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Singing in Different Accents/Dialects

Rabblerouser 07 Aug 13 - 01:22 AM
Bert 07 Aug 13 - 01:38 AM
Joe Offer 07 Aug 13 - 01:38 AM
Bert 07 Aug 13 - 01:46 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 13 - 02:29 AM
Rabblerouser 07 Aug 13 - 02:30 AM
Amergin 07 Aug 13 - 02:49 AM
r.padgett 07 Aug 13 - 02:50 AM
mg 07 Aug 13 - 03:15 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 13 - 03:34 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 07 Aug 13 - 03:57 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 13 - 04:00 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 07 Aug 13 - 04:32 AM
GUEST,SteveT 07 Aug 13 - 05:21 AM
GUEST,SteveT 07 Aug 13 - 05:21 AM
Mr Happy 07 Aug 13 - 06:00 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 13 - 06:03 AM
Rabblerouser 07 Aug 13 - 06:08 AM
Rabblerouser 07 Aug 13 - 06:22 AM
Mr Happy 07 Aug 13 - 06:43 AM
Phil Cooper 07 Aug 13 - 09:26 AM
GUEST,eldergirl 07 Aug 13 - 10:51 AM
Mr Happy 07 Aug 13 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 07 Aug 13 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,Don Wise 07 Aug 13 - 02:13 PM
Bill D 07 Aug 13 - 02:18 PM
DMcG 07 Aug 13 - 02:31 PM
Amergin 07 Aug 13 - 03:19 PM
Amergin 07 Aug 13 - 03:20 PM
dick greenhaus 07 Aug 13 - 03:34 PM
Noreen 07 Aug 13 - 05:59 PM
GUEST 07 Aug 13 - 06:04 PM
Joe Offer 07 Aug 13 - 06:13 PM
Bill D 07 Aug 13 - 07:52 PM
Fred Maslan 08 Aug 13 - 12:06 AM
michaelr 08 Aug 13 - 01:32 AM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 08 Aug 13 - 05:23 AM
Steve Gardham 08 Aug 13 - 07:43 AM
Gibb Sahib 08 Aug 13 - 08:29 AM
clueless don 08 Aug 13 - 08:52 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 08 Aug 13 - 09:11 AM
GingerDave 09 Aug 13 - 06:45 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Aug 13 - 06:12 PM
GUEST,Auldtimer 09 Aug 13 - 08:00 PM
Big Al Whittle 09 Aug 13 - 08:36 PM
GUEST,eldergirl 09 Aug 13 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,Don Wise 10 Aug 13 - 03:45 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Aug 13 - 04:00 AM
Bert 10 Aug 13 - 07:45 AM
Richard Mellish 11 Aug 13 - 03:24 AM
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Subject: Singing in Different Dialects/Accent
From: Rabblerouser
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 01:22 AM

For those of you who perform songs that are from a dialect other than your own, do you just sing it in your own dialect (no matter how weird it sounds) or do you temporarily adopt a dialect (or at least an accent) for the duration of the song?

This concern came up for me as I was starting to learn Scottish folk songs. In the past, I have done mostly Irish, American and English folk songs, and many of these sound fine regardless of accent. I'll admit that I do put on a touch of Irish pronunciation sometimes, but how can you not when you're singing a Dubliners song? The same goes for Appalachian folk songs: I don't actually adopt a full-on drawl, but I definitely sound more "country". In any case, most of these kinds of songs are comprehensible for most speakers of standard British or American English, even if some of the phrasings or pronunciations sound unusual for one's own dialect.

But with Scottish folk songs, it's often another story. Many of them are written not in English but in Scots, which is arguably its own language. I do sing songs in French and German, but there it's easy enough just to adopt the standard accent. But with Scots, sometimes the songs just sound weak or "wrong", make less sense, or don't rhyme if you don't sing them in Scots, with a full-on accent. I'm thinking, for example, of "A Man's a Man for A' That" or "Wha'll Be King but Charlie", songs that would lose a great deal in translation. To sing a song written in Scots in English, one would essentially have to rewrite large parts of it, including reworking rhyme schemes and so on. I can and have done that, but I don't think that it's an ideal solution.

