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?

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