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Thursday, July 26, 2018

English Translations For Some Nigerian Pidgin English Words In Fela Kuti's Song "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases a video of a live performance of Fela Kuti singing his 1980s composition "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense". The lyrics to this song are also included in this post along with translations of some of the Nigerian Pidgin English words in that song.

The content of this post is presented for cultural and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Fela Kuti for his musical legacy and thanks also to his entourage of performing artists.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of these YouTube examples.

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DISCLAIMER:
This is my attempt to better understand the lyrics to this now classic Fela Kuti song.

I don't know Nigerian Pidgin English. Consequently, all of these definitions are from online sources. Additions and corrections are very welcome.

I would have much prefer it if someone who knows Nigerian Pidgin English would have published a translation of those words and phrases in this song.

Hopefully, this attempt will prompt people who speak Nigerian Pidgin English (and other types of Pidgin English) to publish translations of those words and phrases that are found in lyrics of popular songs.

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SHOWCASE VIDEO: Fela Kuti Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense Live at Glastonbury Festival 1984



Starfthegreat, Published on Mar 29, 2016

Afrobeat legend performing his hit Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense live! [34.29 minutes]

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LYRICS
From https://genius.com/Fela-kuti-teacher-dont-teach-me-nonsense-lyrics

TEACHER, TEACHER-O NA THE LECTURER BE YOUR NAME
TEACHER, TEACHER-O NA THE LECTURE BE THE SAME
MAKE-EE NO TEACH-EE ME AGAIN OH
AS SOON TEACHING FINISH YES, DA THING-EE IT GON DIE IT DEY-O
AS SOON TEACHING FINISH YES, DA THING-EE IT GON DIE IT DEY-O

ME AND YOU NO DEY FOR THE SAME-U CATEGORY
NA THE SAME CATEGORY-O

Let's get down, to the underground spiritual game
We all sing together, play music together in happiness
All you have to do is sing what I play on my horn
Now Let's go...

A kujuba, A kujuba
YE-EHHHH!
Yehhhhhh-Ey!

Ke-re-Ke, Ke-re-Ke, Ke-re-Ke, Ke-re-Ke, Ke-re-ke, Ke-re-Ji-Ke-Ke
YAA!
Ke-re-ke Ji Ke-ke
YAA!
Ke-re-ke Ji Ke-ke
YAA!
Ke-re-ke-Ke Ji Ke-ke
YAA!

All the wahala, all the problems
All the things, all the things they go do
For this world go start
When the teacher, schoolboy and schoolgirl jam together
Who be teacher?
I go let you know

When we be pikin
FATHA/ MAMA BE TEACHER
When we dey for school
TEACHER BE TEACHER
Now dey University
LECTURER BE TEACHER
When we start to work
GOVERNMENT BE TEACHER

CU-ULTURE AND TRADITION (*after each line)
Who be government teacher?
Who be government teacher?
Cu-ulture and tradition
Cu-ulture and tradition

Now the problem side, of a teaching student-ee
I go sing about
I don pass pikin, I don pass school, university, se-fa pass
As I don start to work, na government I must se-fa pass
Da go for France

YES SIR/YES MAAM (*after each line)
Engi-land
Italy
Germany
Na dem culture
For der
Be teacher
For dem
Go China
Russia
Korea
Viet Nam
Na dem culture
For der
Be teacher
For dem
Go Syria
Jordan
Iran
Iraq
Na dem culture
For der
Be teacher
For dem

Let us face ourselves for Afrika
Na de matter of Afrika
This part-ee of my song
Na all the problems of this world
In we dey carry, for Afrika
Wey no go ask-ee me

WHICH ONE? (*after each line)
Problems of inflation
Problems of corruption
Of mismanagement
Stealing by government
Nothing we dey carry
All over Afrika
Na de latest one
Na him dey make me laugh

AUSTERITY (*after each line)
Austeri-
Austeri-
Na him dey latest one
Na him dey make me laugh
Why I dey laugh?
Man no fit cry?

Who be our teacher? na Oyinbo
Who be our teacher? na Oyinbo
All of us in the first election
And the second election held in Nigeria
Na the second election na 'yin worse pass

Babanla nonsense (*after each line)
Babanla nonsense
Babanla nonsense
He pass redeem
He pass corruption
Which kind election be dis?
People na go vote
Dem come get big big numbers
Thousands to thousands
Millions to billions
Which kind election be dis?
Boba la nonsense

Na dem-o-cr-azy be the deal
Na dem-o-cr-azy be the deal
Who don teach us ee dem-o-cr-azy?
(Bo-ptch!) Oyinbo teach-ee us
(Yuh-ngh!) Oyinbo for Europe-oh
Oyinbo teach us many many things-ee
Many of dem things I don sing about-ee
Me I no gin copy Oyinbo style
Let us think say, Oyinbo no pass me
When Shagari finish him elections
Wey dem no tell am, say him make mistake-ee
Say this yo, no be democracy
Oyinbo dem no tell army self
Na for England-ee, I me no fit take over
I come think about this demo-crazy

Democrazy
DEMO-CRAZY (*after each line)
Crazy demo
Demonstration of craze
Crazy demonstration
If it no be craze
Why for Afrika?
As time dey go
Things just dey bad
They bad more and more
Poor man dey cry
Rich man dey mess
Demo-crazy
Democrazy
Crazy demo
Demonstration of craze
Crazy demonstration

If good-u teacher teach-ee something
And student make mistake
Teacher must talk-ee so
But Oyinbo no talk-ee so
I suffer dem, Dey suffer dem
Dem dey say da teaching get meaning
Different different meaning
Different different kinds of meaning
That is why I say
That is the reason of my song

That is the conclude
The conclud-ee of my song

I say, I sing, I beg everyone to join my song (3x)
-snip-
This page also included this note by P-Dii, 2016
"This is a song about democracy in Nigeria and the colonial powers that after forcing a foreign system (democracy...) on “Nigerians” turn a blind eye when that same system is misused by the corrupt governments of Nigeria (mainly General Olusegun Obasanjo and his supposed puppet that was voted in, Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari)"

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ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF NIGERIAN PIDGIN WORDS IN THIS SONG
Pancocojams Editor's Notes:
These words are given in alphabetical order.

