Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It should have been funny!

A picture is supposed to say more than a thousand words, so no words need be said here, except that I didn't know that it has become this bad for us here.

See photograph. Click to see larger image.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We Had Him!

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing,
now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips
like a puff of summer wind.

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace.
Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.
In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing. No clocks can tell time.
No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember
that he was a gift to us and we did have him.

He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.
Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love,
and survived and did more than that.
He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style.
We had him whether we know who he was or did not know,
he was ours and we were his.
We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.

His hat, aslant over his brow, and took a pose on his toes for all of us.
And we laughed and stomped our feet for him.
We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing.
He gave us all he had been given.

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Black Star Square.
In Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England

We are missing Michael.
But we do know we had him, and we are the world.

Maya Angelou

written for Michael Jackson Memorial and read by Queen Latifah

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pidgin English and I

I was not always a fan of pidgin (now written in Nigerian academic circles as Nigerian Pidgin or NP). Actually the first time the language was spoken to me by one of the "worldly" sophisticated senior boy in my primary school, I was confused because I wasn't sure whether he was mocking me or really asking a question. I told him I saw him playing football somewhere close to my house the evening before, and he responded with "Which kain football?" That was the end of the conversation.

That was the first I could remember, and I have gradually come into knowledge that it is a language to be reckoned with, and not just a slang used by touts and marijuana smokers, even though the most prominent icons of the language were mostly people of rebellious gait. That last part, as true as it might sound, have now also been discovered to be false. While in the university, I found that there actually exist a body of people whose first language (or L1 as we call it) is the Nigerian Pidgin. They do not speak English, and they barely speak their own local languages. To them, Pidgin is the mother tongue.

For years however, the only places where we heard Pidgin spoken was on television - by dubious elements, uneducated old men, gate men, prostitutes, pickpockets and, well, musicians. It relegated the status of the language to the pedestrian, and informal. But that was then. Today, the language is becoming mainstream although not yet elevated officially to the full status of a language. The official books must be the only places where the language is not yet so recognized. As far as the streets are concerned, it is a language on its own, as unique as Hausa or Yoruba, perhaps even with a larger number of speakers than the two combined.

Arguments in Nigerian fiction have asked whether any official orthography exists or could be made for the "language" if it must be so called. As at now, there is none. There is not even a dictionary yet even though I'm privy to information about one in the making. Just yesterday, I stumbled on PidginGuide, a sort of Wiki for Pidgin where the users determine the content and size. Along with being free and globally acceptable, the idea has brought into light more possibilities for the codification of Pidgin in the nearest future. One argument against its reliability says that the number of people contributing doesn't guarantee the quality of the work. This would have been true but the fact that the openness of this project everyone makes it less likely to be unreliable as a means of keeping up with the language's growth and evolution within the urban population. Where it *might* lack is in keeping up with the rural, uneducated population. For that, we may still have to depend on the bits we get from Naija hip-hop stars

Check related articles at Wikipedia, and here and here for a conference announcement for a Nigerian Pidgin English conference in Ibadan next week.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nakupenda Malaika

I've always known that Angelique Kidjo's rendition of the famous folk song Malaika was faulty. I just didn't know why. Today I found out: she was not pronouncing the words well. Although her very impressive vocal range new colour to the song and made it a favourite among the song's lovers all over the world, her Swahili was poor, and at many times, she said plain rubbish and ruined the song for people who actually understood they lyrics. I guess for those who did understand the language, her beautiful voice was sufficient.

Check out Mariam Makeba's original version, and compare it to the Beninoise Angelique Kidjo's beautiful remake. You don't really have to speak Swahili to notice the difference in lyrics. Somebody actually referred to Kidjo's version as "haunting". I couldn't agree more. Funny, Boney M also did the song again, ruining it also with another error in pronunciation when "I love you" was pronounced "Nakupende" instead of "Nakupenda", among a few other errors. No, they're not the same. They don't mean the same nor sound the same. The lyrics and translation of the song is here. Read for comments on translation on the same page. There are some more comments here.

The song "Malaika" was first recorded by Kenyan musician Fadhili William but has been performed by international artists such as The Brothers Four, Helmut Lotti, Hep Stars, Rocco Granata, Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Boney M and Angélique Kidjo.

Is it so hard to get a song right in pronunciation when it is in another language?