On the other hand, I'm concerned that if I ever go to Scotland, I'm going to get laughed at or beat up for singing songs in Scots as a non-Scot. I wouldn't mean to parody or ridicule the way Scottish people (or at least some of them) sound, but that could be the assumption. I really don't know, and would appreciate some insight into how I would be received. I would have similar concerns (though to a lesser degree) if I were singing a song written in the Yorkshire or Geordie dialects.

So, what do you think? Is it stupid to put on a different dialect/accent when you're performing, or is it just what makes the most sense? Do you have any experiences with this you'd like to share?

-Rabblerouser


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Bert
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 01:38 AM

Well there are some songs where you are stuck with trying to do the accent because that is the way they are written and they only rhyme when sung with the accent.

Such as, Manurah Manyah, Ooom Pah Pah & Cosher Bailey to name just a few.

And if you say that we shouldn't sing these great songs, then tough titty, I'm going to sing them anyway.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 01:38 AM

I sing every month with a very accomplished (and gracious) English singer, Dick Holdstock: and with a very accomplished (and gracious) Scottish singer, Allan MacLeod. On top of that, I know a number of native-born Irish singers. I think it would be foolhardy of me to attempt an English, Scots, or Irish accent in the presence of those people, so I sing in my own accent with a few little things thrown in to make it sound English, Scottish, or Irish. But I wouldn't dare attempt a full accent.

I think my German and Yiddish are pretty good, so I sing songs in German and Yiddish in as authentic an accent as I can attempt - but I don't attempt to sing songs in English with any sort of "German" or "Yiddish" accent - fake accents are often stereotypical and demeaning, so it's best to avoid them. I also occasionally attempt songs in Spanish or Italian, and I try not to slaughter the language too bad. I don't attempt French, Portuguese, or the Slavic languages - they're just too tough for a Midwestern American to try. I have tried a few songs in African languages, but have no idea whether I'm right.


So, in general, I think you're best off not trying to attempt English accented by any other language, because you're likely to sound stereotypical and demeaning. But if you're singing in the other language, try to replicate correct pronunciation as best you can.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Bert
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 01:46 AM

Joe,

Manurah Manyah, Ooom Pah Pah & Cosher Bailey are all in English with Scottish, Cockney and Welsh Accents respectively. They don't rhyme and would sound stupid with a Midwestern American Accent.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:29 AM

Used to be mixed about this one, but when I witnessed the amusement, and sometimes resentment expressed towards some of those who attempted accents I decided to either Anglicise those I decided to sing, or to (regretfully) abandon them altogether.
There are really very few that won't Anglicise, and it's not a question of the overall accent but specific dialect words that don't occur elsewhere.
I sing quite a few Irish songs, having worked on them for thirty odd years, but having seen so many Irish people falling about at attempted 'Oirish' accents - no thanks.
Scots I found most difficult to decided on as I love the ballads, some of which contain beautiful Scots words and phrases which you would wish to keep because of this - "coulter", "smoor", "laverock"....., but as I say, most Anglicise.
For me, it's not just a matter of not wishing to offend or be laughed at - I find it difficult to relate to songs in accents that are outside of my experience.
I go along with Bert to an extent about Welsh (Cosher Baily), but there it's not so much the accent rather than the up-and-down flow of of the line (not unlike Cork Irish) and I think you can get away with it without sounding if you are taking the piss.
MacColl wrote a song about The 1960S Labour Government's attempt to place a top limit on British workers' wages (In Place of Strife) - I'm sure (I hope) it gave offence, but not because of the accent.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Rabblerouser
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:30 AM

The specific song that sparked this question was "The Band O' Shearers". I find myself unable to avoid singing the chorus as written, even if I standardize parts of the verses:

Ah, bonnie lassie, will ye gang
And shear wi' me the hale day lang?
And love will cheer us as we gang
Tae join the band o' shearers

I could try to translate it, but it would sound like this:

Oh, pretty fair maid, will you come
And reap with me 'til day is done?
And love will cheer us as we go
To join the team of reapers

