Why try so hard to speak Patois?

The title of this article explains itself; it is questioning the fake Patois being spoken left, right and centre in dancehall music circles in Ghana.

But can anyone tell me how it is that when a Ghanaian artiste raps or sings or speaks like an American, he or she is condemned as speaking LAFA, (Locally Acquired Foreign Accent) and yet, when a dancehall artiste sings in Patois, he or she is considered as the Best Dancehall artiste?

Jamaica’s official language is Standard English; however, many Jamaicans speak Patois which is a separate dialect. It is also the dialect that is used by most Jamaicans in everyday conversation.

The idea for this piece came up after a very careful observation of Dancehall artistes in the entertainment industry. Except a few who sing or rap in the local Ghanaian languages, they all choose to speak Patois. I believe this is done in order to appear as close as possible to Jamaica, home of dancehall music.

When it comes to singing in Patois, dancehall fanatics fully support it. The artistes speak it and the fans love it.

The number of Ghanaian dancehall artistes who have ever stepped foot in Jamaica are only a handful. It is not clear where they learn to speak the language but sometimes, one is forced to believe that, the ability to speak Patois comes naturally to every dancehall artiste.

Strange as it may sound, I have noticed that, Ghanaian dancehall acts do not only use the Patois in their songs; in fact, they as well speak Patois during radio interviews as well.

The few who mix the Patois with Twi, Ga, Ewe, Hausa and other local languages should be commended because there is no way a Ghanaian dancehall act can share a spot with a Jamaican dancehall act in terms of speaking the Patois language.

Locally Acquired Foreign Accent (LAFA) is basically defined as a fake accent people put up when speaking the Queen’s language. People who are tagged LAFA are people who are considered to be fake when speaking the English language.

Such people make the language sound weird, especially when they do not have any travelling experience. A school of thought has it that, even having previous experience of travelling outside the country should not result in one speaking in LAFA.

The argument is stretched with Kofi Annan in the picture, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, who after many years of sojourning outside the borders of Ghana still has a clear diction and speaks in a Ghanaian accent. No LAFA matter when Kofi Annan is involved. He is easily understood when he speaks.

Private television station, Viasat1, ended a successful 2014 with the introduction of the maiden edition of The Jigwe Awards.

The aim of the awards as spelt out by the station was to award some key personalities that have not only appeared on their This Morning show but also, individuals, organisations and events that attracted the most headlines and have been the most talked about for various reasons in 2014.

In typical Ghanaian fashion and to show disdain for people who speak with fake accents, one of the categories was meant to make mockery of such people, especially when such personalities have never set foot outside the shores of Ghana.

The category in question was Most Jigwe L.A.F.A and the nominees included 4Syte TV and Live FM’s Jeremie van Gershong, GhOne and Starr FM’s Naa Ashorkor, actor, Chris Attoh, YFM and GhOne’s Black Boy.

Though on the day of the awards, that category was not awarded at all, whatever impression that the station wanted to create with that category and list was firmly cemented in the minds and hearts of Ghanaians.

The station cannot, however, be blamed since prior to that awards, the issue of which television or radio personalities spoke LAFA has been thoroughly discussed. They have been mocked, lambasted and bombarded by the Ghanaian public.

Aside the personalities mentioned above with fake accents, the likes of Sarkodie, Nadia Buari, D-Black, Reggie Rockstone, Confidence Haugen, Itz Tiffany, Kwaku T, Efya, Dee Money and in fact several others have also suffered the name calling as a result of how they express themselves in the Queen’s language which may not entirely be their fault.

The problem, however, which is the basis for this article is Ghanaian’s attitude about double standards in general.

Why hail and tag someone as the Best Dancehall act because they sing in Patois or because they sound Jamaican and turn back to criticise another set of people as LAFA for speaking like non-Ghanaians?

To the best of my knowledge, Stonebwoy or Samini speaking Patois or sounding like a Jamaican in their songs is the same as Jeremie or Blackboy speaking like people born and bred in New York or London; both sets of accents are fake and needs to be condemned without exception.

But if you condemn Jeremie or Blackboy as LAFA because of their accents and hail Stonebwoy or Samini as the best because they sound Jamaican, then to hell with your double standards.

By Ebenezer Anangfio / Graphic Showbiz




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