The Mother Ship

Lost and Found Sound: A Village Greeting in Nigeria

Auwalu in typical Hausa hat and gown.

Auwalu in a typical Hausa hat and gown. Tracy Johnston hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Johnston

This story was produced by Jay Allison, one of the executive producers of Lost and Found Sound.

Writer Tracy Johnston made these recordings during the first of her three trips to Nigeria. In 1993, Johnston went to Kano in northern Nigeria with Auwalu, a young professor willing to show her the village where his grandfather was born. There Johnston heard a sound that she affected her ever since. It is the village women greeting Auwalu as they see him coming.

The two women were from a Muslim ethnic group called the Hausa Fulani. They pinched their noses and emitted a high, loud, celebratory cry called ululation. The women, joined by others, continued to greet Auwalu and teased him for 10 more minutes. They made him thow back his head and laugh.

And the women made Johnston think that she found a place she could return to. She calls it the "Mother Ship." She said she can return there whenever she’s feeling unloved or when she needs a dose of pure joy. She can return by listening to the recording she made that day.

Lost and Found Sound asked Johnston to talk about that trip and to play some of the recordings she made.

Tracy Johnston has been a journalist and magazine editor for most of her life. She is the author of "Shooting The Boh: A Woman's Voyage Down The Wildest River In Borneo."

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