That's alright, but certainly not as catchy. Throughout the song, you have the same "ang" sound being repeated, for example:

And if the thistle be's owre strang
And pierce your lily milk-white hand
It's wi' my hook I'll cut it doon
When we gang tae the shearin'

Again, an English reworking:

And if the thistle brings you strife
And pricks your hand both white and lithe
I'll cut it down all with my scythe
When we go to the reaping

Hmm. Could work, but by the time I'm done it'll be almost unrecognizable except for the tune.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Amergin
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:49 AM

Well, it is difficult to sign a song in Scots without an accent fake or otherwise. Other than that, it shouldn't be attempted. That is just my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: r.padgett
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:50 AM

I tried "owd Jim Slack 'e ad a grey oss" at Warwick ff (dahn sahth) last weekend well worst reaction yet!

Even in England the broad Yorkshire accent doesn't necessarily travel, tho it's pretty much ok in the North!

No "h" exists in Yorkshire of course

Ray

full words etc on www.yorkshirefolksong.net


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: mg
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:15 AM

I would never anglicize. I would never, because I have no ear at all, try to do justice to an accent either..and I wouldn't do a fake one anyway. I would just sing the words as handed down in an obvious American accent as I would expect a Chinese person to sing an American song in an obvious Chinese accent and I would not say to them, that is not how you are supposed to sing Home on the Range. Swing Low Sweet Chariot. I am convinced, despite my bad ear, that I can sing in Swedish so I sing along with the Scandinavian hour on the radio..works for me and I am sure the Swedes in my neck of the woods would be too polite to tell me to stop.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:34 AM

"The specific song that sparked this question was "The Band O' Shearers"
I know exactly what you mean - beautiful song.
I feel the same about Lothian Hairst and find myself singing it around the house all the time, but along with many excellent bothie songs that are so richly reliant on accent and dialect, reluctantly....
"Shearers" raises a particular problem as "gang" and "lang" are built into the (in this case triple) rhyming system.
I'm working on Alan MacClean at the present time and hoping I can manage it without doing too much damage - think I did it with The Wee Magic Stane (Stone of course) which I find myself strangely re-attracted to after half a century.
Good luck,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:57 AM

I don't think the problem is using the Scots words. There is no need to change those. However I think it would sound better singing a Scottish song by singing the Scots words in your own accent or at least some kind of more neutral accent rather than going overboard and trying to mimic a full blown Scottish accent. When people mimic a Scottish accent they do tend to go over the top and it does tend to end up quite comical and can be cringeworthy. Plus if Americans do it for some reason it often ends up sounding like some kind of mock Irish accent. In my opinion anyway. Whereas reasonable people will be accepting to anyone attempting the Scottish words themelves.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 04:00 AM

"Whereas reasonable people will be accepting to anyone attempting the Scottish words themelves."
Excellent point and well worth considering
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 04:32 AM

I would say that it depends upon:

1. your own accent

2. whether or not you have an ear for accents,languages etc.

3. the dialect/language of the song(s) you want to sing.


To 1:- the radio programme about The Critics Group included one of them singing "The Strawberry Roan"....unfortunately in a plummy upper class english accent- and no, it wasn't a piss-take. I had a serious fit of the giggles! There is perhaps something to be said for recording yourself and listening critically to the result. My own accent could be described as BBC/standard RP but years spent in Derby, London, Swansea and Lancaster have enabled me to tone down any tendency towards 'pluminess'. On the other hand, as a voice-artist, if a client wants 'pluminess' then he'll get it, but that's a different ball-game.

To 2:- I've been living in Germany now for over 30 years and so speak german reasonably well. However I have an english accent. Hearing the, often cringeworthy, attempts of many Germans to sing in english makes me wary about singing in german (or french or swedish for that matter)- I can do it where necessary (e.g. "La Complainte du Partisan"), but I don't make a habit of it.

