As we continue to enjoy the season, this article hopes to add to the joy in the atmosphere by treading the path of celebration, conviviality and merriment through a discussion of some wrongly rendered lines in popular songs or other instances of language use.
May I mention that the essence of this piece is not to condemn such old and popular distortions which have become memorable childhood experiences for many Nigerians. The piece is just aimed at enlightening us on the actual lyrics of the songs and other language forms, with a view to amusingly regurgitating on the childhood memory and confidence with which many of us carried such distortions into adulthood.
First among these songs is “Standard living, standard living” which is often rendered as “Sandalilili sandalili”. The song was a common one among people who grew up in the 80’s up to the first decade of the new millennium. Another distorted line is “apes obey”, now commonly expressed as “esobe” in military and paramilitary setups in Nigeria.
This used to be a common expression deployed by the British colonial masters in Africa to order the African workers to work. The early set of colonised African soldiers who did not know or get the meaning of the command cultivated it into their military slang, and it is being used to gather themselves to work efficiently, even until this time.
Also popular in this class of songs is “Mr Macaroni” which originally is “Mr Mark Anthony”. The lyrics of the song is: “Mr Mark Anthony riding on a bicycle. Would you like to carry me, Mr Mark Anthony? Jump on, Cecilia jump on, Cecilia jump on. Cecilia said Mr Mark Anthony, jump on”. However, fresh in our memory is the distorted version: Mista macaroni riding on a bicycle. If you want to marry me, mista macaroni. Bum bum, sisi me ya bum bum, sisi me ya bum bum. Sisi me ya Mista macaroni bum bum”.
Of course, the correct rendition of another popular song is: “H i p” for the hip”. Then, we have “p o p o for the hippopo”. There is no gainsaying the incorrectness of “H i p for the hip, for the hipoppo” because “h i p” cannot give you “hippopo”! Another notable song is “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O”, not “…iya iya oh”. Not only that, we have “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”, not “Mini, mini, mani moe…”
While, on the one hand, we fill the songs containing content words with empty words, as seen in some of the renditions above, there is, on the other hand, the popular rhyme where the empty words are filled with content words. This is the example of the old nursery rhyme which dates back to around 1744. While the rhyme has “Baa, baa, black sheep…”, it is the case that Nigerians changed it to “black black black sheep”, thereby replacing the empty words “baa baa” with content words “black black”.
Coming to Christian songs, it is instructive to note that a widespread rendition should be consummately sung as “The Most Excellent King is Jesus”, not “The Most Excellency is Jesus”. The incorrectness of the Nigerianised version is underpinned by the reality that the modifier “most” should intensify adjectives (e.g. excellent), not nouns (e.g. excellency).
Away from that, many of you do not like to be told that “Jangilova epo moto” is actually “Jingle over like a motor”. This is a song that naturally comes in handy when one is on the swing. Funnily, too, there has been a recent debate on whether the chant in that popular 1993/1994 movie was “Ayamatanga” or “I am at anger”. The people arguing for the latter tend to think the empty sound “Ayamatanga” could not have been what the scriptwriter wrote. Interestingly, in a recent interview, Evangelist Mike Bamiloye who wrote the script said what he had in the script, which the character rendered, was “Ayamatanga”, not “I am at anger”.
Finally, that Christmas song written and first recorded in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano is “Feliz Navidad”, a Spanish expression which means “Merry Christmas”. All of the Nigerian variants such as “Felix sabi dance”, “Felix na Dibia” and so on are just Nigerian childhood musical delicacy. While I admit that it might be almost impossible to take these childhood memories away, I conclude that it is not wrong to also know the real expressions.