What ails thee, the Naga singers or the lead vocalist?
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is no dread of Naga musicians and singers, professionals as well as amateurs everywhere in Nagaland. The Nagas’ love for singing seems to have imbibed naturally in our blood. Over the years because of the diversity of language, many Nagas are into western music, (English songs). The Nagas youngsters have infiltrated into all kinds of westerners’ music and songs. We have renowned bands and singers/vocalist both amateurs’, and professionals,’ more then we can bargain for. Some have earned recognition even at the National and International level, which is in inspiration for many. As a hard core Naga, I do indeed love listening to songs sung by the Naga singers. I am genuinely proud of the fact that despite English being a foreign language, those singers have mastered the language and now here we are, English songs album! Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the fact that English is not even our National language, as such; errors in diction will persist like a ghost not only in singing but also in speaking and a touch of MTI (mother tongue influence) here and there. Some ordinary errors in diction are negligible but major errors attract serious attention. In the ears of those who have less or no knowledge on diction will not notice the errors, but what about critics who are extremely knowledgeable on diction? There is no escape from them and maybe this might be another reason for many immensely talented Naga singers struggling to carve a niche in the arena of National and international music scene. What is error in diction then? To cut short, it means “incorrect pronunciation of a word or wrong accent.” There is no doubt about the voice quality of professionals and amateurs Naga singers. However, when it comes to the real deal “singing in English” errors in diction persists. The English language as we know has only two alphabets, “The Spoken” (44 sounds/ 24 consonant sounds) and “The Written” (26 letters/21 consonant sounds and the rest is the Vowel sound), whereas, “Vowels” are classified into “Short vowels, long Vowels, and diphthongs” depending on all those, a particular word is pronounced. Some common words with correct pronunciation in the bracket: Baby (Beibi), go (gou), day (dei), able (eib(e)l), etc. Words begins with the consonant “W” must be pronounced with mouth wide open, words begins with the consonant “C” usually carries the sound of “K” and word begins with consonant “P” has the sound of “ph” and the list goes on, if the song demand oh…. oh… ooh.. yeah…yeah…. to be added, then such words has to be sung with mouth wide open with distinct breath coming out through the lung and releasing it from the mouth. Be careful about noun and verb, because they have the same spelling but difference pronunciation. Use the syllabication; divide the word, if its noun then the pressure is on the first syllable but if its verb the pressure is on the last syllable. One major reason behind error in diction is that many Naga singers seldom open their mouth widely wherever necessary while singing. Watch westerners’ singers in music video, follow their mouth and see how wide they open their mouth depending on which consonant the particular word or words begins. Ask yourself honestly, are you doing the same when you sing? If not then start to practice.
Without critics, none of us can explore or know our own potential, our creativity, our weakness, and our strength in any field. It’s of my opinion that “A worthy Critic is a worthy Teacher.” Coming back to the same square, so how do I improve my diction? Answer is simple, find out a coaching centre where training on Spoken English or Voice and Accent are imparted. Be sure to mention that you want to improve your diction. Do some backgrounds check on the trainer, because professionals can guide you in your diction with ease. Self-practice is possible but without guidance, I reckon it will not be of much help. Moreover, books available on spoken English are not up to the mark. Basic knowledge on phonetic can be handy, because in dictionary you can see phonetic is often wrote in bracket after a vocabulary, the phonetic is there to guide you in pronouncing the word/vocabulary correctly.
My intention of writing this article is not to mock some Naga singers for their inability to come up with the right diction. It’s been written primarily to encourage singers/vocalist, secondly, the parents of those children who has talent in singing. Thirdly, the educated Nagas, it’s time we accept our own weakness in diction and start to learn. Outside of Nagaland? it’s a jungle out there and the competition is fierce, survival of the fittest are still at play.