To 3:-(overlapping with 2) Generally I find that scottish and irish songs, including the ballads, to be no great problem. I may 'anglicise' the pronunciation of a word here or there, it depends principally upon the rhyming scheme and whether I feel that the story will or will not suffer in some way. For example, I occasionally sing "The Blackleg Miner" but with 'don't' rather than 'divn't'( go near the Seghill mine) and I don't feel that this change detracts from the story. As far as the 'big ballads' are concerned, there are so many versions of the individual stories that it's no great problem to find one which presents only minimal linguistic challenges and yet satisfies. On the other hand I wouldn't even contemplate singing songs such as "John McClean March", "Freedom Come-all-ye" and "Banks of Sicily" precisely because those songs stand and fall with the language and for me, although I'd like to think that I have an ear for languages and accents, I don't feel that I could sing such songs convincingly- and that is perhaps the point.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 05:21 AM

I have always tried to sing in my own accent as much as possible. With the ballads I anglicise what I can but leave specific dialect words if I think they'll sound totally wrong if changed.

I was at a "ballad session" yesterday and sang the Border Widow's Lament. I sing "heart" instead of "hairt" and "went" instead of "gaed" for example but leave in "brawer bower". In conversation later one person (Irish) asked me if I was Scottish as I sounded it, another (Scottish) said that they much preferred it when, like myself and another singer, we didn't try to put on a false accent.

Now I'm just confused. I know I try to sing in my own accent but it seems different things come through to different people!

(I'm much more put off when English people sing "Bob Dylanish" songs they've written themselves in pseudo-American accents.)


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 05:21 AM

I have always tried to sing in my own accent as much as possible. With the ballads I anglicise what I can but leave specific dialect words if I think they'll sound totally wrong if changed.

I was at a "ballad session" yesterday and sang the Border Widow's Lament. I sing "heart" instead of "hairt" and "went" instead of "gaed" for example but leave in "brawer bower". In conversation later one person (Irish) asked me if I was Scottish as I sounded it, another (Scottish) said that they much preferred it when, like myself and another singer, we didn't try to put on a false accent.

Now I'm just confused. I know I try to sing in my own accent but it seems different things come through to different people!

(I'm much more put off when English people sing "Bob Dylanish" songs they've written themselves in pseudo-American accents.)


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:00 AM

Eastenders??


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:03 AM

"The Strawberry Roan"."
I think this was the late Alasdair Clayre who along with Charles Parker , were the only ones with an excessive "plummy" accent in the group.
Charles managed to disguise his origins, Alasdair never tried to but left the group in its very early days.
For excruciating accents it's worth re-visiting some of Ewan's 'Oirish' ones on his very earliest albums - I seem to remember him saying it was re-listening to these that brought him to the conclusion that singers should concentrate on handling material in their own accents.
It was Peggy of course who 'fessed up" to her "unforgivable" response to the 'Leytonstone Leadbelly' - see relevant 'The Living Tradition' letter page.
"pseudo-American accents"
Years ago I was delighted when I learned that BBC radio was devoting a well deserved radio programme to the poems/songs of Robert Louis Stevenson - beautifully researched, but oh - those painful mid-Atlantic accents!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Rabblerouser
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:08 AM

That's rather helpful, Don. As for myself:

1. I grew up mostly in the States, but I've lived in both Ireland and India, as well as traveling through the UK and elsewhere. I think Ireland had a bit of influence on my accent, though perhaps indirectly. I had a hard time understanding the people out in Co. Limerick, who actually did pronounce fine as "foine" and like as "loike" while peppering every sentence with profanity and Irish slang - goes to show you that every stereotype comes from somewhere. Part of it is, of course, socioeconomic: the posher Irish people I met had milder and, in my opinion, more pleasant accents whereas the young people only a generation removed from farming had brogues so thick you'd need a cleaver to hack through them. In any case, that experience got me to enunciate my words even more clearly than I had in the past. I would never inflict that experience on people who listen to me sing an Irish song; no, I invariably, and by now almost involuntarily, sing in a mild accent that shades into my usual way of speaking.

Incidentally, when I was attending a university in upstate New York, I performed mostly Irish songs, particularly given that I hadn't yet expanded my repertoire to include bluegrass/Appalachian folk songs or Scottish ballads. In consequence, someone who knew me only through my performances was rather surprised to learn that I'm not Irish. Another funny thing, I tend to get slightly stuck in "Irish mode", so that I still sound a bit Irish for the rest of the night after singing an Irish set. I can scale it back if I notice it, though, and fortunately it's gone unremarked by most people thus far.

