Re: Nathaniel Bassey’s advice - Ace Anan Ankomah
Nathaniel Bassey is reported to have said: ‘…can I plead with Ghanaian music ministers to write songs in English? Yes, I know you love your local dialect, Twi, etc but … the world needs to hear your songs…’
This has created what I consider a needless maelstrom, instead of a thinking pause, a SELAH!
To start, I don’t consider myself a musician. I have coined the term ‘music hobbyist’ to describe what I dabble in. But I have written and/or produced a few songs that are considered ‘hits’ by Ghanaian gospel music enthusiasts in-country and maybe outside Ghana. But the songs have barely moved the needle with non-Ghanaians. Simple reason: they don’t understand the languages of the songs: they are all in Akan!
I could be content with a faux local champion or area boy status. But I’m not. Why?
One story. Apparently Bishop Dag Heward-Mills really likes the first song I ever wrote, W’ahenni, and wants it performed by the choirs at each of his crusades all over Africa (I’m not even sure if he knows who wrote it). But how will a Twi song get performed by a choir in say Malawi or Zimbabwe or Eswatini or Rwanda or Madagascar? Babylonian Shibboleth! So he has had to go through the trouble of having the song translated into, and then performed in, multiple local languages in several African countries - almost 30 African languages, I’m told. Goosebumps! I love it!
One day, as I listened to one such rendition, it struck me: what if I had written a part of the song, say just one verse and a chorus, in English?
You are the Lord
You never change
You remain the same
You reign, Your kingdom shall never end (2X)
[Yeah, the last line needs some tweaking, but you get the point]
It could have made the job simpler and the song could have gone further, much further. No guarantees, but worth the thought and maybe, effort.
So to the real gospel musicians (not hobbyists like me and pretenders who haven’t written a line of a song before but know better than the actual musicians), think deeply about what Bassey said.
It doesn’t mean that you will automatically make better or bigger impact if you sing in English. Just try it. You have nothing to lose. Write some of your songs in other languages too. And let’s see. Try eg Jamaican Patois. How else would you know that ‘His only begotten son’ is ‘im wan dege-dege Bwai Pikni’? Its fun. Maybe… Perchance…
You could be anchored to our music styles and yet be geared to the times.
© They call me ‘Ace’