Mamman Shata was born to a family of the Fulani tribe. His mother, Lariya, was a Fulata-Borno, the Fulani people who migrated from the Borno Empire after the Fulani Jihad of 1804 and settled in parts of Hausaland. She was born in Tofa town in the Kano Emirate and met Shata’s father, Ibrahim Yaro, when she went to visit a relative in Musawa. Subsequently, they got married. Lariya had a son, Ali, from a previous marriage and had two children with Yaro, Mamman Shata and his sister Yalwa.
Ibrahim Yaro was also of the Fulani ethnic group. His own ancestors came from Sanyinna in the Sokoto state. They had migrated to the Katsina state and settled in the forests around the present Musawa area. They were credited with the founding of Musawa itself, with Musa, their head, founding a small settlement that was subsequently named after him.
Musawa village was under the Katsina Native Authority (N.A.) when Shata was born. When the Local Governments were created it came under Kankia Local Government. Today, Musawa is a Local Government Area of its own in Katsina State.
Ibrahim Yaro did not want his son to become a musician due to the widely held belief that music or praise-singing was a form of ‘roko’ or begging. His father, being a Fulani man, wanted the young Shata to become a farmer or a trader, either of which was a more dignified occupation. Shata’s insistence on becoming a musician was therefore seen as a rebellion against the norm. Shata went to an Islamic school in Musawa as a boy, according to Hausa Muslim tradition.
Mamman Shata acquired his sobriquet of ‘Shata’ from a man called Baba Salamu, a relative of his. Shata as a young man was engaged in selling kola nuts and after the sale, he would share the profit to people he met on his way home or in the market and came back empty handed. Whenever he was asked what he did with the money he made, he would answer, “Na yi shata da su,” i.e. he had given it away. As a result, Baba Salamu started calling him ‘Mai-Shata’,