2. I've studied French for about 8 years now, including with a native French-speaking tutor who helped repair the damage done by 4 years of secondary school French. I've also studied some university-level German. For me, the accent has always been the easy part, so that sometimes native speakers assume I'm more fluent than I am based on my correct pronunciation. I feel fairly comfortable singing songs in these languages, though I probably make songs in regional dialects sound a bit too much like standard French or German. I'm actually trying to understand Canadian French expressions now, and perhaps even start speaking the way educated French Canadians do just to irritate all the Parisian snobs. And French Canadians have better folk music, too: Canada's where Cajun music came from, not to mention that there's a distinct Scottish and Irish influence on French Canadian fiddle tunes that you don't find in France (except perhaps in Brittany). For some reason, the French also just don't seem to be very into their folk music the way some Brits and Americans are. They think of folk songs as being for small children, so far as I can tell. I, on the other hand, find a lot of their chanson singers rather dull, with the exception of Georges Brassens, of course.

While in India, I didn't come to speak any Hindi/Urdu or Punjabi but I did my best to sing songs in those languages with as faithful a pronunciation as possible. They were a lot nicer and more forgiving than most Americans would be hearing an Indian person singing an American song. Actually, I remember a good friend of mine from India singing the country song "England Swings (Like a Pendulum Do)" by Roger Miller. I couldn't help cracking up every time he sang the chorus because of his accent, especially the way he pronounced the letter d in the word "do". It's definitely funnier when a foreigner attempts to sing the more folksy/down home American songs as opposed to generic pop. Hopefully I don't sound that way to a Scot or a German . . .

3. As I've said, I'm trying to learn more Scottish songs, many of which are in Scots or at least use some Scots words. Over the past year or so, I've been focusing on bluegrass/country folk songs, such as "Shady Grove", "O Death" and various songs from recordings by Doc
Watson, Dock Boggs, the Stanley Brothers or the Carter Family. What I find quite striking is just how much more distinctive UK dialects are than American regional dialects. I can't recall ever having trouble understanding people from the American South in conversation. Most of the distinctively Southern American words and expressions can be understood, if not immediately then with two seconds' thought as to their meaning. On the other hand, UK regional dialects such as certain Scottish dialects, the Yorkshire dialect and sometimes certain London dialects give me enough trouble that I'd be tempted to put on the subtitles when watching a film where all or most of the characters have thick regional accents.

Funny thing, as SteveT points out, English people often try to sound somewhat American when they sing American popular music. Hell, they've been doing it since at least the 50s or 60s. You wouldn't even know that Mick Jagger is English just from listening to his singing voice. I can say the same about the early (not later) Kinks, the Who and any number of other pop/rock groups from the 60s. The worst is when they end up with a mishmash that sounds half-American, half-English. They always sound very stereotypical, too, as though they're trying to be an American radio DJ/announcer or a character from an American TV ad. I still like their music, and often prefer the British take on American music styles like rock, but those accents are just so grating.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Rabblerouser
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:22 AM

One specific thing I notice is that many English pop/rock singers, especially in the 60s (don't know about today), tried to imitate the American "R" (a rhotic R, for all you amateur linguists). The problem is that they never quite get it right - and I'm not sure exactly why it sounds off, but it does. I can also hear it when my posh English friend puts on her "American" accent, and occasionally with Hugh Laurie as Dr. House. It's as though it just doesn't sit right in their mouths - they're just not used to making that sound.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:43 AM

I heard that from the early days, record producers & studios encouraged British artistes to sing with a US accent & accentuate their 'Rs'


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 09:26 AM

I've not tried to do accents that weren't my own. I was at an open mic in Chicago once and heard a singer from Glasgow trying to sing Woody Guthrie songs in an Oklahoma accent. It didn't work all that well. I love Scottish songs, but would not try to sing them like I was Scottish. I think the band I used to be in managed to accomplish that.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,eldergirl
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 10:51 AM

