Lynne d Johnson



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03.21.02 11:24 AM

kicking afrobeat linguistics

Going to keep it thorough and continue with this world music/beat theme. Afrobeat specifically that is. While searching for various information, I ran across an essay entitled A linguistic approach to Fela Kuti's lyrics.

It's an interesting read. I interpret it as Fela's language/lyrics working as a turntable and cross fader does. Bringing together various elements of sound from various sources, the way he did in his music. Fela is like the mix master of tongue.

"What Fagborun calls code-mixing - in his eyes `the most interesting of all modes of communication in the Yoruba territories - strongly inheres in Fela Kuti`s lyrics. Code-mixing `may, at times, comprise Yoruba, English and/or Pidgin in one and the same sentence, depending on the level of education of the speaker`. We can certainly state, that these lyrics supply a good example of the linguistic phenomenon that nowadays is called `code-changing`, or `code-mixing`. (With regard to their time of release, the lyrics are probably also a kind of early `official' prototype of this linguistic mode.) Linguists evaluate this phenomenon against the background of contact between languages which evolves `the interweaving of linguistic elements from different sources`. Le Page and Tabouret distinguish between `focused' language, indicating that the speaker is aware of the linguistic elements of his/her language, or parts of it, and oppositely `diffuse' language which obviously comes about as an unconscious result of linguistic environment. These are not two strictly separated stereotypes of language, but in between processes like pidginization and creolistion have their origin and are at work. This is an interesting aspect of the development of languages, for one can hardly declare that linguistic changes as such derive from conscious processes. On the other hand there are various fields of human activity in which language is subject to change, as individuals or distinct groups use language on their own behalf. This includes variation and innovation in linguistic terms which, above all, oppose to language conventions. These linguistic alterations are frequently bound to social processes where language is activated merely in order to provoke or to serve a particular purpose like conveying discontent. This applies to Fela Kuti's lyrics. On the whole, I assume that the words and phrases he uses are thorougly chosen. I even presume that, concerning his contextual ambition, he occasionally varies the type of language. In Original Sufferhead, for instance, he uses the STE preposition `from' when addressing those who are not in Nigeria but in London or New York. On the other hand he uses the NP preposition `for' when Africa is concerned. Yet, this assumption can not be proved in this paper. Nevertheless, Nigerian Pidgin is the prevailing language in the lyrics, and occasionally the Yoruba particles just seem to be perfectly fitting with the musical arrangement."

Angelique Kidjo has a new album out, and the LA Weekly writer Judith Lewis
does a pretty good job of explaining her sound. Americans are sure funny. They steal a sound, sample it, and reprocess it as if it is their very own ish, but they can not understand how all music is based on a universal coming together of sonics. What does it mean that African music, is supposed to sound African? Is it the way David Byrne and Paul Simon present it? Is that the African sound? Really digging that Kidjo sees her music as a particle of the African cultural continuum. I'm telling you, if you want to hear some real African funk that you can get your groove on to, check Angelique Kidjo's sound.

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