The word Kannywood is an imitation of the famous American entertainment industry, The Hollywood. The term “Kannywood”, derived from the name of the ancient city of Kano (the center of Hausa entertainment industry for centuries), was actually coined by Sunusi Shehu Daneji in an article in the August 1999 edition of Tauraruwa Magazine (incidentally the first magazine in Africa devoted to indigenous African video films).
Folklore and tales by moonlight, an integral part of African culture, metamorphose, thanks to colonialism, into modern Hausa entertainment industry. The Nigerian Television Authority, in an effort to promote regional cultures at the national stage created the triad of television series consisting of “The Village Headmaster” from the West, “The Masquerade” from the East and the works of Hausa literary giant, Sir Abubakar Imam, “Wisdom is an asset” from the North.
The success of Wisdom is an asset (Magana jari ce) inspired the Kano state owned television station (CTV) to embark on soap operas during the late 1980’s to early 1990’s, which saw the production of successful stories like Bakan Gizo 1987 (Rainbow), Sabon Bakan Gizo 1988, Rikicin Duniya 1991 and Gimbiya Fatima 1992…there are of course other drama series like Karo da goma, Dan haki, Sawun Kura all from Kano and Samanja, Gidan kashe Ahu from Kaduna and Golobo, Danwanzam from Sokoto and Karkuzu from Jos.
Stage drama groups like Tumbin Giwa prospered during the time as members were drawn as cast in some of the television series and became the dominant ones in early Hausa home videos. With the decline of those popular TV series, active participants decided to venture into commercial film making. The first of those commercial feature films was Turmin Danya, released in March 1990 by the pioneer Director, Salisu Galadanci, which became very successful in many ways. First, investors, actors/actresses, technical crew and all involved realized that they can do it alone without the involvement of government. Secondly there is a divorce from the norm where scripts were chosen by government based on its policy towards propaganda, enlightenment and awareness. Commercial film making also empowered people economically unlike earlier where government dole out meager stipends (as most of the actors were employed by government or are involved in it as a hobby). The success of Turmin Danya, inspired its leading cast, Adamu Muhammed, to produce his own video film (Kwabon Masoyi), independent of Tumbin Giwa group in 1994. This singular act outlined the road map for the future of the Hausa video films, and at the same time sounded the death knell of the drama groups.
One important factor in the genesis of Hausa film making, is the Hindi Movies. Indian films had been the greatest source of entertainment in Hausa land for several decades due to a variety of reasons. To begin with, there is so much similarity (religion aside) between Hausa social behavior and mores (e.g dress code, coyness, forced marriages, gender stratification, obedience to parentsa and authorities etc) and those of India. The themes in most Indian movies portrays what the Hausa man appealed to as it has to do with courage, sacrifice, valor, nemesis and above all love. Indian movies like Sholay, Noori, Azad, Don, Rambalram, Charas just to mention a few, exhibiting those values, captivated the Hausa audience and became template for future filmmakers.
Chinese movies, on the other part, failed to struck a chord as the Indian films did simply because of their nature of violence, just like their counterpart, the American films. For a long time Indian movies dominated the entertainment arena in Hausa land. The beginning of commercial production in Kannywood with quality stories like Turmin Danya, Tsuntsu mai wayo, In da so da kauna, Munkar, Ki yarda da ni etc. indeed sensitize Hausa viewers that they do have an alternative to Indian movies and began to patronize it, which inadvertently affected the popularity of Indian films. Before you know it the industry began booming and it became what it is today.
Of further significance was the fact that Turmin Danya, released in 1990 and Kannywood coined in 1999 were the pioneer full pledge video film industry and label, not only in Nigeria but in Africa in contrast to Nollywood created by Norimitsu Onishi in an article in the New York Times on September 2002(almost three years after the creation of Kannywood). Living in Bondage 1992, the film generally acknowledge as the first English language Nollywood film, was also released two years after the 1st Hausa video film.