I was told by a wise old Irish lady that having a musical ear does help with imitating accents, and after spending any time in her company, I found myself speaking with a definite Irish lilt. Not that I could keep it up for a song, though, without sounding as though taking the Mick. Unless I had learnt said song from an Irish person's singing. But it still wouldn't Feel right.
The other day I caught a u.s. actor playing a Brit on TV, exclaiming "but I'm Briddish!" Ha! Yanks incapable of using letter T. Like us Brits with R. Dead giveaway on both sides.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 11:34 AM

'course he meant to say 'Bri-ish'! [glottal stop]


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 12:50 PM

One example I can think of is Maddy Prior of Steeley Span singing Come Ye O'er Frae France. It all sounds really quite good to the ear apart from the word Frrrrrance. She tries to accentutate the 'r' as Scots would but just goes slightly OTT. Still love the recording though!


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:13 PM

Re "The Strawberry Roan" - Charles Parker was the 'guilty party'.

I can vaguely recall back in the 1950s on the BBC Home Service(!) there were programmes which included trained singers singing things like "Blaydon Races" in a strange melange of Geordie and plumminess!

Foreign languages....how many remember, or even sang "Everybody loves Saturday Night"? As I recall, it went through about ten languages.
If you're serious about singing in a foreign language I would suggest trying to learn the song(s) in question from a native speaker rather than from a book. There are so many pitfalls, subtleties and niceties in terms of pronunciation, fitting the words to the tune and so on that it is very easy to make a fool of yourself. (Yes, I know Pete Seeger gets/got away with it).

With accents and dialect, in the end it's probably a question of feeling comfortable with what you're singing. I've yet to encounter a pedant complaining that I've toned down a regional accent or dialect a tad. Give the song a few months to 'bed-in' before going public and, whether you've anglicized a word or two or come to an 'arrangement' with the dialect, it'll probably feel alright. It's probably best however to keep to accents and dialects within your comfort zone. I come from Kent and for me, singing something in Geordie, particularly the 'pitmatic' variety, like "Little Chance" would be way outside my comfort zone. On the other hand, I grew up in Derby so that if I sing songs I've written about Derbyshire I probably automatically take on a slightly East Midlands accent.........

"The Band O'Shearers"..How about this 'anglicization'?:

O bonnie lassie will you go
And shear with me the whole day through?
And love will cheer us as we go
To join the band o'shearers.

Don


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:18 PM

Some can do accents... some cannot. Jean Redpath could slip into an American 'country' accent quite well..... and my wife, who is 2nd generation Italian, has a very good ear for other languages. I'm sure a native speaking Scot could tell she was NOT perfect, but she does Hamish Henderson's "Farewell to Sicily" well enough to satisfy Ed Miller, from whom she learned it.

I sometimes sing "The Twa Corbies", and I can't imagine Anglicizing it, whether or not I manage a Scottish accent perfectly. I can 'hear' the right sounds in a song, even though I have not always practiced reproducing them just right.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: DMcG
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:31 PM

I rarely 'do accents' as such, but having lived in various parts of the UK for long spells, I do sing in something-like-the-variation-of-my-accent-as-it-was-when-I-lived-there if it is appropriate. As I've never lived in Scotland, I tend to have a Border accent for those. I agree with Bill D that, for me, the Twa Corbies works much better in a Scots-like accent than an attempt to translate it into standard English.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Amergin
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:19 PM

I must say that it bugs me when an Australian musician, who is otherwise really good, sings in an pseudo-American southern country twang. It puts me off.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Amergin
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:20 PM

Unless it is for comedic effect...like with the bluegrass band The Pigs.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:34 PM

TO coin a truism......whatever works.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Noreen
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 05:59 PM

Joe Offer summed it up perfectly at the top of the page:

fake accents are often stereotypical and demeaning, so it's best to avoid them

Nothing more to add, apart from- yes, it IS a fake accent, unless it's your natural speaking accent.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:04 PM

Thanks, Dick.
Nowadays I try to stick to local songs to my own county. Even then being a city lad I have collected lots of farming songs in the surrounding countryside which has a very different accent and dialect to the city. I still sing them and as I taught for thirty-odd years in the county I got to know the accent very well so still sing those songs. My own grandmother who I learned songs from had a different accent to mine but I still sing her songs.

