If you’ve spent time in Niger, you might have heard of Mahaman Sani Mati Admulmulah. Even if you haven’t heard of Mahaman Sani, you might have heard him sing, rap, or play traditional Nigerien music. Mahaman Sani is a musician well known throughout Niger. He is a performer, composer, and teacher of music, who instructs young people in traditional, modern, and fusion music at Niger’s Centre for Music Training and Promotion (CMTP). Mahaman Sani views himself not only as playing and teaching music, but as promoting traditional culture among young Nigeriens. He is also a social activist, having produced four albums that address issues such as children’s rights, peace, and marital violence.  

Mahaman Sani is also a successful entrepreneur. When he noticed a gap in the market for electric versions of traditional Nigerien instruments that could be played at larger concerts, he created the first electric-acoustic gourimi, a traditional instrument that resembles a two-stringed guitar. After performing with the instrument, he received many requests from other musicians for an electric gourimi, and Mahaman Sani realised this could be a viable enterprise. He founded the Company for the Fabrication of Musical Instruments (CFIM), through which Mahaman Sani personally trains youth who might otherwise be unemployed to play, build, and sell this electric version of the gourimi. Through CFIM, Mahaman Sani is giving Niger’s youth new skills, creating employment opportunities for them, and keeping Niger’s traditional culture alive among young people.

CFIM recently received a grant and support from USAID’s Youth, Advocacy, Women, Work and Alliances (YAWWA) project, and with YAWWA’s support CFIM graduated its first 20 youth trainees.

Mahaman Sani demonstrating techniques in the construction of the gourmi

YAWWA, implemented in Niger from October, 2014 to October, 2017, identified entrepreneurs and social innovators like Mahaman Sani and supported them to scale up their enterprises to increase civic engagement and positively affect communities throughout Niger. The project identified young change-makers and youth organisations and connects them with the knowledge, tools, and resources they needed to transform their localised civic activities into socially beneficial enterprises that can now be expanded and replicated. The project also created a culture of entrepreneurship by connecting young innovators to share ideas.

In addition to the financial support YAWWA provided to Mahaman Sani, he also received financial and administrative training to help him formalise and professionalise CFIM. Working with YAWWA is the first time that Mahaman Sani had been trained in financial reporting and recording keeping.

Through the grant and support that Mahaman Sani received from YAWWA, he was able to scale up CFIM to engage youth in a two-month training programme. The students learned the theoretical art to instrument construction as well as hands-on construction of the gourimi. By the end of the training, each student had made his own gourimi.

Since Mahaman Sani founded CFIM, he has seen steady demand for the electric-acoustic gourimi, leading four of the students to remain at CFIM to assist with constructing the instruments. The students leaving CFIM will use the skills they have gained to launch their careers in building and selling instruments or pursue careers as musicians. Several students have already sold their first gourimi and are continuing to produce the musical instrument.

Mahaman Sani is also advocating for the preservation of art and culture through the national school system. He envisions the insertion of traditional instruments and music in classrooms across Niger in order to preserve this disappearing tradition and to contribute to a well-rounded education of Niger’s young people. He also plans to develop electric versions of other traditional instruments and to continue training more youth in the art of Nigerien music. 

With support from YAWWA, Mahaman Sani is blending innovation in music and social entrepreneurship with Niger’s generations-old traditions, creating exciting new employment opportunities, and giving new skills to young people, in one of the country’s oldest art forms.

Two CFIM students practice playing gourimis that they built themselves