma, Kwarya among others to create a unique musical output) was conceived in 1972 by Malam Umaru Kiru, an employee of Kano Community Commercial College, alongside Malam Musa Lambu who happened to be a talented dancer.
They made selections of movement from various traditional dances of the Fulani and Hausa people of Kano State and put together in form of a single cultural dance group called ‘Koroso’ dance group, with the name derived from the rattle tied around the dancers’ legs.
The group of dancers which is made up with Rawar Koroso performers consists up to twelve members in which six are males and six females. The number may vary from time to time. Both men and women dress in a traditional attires and accessories made from local materials.
The females dressed in sleeves tops design with cowries and local embroidery the tie wrapper on top and in some locations appear in the knee length trousers, the accessories woven by men includes ’koroso’ tied around the legs, the ’warki’ which is made with skin/hide and tied around the waist, the ‘hamila’ which is woven like a piece of cloth across the chest from the shoulders downward , the ’yar hannu’ which is a local wrist band, are among the accessories the dancers used.
Koroso band also include a group of people who play different types of musical instruments such as: The drummer – Plays the drum known as ’kwairama’ or ‘tallafe. The Alimi Drummer – Plays the small hand held drum known as ’Kazagi’. The flutist – Plows the flute Mai Lalajo – plays the instrument ‘Lalajo’ which is made from the piece of calabash and Mai Duma who Plays the ‘Duma’ which is a large calabash place covered with skin, and its produce a heavy sound.
Gradually, Koroso dancing has over the years become synonymous with Kano State, as no important function was complete without the dance group entertaining guests. Malam Salisu Sa’idu popularly known as Dambu is the head of department, Music and Dance, at Kano State’s History and Culture Bureau. According to him, He said he has been with the dance group since 1981 and has witnessed almost all the development recorded in its.
“The group started gaining recognition when it represented the state at the 1972 National festival of Arts and Culture in Kaduna, from where it featured in the World Black Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos (FESTAC “77) and gained wider recognition. The federal government of Nigeria also invited and sponsored them in September 1977 to visit North America, South America and the Caribbean Islands,” said Dambu.
In 1987, a new choreography called Marwalle, drawing on a festive dance performed by youths during the harvest season, was blended into Koroso during the troupe’s entry into Nigeria’s National Festival of Arts and Culture. And so, gradually, Koroso dancing has become widely accepted to the extent that numerous small dance troupes have created their own unique versions of it by incorporating dance steps of musicians like M.C. Hammer and Michael Jackson, or Congolese Makossa star, Awilo Logomba. Dambu explained that the group visited Stuttgart in West Germany in 1980, during the Northern Nigerian Arts and Crafts exhibition.
The group was also in Kingston, Jamaican festival of the ‘International year of the child’. After the festival, the group moved to the United Nations and performed as part of Nigeria’s contribution to the International Drought Relief Fund. “Koroso dance is performed in such a way that a change in the music dictates the change from one dancing style to another and it’s performed with a leader who gives commands on what ought to be done.” Usually, the dance is performed by able-bodied youths because it demands the use of every part of the body, with special attention paid to uniformity and precision in movement and dance steps. It was gathered that most of the group members are fully employed by the state government, while few of them who have joined the group based on interest, depend a lot on the money they receive from every performance, even as some are placed on monthly allowances.
However, many independent Koroso dance group have emerged within and outside the state with different modes of dancing patterns. But one thing remains clear, all these groups are referred to as Koroso dance groups, although the state’s History and Culture Bureau maintains its own troupe to perform at various national and international events. Ironically, though the dance is known to have been a Hausa/Fulani inclined dance, some of the dancers are not Hausas, but came from the southern and eastern parts of the country. One of the dancers stated that Koroso dance ‘speaks all languages’ and that is why it is acceptable worldwide. A Kano State based historian, Malam Idris Bashir, stated that, the Koroso dance group has been one of the leading custodians of the Hausa/Fulani culture.
According to him, it is very vital for government to ensure that the welfare of the dance group is taken care of as it has gained international recognition more than any African dance group. “It has given the state an identity in terms of culture and entertainment. The group should be adequately motivated and uplifted. I believe the state government has been doing a lot but there is the need to do more in order to keep the heritage going.”