One of Africa’s brightest music stars, Wiyaala, dubbed “The Young Lioness of Africa”, renowned not just for her vocal and writing talents but as a champion of women’s rights around the world, is now intent on drawing attention to the issue of endangered languages and aims to put it on the political agenda.
One of the world’s 7,000 languages vanishes every other week, and half might not survive the 21st century – United Nations, 2016
As a native of Ghana, Wiyaala is acutely aware of the concerns across the globe relating to the extinction of species but believes that the extinction of languages should also be pushed to the forefront of people’s minds. She has therefore decided that on her soon-to-be-released new album, in addition to her commercial pop sound, epitomised by her latest release, “Better Treat Me Right”, she should also include tracks recorded in the dialect of Sisaalaspoken in her home village of Funsi. The latest surveys estimate that less than one thousand people in the North Western area of Ghana bordering Burkina Faso still speak this dialect.
As Wiyaala explains:
“I love to sing in Sisaala. It is sonically beautiful. Like folk songs from all “local” languages, Sisaala songs contain deep truths about context, living and being. In different villages they have different sounds for the same thing. For example, in Tumu, “Wia” can mean “God” or “Sun”; in Funsi, the word is “Wiisi”; in Walembale (between Tumu and Funsi), they say “Wihi”. And yet everybody knows the meaning”
“If I sing Sisaala songs to you and you like them, the language and culture will live on. Therefore, if I can encourage others to look to music as a way to keep their cultural languages alive then I feel that there is a chance to draw attention to the issue of ‘language extinction’. This is not just an issue for third world countries but one that exists very much in Europe as well. We need to ask ourselves the question of how to save languages only spoken by a small number in order to maintain our identity.”
Wiyaala sings “Wiisi” in Sisaala:
Having made the UK her second home over the past few years, Wiyaala sees this issue as especially pertinent to this country, hoping to encourage recording artists from regions across Britain and nearby to embrace the idea then broaden it to a global matter.
By starting to feature three tracks on her new album sung in Sisaala, those Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh and even Cornish speakers may wish to join her campaign and in turn feature their music on an ‘endangered language’ album which she is starting to develop. As it is estimated that these combined languages alone are only spoken by around 800,000 people, Wiyaala is campaigning now for the need to pass on their unique voices and musical traditions to the youth before it is too late.
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