Wednesday, 15 February 2012 08:15

Don’t Dull: How Rapsters and Youtube are saving our Languages from Extinction

Written by 
wizkid wizkid

A couple of months ago, I picked up my 13 year old daughter from an outing. Getting into the car, she told me excitedly that she could sing a new Yoruba song. "Really," I asked skeptical, wondering how she could have learnt any Yoruba outside my tutelage. She proceeded to sing, "Awon ele, awon ele, won bad gan."

"What?" I asked scandalized, "that's not Yoruba!"

"Yes, it is. I'll show you on Youtube when we get home," she piped. And sure enough, she did. She unearthed a treasure trove of Naija songs. From Wiz Kid's "Don't Dull," we clicked on DBanj's "Oliver," then Banky W's "Omoge u too much," and so many more.

The ingenuity of these artists is truly inspirational. Take Style-Plus' "Olufunmi" which seamlessly weaves English stanzas with a Yoruba chorus or P-Square's "Ifunaya" which weaves English with Igbo chorus. And as if two languages were not hard enough, 2shotz ft. YQ's "Oyoyo" mixes four or more.

And when the mix is not about languages, it's about the music. Most of these artists feature hip hop beats that give African languages contemporary hipness such as 9ice's "Gongo Aso," or the late Dagrin's "E E Soro." Some also focus on current issues like Olu Maintain's "Yahoozee" and Timaya's "Bayelsa Otu."

Thanks to Youtube capability, the music has a global reach as evident in the 6 million plus viewers that have clicked on P-Square's "Do Me" and western artists singing the lyrics such as DBanj's "Oliver."

These artists fill the air with love when atimes, it's hard for the African to love his/herself. After a stressful day, we can relax and self-affirm with "African Queen" a la 2Face Dibia, "Oruka" a la Sunny Neji, "Olo mi" from Tosin Martins, "Yori Yori" by Bracket or 'move the body to "Imagine That' (Style-Plus), "Kini Big Deal" (Banky W), "Lori Le" (Project X), or if you like a full body workout, "Alhaji" (Ramatoulaye).

Of course, like their western counterparts, some of the rap songs are rude and degrading to women but if taken in playful light, we can appreciate Poliano's "Qualified Doctor," Wande Coal's "Bumper to Bumper," and others like them.

I remember the first time I went to a party and the music was one African beat after the other. It was so refreshing and heartening. At a time when even our soccer has been compromised by imperialist alliances, these rhythms refocus us homewards and they give us an opportunity to teach the next generation, our languages – somewhat. Though, I couldn't convince my daughter that "ele" is not the correct pronunciation of the word, I was able to use the song to teach her some Yoruba (sure I skipped parts offensive to women).

So thanks Wiz Kid, 2Face, Naeto C, Bracket, D'Banj (personal favorite), Style Plus (miss you; may God punish all pirates), P-Square (carry go)...


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Abi Adegboye Ph.D

Abi Adegboye began writing as a young girl growing in western Nigeria.  In a culture that reveres boys, she was born the second of three girls.  Certain she had to be her family's 'boy,' she climbed trees to harvest fruit, dressed chickens for dinner, caught mice, and whatever else required male-handling.  She also loved to read, write, and draw.  Her initial efforts yielded publications in local newspapers and newsletters.  However, she was advised to get a day job which turned out to be as a professor of political science.  This opened to her, a different avenue for publication in her areas of research including African women and development, women migrants, and the impact of public policy on women’s political economy.

On her 40th birthday, she rekindled her creative writing with the publication of Butterfly, a picture book and Reflections on Nigerian Christianity, a social commentary.  Since then, she’s co-authored Owanbe! Yoruba Celebrations of Life (2010), a cultural anthology and published Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama’s Journey to the White House (2012), a YA motivational YA book, and Renike comes to America (2016), a novella.  

Abi writes multicultural fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults.  She shares her writing through speaking engagements, performances, storytelling, and classroom visits. 

For more information about Ms. Adegboye’s publications, or to connect with her, visit her

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