Yahaya Usman, popularly called Yahaya Makaho, a blind singer who rose from being a street beggar to a famously known singer in northern Nigeria, sings while wearing his trademark sunglasses in Kaduna, Nigeria, on September 25, 2019. — AFP pic
KADUNA (Nigeria), Nov 7 — Yahaya Makaho feels his way to the microphone before launching into a song for his new album at a recording studio in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna.
Blind since early childhood, the singer has overcome obstacles that often crush the dreams of disabled people in this region and risen from street beggar to star.
In the last four years his songs and music videos have become hits among the roughly 80 million Hausa-speaking Nigerians and broader West Africa.
“I see myself as a superstar who has broken the jinx associated with physical disabilities,” Makaho, 37, told AFP, wearing his trademark sunglasses.
“I have punctured the stereotype people have that once you are blind all you can do is take a bowl and go begging for alms on the streets.”
It has not been a smooth rise since that decision.
Makaho faced years of discrimination and discouragement before a wealthy fan decided to fund a recording session in 2016.
The singer has carved out a niche by focusing on the pressing problems that confront his fans in their daily lives.
With his soft voice he croons his way through lyrics that tackle ills such as begging, drug abuse and corruption.
“Yahaya Makaho is a singer with a difference,” said Ahmad Bello, a music critic and linguist at Bayero University in the city of Kano.
“People love his songs not just for the beats but primarily for the messages embedded in them which touch on burning social issues.”
Dwelling on sensitive subjects has proved problematic on occasion.
Makaho upset some in northern Nigeria’s blind community after he wrote two singles that criticised the widespread practice of street begging — often the only means of earning an income for the visually impaired.