When there are multiple meanings for a word, I've given my guess for the correct meaning in italics. I've also sometimes added my guess regarding a meaning in brackets.

An example of this word from this song's lyrics is given below the definition.

Additions and corrections welcome.


dem
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidgind.htm
"Dem: 1. Them. 2. They."
-snip-
Lyrics: "I suffer dem, Dey suffer dem"

**
dey
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidgind.htm
"Dey: 1. Is e.g. wetin dey happun 2. Location e.g. where you dey 3. Stance in the matter e.g. which one you dey sef. 4. In existence 5. Spectacular e.g. dat car dey well-well"
-snip-
Lyrics: "As time dey go
Things just dey bad"

**
dis
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidgind.htm
"Dis: This."
-snip-
Lyrics: "Which kind election be dis?"

**
don pass
my guess: ["don pass" means "gone beyond; finished"]
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidgind.htm
"Don: 1. Has e.g. e don come. 2. Has it? E.g. e don come? 3. Have e.g. I don tell am (present tense) 4. Have e.g. I don been tell am (Past tense)."

**
pass
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidginp.htm
Pass: 1. More than or bigger than e.g. E big pass am. 2. Beyond me e.g. Dat one pass me o! 3. Obsolete e.g. Dat style don reign pass. 4. Relating to a bygone era e.g. Dat time don pass.
-snip-
Lyrics: "I don pass pikin, I don pass school, university, se-fa pass"
-snip-
What does "se-fa pass" mean?

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fit
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidginf.htm "Fit: Possess ability to carry out task."
-snip-
Lyrics: “Man no fit cry?”

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O
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidgino.htm "O!: Placed at the end of sentences for emphasis and effect E.g. I go broke bottle for yua head O!"
-snip-
“O” is also sometimes placed after a word for the same purpose/s.
Also, "o" is sometimes written "oh", but doesn't have the same meaning as "oh" in English (i.e. an exclamation of surprise etc.)
-snip-
Lyrics: "TEACHER, TEACHER-O NA THE LECTURER BE YOUR NAME"
MAKE-EE NO TEACH-EE ME AGAIN OH
AS SOON TEACHING FINISH YES, DA THING-EE IT GON DIE IT DEY-O

**
Oyinbo
definition from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=oyinbo
"Oyinbos
The word Nigerians use to say ‘white people’.
The Ghanain version is Obronis
uno them ones over there, chaiiii, Oyinbos"
by Roadgyal July 09, 2018
-snip-
Lyrics: "Oyinbo teach us many many things-ee"

**
na
definition from https://theculturetrip.com/africa/nigeria/articles/15-nigerian-pidgin-english-phrases-you-need-to-know/
“Na and dey are the verb ‘to be’”....

**
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidginn.htm
"Na: It is."
-snip-
Additional meanings for na + another word or words are found on that page.
-snip-
Lyrics: "Na him dey latest one"

**
pikin
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidginp.htm "Picken=child"
-snip-
Lyrics: "When we be pikin
FATHA/ MAMA BE TEACHER"

**
wahala
definition from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahala_(Yoruba)
"Wahala pronounced (wa-ha-la) is the meaning of (Trouble) or (problem) used by the Yoruba tribe and commonly used throughout Nigeria."

**
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidginw.htm "wahala= trouble"
-snip-
Lyrics: "All the wahala, all the problems"

**
wey
definition from http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/pidginw.htm "Wey- where
Wey: Who e.g The Obioma wey sew mai trousa dey pass."
-snip-
Lyrics: "Wey no go ask-ee me"

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2 comments:

  1. Are "boba la" and "bobanla" in Fela Kuti's song "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense"forms of the Rastafarian word "Babylon", meaning corrupt government, or the police who are agents of corrupt governments?

    The lyrics in that song are "Babanla nonsense" and "boba la nonsense".

    Here's a definition for the Rastafarian word "Babylon" from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Babylon
    "babylon
    The state, the system, particularly when corrupt or authoritarian. Also the police, as they are the agents of the threat of force that the state derives it's power from.
    It symbolized a protest against the oppression from Babylon, which had made its use illegal."
    by jamie June 05, 2003

    ReplyDelete
  2. What does the word "carry" and this entire portion of Fela Kuti's song "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense" mean?

    "Let us face ourselves for Afrika
    Na de matter of Afrika
    This part-ee of my song
    Na all the problems of this world
    In we dey carry, for Afrika
    Wey no go ask-ee me"

    [and]

    Lyrics: "Nothing we dey carry
    All over Afrika"

    I hope that someone who knows Nigerian Pidgin English would translate these lyrics to standard American English.

    I don't want to guess what these lyrics mean.

    ReplyDelete