Here's an in interesting recent event relevant here. A group I'm part of have been asked to sing traditional fishing and whaling songs, and write and rewrite material for a local museum. Most of the songs are either local, have been localised or are universal, but at short notice we needed a version of the Herring's Head for the same purpose. I have collected plenty of local versions but this meant the other 3 members of the group would have to learn one of these quickly.
However the exhibition it was needed for had come from Scotland and all four of us knew the Scottish version which we had all picked up independently from Jock Manual who came to live in our city. No brainer! We quickly recorded this Scottish version with no problems and it fitted the bill perfectly.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:13 PM

Noreen...that being said, I never know whether to call you NOReen, as the English people do; or NorEEN. [grin]


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 07:52 PM

Several years ago, she told me politely but directly..NOReen *smile*


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Fred Maslan
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 12:06 AM

Many years ago I was singing at an "old peoples home". One song I sang was Tumbalalaika in Yiddish. Afterwards one woman approached and said in a very thick Yiddish accent "Very nice, very nice, nest time you sing in English",

Fred


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: michaelr
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 01:32 AM

Fake accents are grating, to be sure. And one should not sing Scots unless he grew up with it. And furthermore, no vernacular songs should ever be anglicized. All valid points.

But what is a California-based performer to do if he wants his audience to understand what he's singing about - at least the important bits?

"A Man's a Man" was cited above. I've been singing an anglicized version of the song which, though still requiring close listening, is at least accessible to an American audience, if I explain it some. If anyone's interested, I'll post it.

I don't fake accents, BUT when singing Irish or Scots songs, a bit of a burr or lilt is bound to sneak in. That's perfectly natural and quite unconscious.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 05:23 AM

Never mind other accents, the drift of modern English means many young singers nowadays can't cope with songs in their own dialect. Hearing some young Aberdeenshire loons recently murdering (local) bothy ballads was quite saddening. Not their fault, of course, but they had no idea about pronunciation and when they tried were inconsistent (the k-night took up his nife, etc).


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 07:43 AM

'no vernacular songs should ever be anglicized'

Absolute tosh! Many of the Scottish songs were scotticised from the English, 'Bonny lass of Fyvie' 'Bonny Ship the Diamond' 'Cruel Mother' etc etc.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 08:29 AM

Accents are accents (pronunciation, phonology). Accents are not inseparable from people. People's accents 'change'. And they 'use' different accents in different contexts, towards different people. It seems arbitrary to give a higher status to people who shift accent less frequently, as if that made them, not less adaptable and expressive, but rather more 'true.'

The idea that an accent can be "fake" is something that requires certain assumptions be made about the relationship between speech and identity, and between identity and song/singing.

I think these assumptions are made only by people with certain world views; they are not universal, and therefore neither are their judgments on how to inflect one's singing voice very compelling when you look at a really broad range of scenarios.

Most of all, I think the concept of being "fake" needs more thought.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: clueless don
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 08:52 AM

I have thought about this question because at storytelling gatherings I sometimes do comic recitations written by Marriott Edgar (Albert and the Lion, The Battle of Hastings, Three Ha'pence a Foot, etc.) It is my belief that these simply wouldn't work if I recited them in my Washington DC southern drawl, so I do my best to recreate the (Lancashire?) accent in which I learned them. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me that they are offended.

Don


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 09:11 AM

"Most of all, I think the concept of being "fake" needs more thought"

That is true. I can remember when the Proclaimers first came to prominence they got some criticism for intentionally singing in their own accents. For putting it on!

I played a couple of songs at the break at a Debra Cowan gig in Kelso. The first one was in the local dialect whilst the second one wasn't. She liked them both but asked me why I sang the second song with an American accent. I honestly didn't think I was, or certainly didn't mean to. and was kind of taken a back. She must have heard it in there though! I just thought I was singing it in a more neutral way without the local accent.

