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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
lamarca Dan Milner - Song first / Singer second (39) RE: Dan Milner - Song first / Singer second 04 Apr 02

I guess I'm not making myself very clear. First, I want to make sure you know that I'm not trying to criticize you or your choice of songs. It would be arrogant and presumptuous for me to criticize you - I'm just enjoying this argument for the sake of discussion :-)! (arguing is one of my family's favorite sports...) In that spirit, I will ascend my soapbox once again...

If you're singing in a foreign language, of course you should pronounce the words properly in that language. What I'm talking about is American singers (since that's where I'm from and that's what I know) who sing songs, in English, with an obviously faked accent, thinking the song sounds more "authentic" that way. My husband sings a lot of Australian songs - when he sings them, he does NOT try to imitate Paul Hogan's accent, he sings them straightforwardly in his own voice. I think that Americans can successfully sing Scottish songs that are in English with some Scottish dialect words, like bairn, yowes, etc, pronouncing the dialect words correctly but without faking a Scottish accent throughout the song. I think that ballads collected in Appalachia or the Ozarks sound just as gripping if the singer sings them in his or her own voice instead of imitating Jean Ritchie's or Almeda Riddle's accent.

No matter what the language, I think that it takes someone who is very familiar with the cadences, rhythm patterns, syllable accents, vowel sounds, etc. of that language or dialect to sing in that language or accent without sounding fake. Some singers do it well - to my ear, Connie Dover sings exquisitely in Gaelic - but I don't know how she sounds to a native Gaelic speaker. The French are notorious for turning up their noses at anyone else's attempts to speak their language - even Francophones from other countries.

It's also a matter of audience and their familiarity with the language and culture. I'm happy to hear American groups like the Kartuli Ensemble singing in Slavic languages; I don't know how true to the material they are because I don't speak Georgian, Bulgarian, etc, so I am not a discriminating listener. I know that I enjoy their harmonies and the overall sound. There are probably many American audiences who feel the same way about Americans singing Irish or Scottish songs - they like the sound, and the assumed accent makes it more enjoyable because it sounds more "authentic" to their uneducated ears. But what does it sound like to someone who is Scots or Irish? Does it matter?

I sing Scots and Irish songs that I've learned from people like Cilla Fisher and Frank Harte (two of my vocal heros) - when I first learn the songs, I always subconsciously imitate the recording, and it isn't until I'm really comfortable with the words and the melody and the phrasing that I start sounding like me (and I will never in a million years sound as good as Cilla or Frank)! I Anglicize the words that it feels awkward to pronounce in dialect - I'll usually sing "house", not "hoos"; "down", not "doon", for example. Gradually, the song becomes "mine", and I hope as enjoyable for other people to listen to as it is for me to sing it!

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