You are right though we speak differently depending who were are speaking to. With real locals I tend to speak with quite a broad accent using a lot of Scots words; at home with my English wife I tend to rein it in a wee bit; at work it tends to be more standard English but with the Scottish accent. At dinner parties my wife says she can see me holding different converstations with different degrees of dialect being used depending who the people are. I think it is something some people do naturally


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GingerDave
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 06:45 AM

It may cause annoyance for others, but my opinion for what its worth is, if it feels right to you, then go for it.

Some songs don't feel right without an accent, fake or otherwise. I personally try not to sing in an American accent because it doesn't feel right, but feel ok singing with an Irish, Scottish or Welsh accent (relevant to the song) despite the fact I was born and raised in England. This is partly because I can trace my recent heritage to one degree or another to each of these countries.

Seems we may be getting back into the 'Is it Ethnic' debate of the early 60's.

Anything goes for me.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 06:12 PM

I always felt that The Smurfs attempts to mimic the natural accents of Pinky and Perky were embarrassing in the extreme. I can't stand that sort of inauthentic cultural imperialism.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Auldtimer
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 08:00 PM

A great man ( I can't remember who ) once said, "sing how you speak" . He was right. Altering words that you do not fully understand or know the alternate or slang meanings of can lead to big problems.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 08:36 PM

sing how you speak - why?

fiddle like you tiddle
pluck like you ....


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,eldergirl
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 09:23 PM

DUCK!! Big Al's lobbed an f-bomb....
Auldtimer, I think you have two conflicting thoughts there. Sing how you speak and remain true to yourself, yes? But that might mean you'd need to alter words that weren't part of your normal speech pattern. So then you might not be true to the song. Then have to decide which is the better.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 03:45 AM

Does singing a Billy Bragg song require putting on a totally naff, over the top pseudo- East End accent, an accent which disappears as soon as BB sings Woody Guthrie or just speaks?

Sing in an accent/dialect/pronunciation which you feel comfortable with. If you're not comfortable with these aspects when you're singing - and I'm not talking about content- then it's very likely that your audience will notice this, to say nothing of a performance which doesn't do the song justice.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 04:00 AM

more apothegms for The Great Folk Revival

1) always nance as you dance
2) always wear a sporran when you bodhran
3) always try to strum like you scratch your bum
4) always think of panties, when singing shanties

These are the tenets I have tried to live my life by, and we hold these truths to be self evident.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Bert
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 07:45 AM

Generally you can recognize a person by their voice. This means that almost everyone has an accent. Therefore, if you only sing in your 'own' accent then you are pretty much limited to songs that you have written yourself.

I come from The East End of London but I don't speak with a broad Cockney accent. Would I, or would I not allowed to sing Cockney songs, if I can't affect an accent when I sing?

And how far do we go if we have to Anglicize (or Welshicize, or whatevericize) our songs? Should Geordies have to Geordyize any non Geordy song that they sing?

Should nobody but Londoners be allowed to sing 'Streets of London'?

Gawd the few hundred songs in my song list would be reduced to a few Dozen.

As Dick says - 'whatever works'.


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Subject: RE: Singing in Different Accents/Dialects
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 11 Aug 13 - 03:24 AM

It's clear that there is no universal right answer: it depends on the particular song and the particular singer's opinions and abilities. And whatever solution one adopts, someone else may disapprove.

A complication peculiar to Scots is whether it should be treated as a dialect of English or as a distinct (though closely related) language. If one regards it as a dialect, there's a case to be made for adapting a song to one's own dialect and trying to minimise any resultant loss of rhymes. But if one regards it as a language then one should treat it accordingly, as one would for any other language besides one's own. Either translate the song entirely or leave it as it is. It may come out in generic Scots rather than Glaswegian, Galloway, Doric or whatever, but that seems to me no different from singing in one's best approximation to (for example) standard French or Swedish.

One of my personal pet hates is the horrible halfway house, where someone sings in an English accent but with the odd "toon", "frae" and the like, still in the same accent. Either those should be changed to "town", "from", etc or the whole song should be sung in Scots.

Richard


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