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African Accents and Authenticity



 

For two days, on February 19-20, 2022, a group of narrators, actors, and voice artists took a deep dive into several African Accents; South African Zulu and Nigerian Igbo. It was an intensive learning experience, taught by a renowned African Accent coach, who has consulted on several films, including Black Panther, and author of, African Accents: A Workbook for Actors.


I had been seeking opportunities to learn a West African, Nigerian accent and perfect my South African Zulu accent for the past year, however, there were just not a lot of resources available to support this need. In the past 3 months, I had been asked to audition for several audiobooks requiring either a South African-Zulu accent or West-African Nigerian accent, and I wanted to ensure I did just in honoring the authenticity of the authors work by being true to the accent. All too often I've heard actors perform or narrate a 'generalized' African Accent, which is tonally based in South African Zulu but is used for any number of 'African' characters, which is not ok. Africa is a continent, not a county! It is made up of 54 distinct nations, over 3000 distinct ethnic groups, and over 2000 distinct living languages-making it a rich cultural and linguistic ecosystem. There is no monolithic "African accent".

 

Of course, in addition to our training, we discussed the importance of employing native speakers to narrate audiobooks requiring authentic accents. I am a big proponent of this idea wholeheartedly. Many countries in Africa have a very robust literary culture, with some of my favorite authors being: Bessie Head (Botswana), Buchi Emecheta (Nigerian-borne), Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya), among others, but unfortunately, the market for audiobooks in these countries has not kept pace with the West and some Asian countries, but I truly believe that is changing slowly as the Millennials and Gen Z of these countries, access to technology and social media continues to evolve.


This workshop was one of the most robust that I have ever participated in. I have acquired a whole new understanding and appreciation for vocal anatomy and posture, tongue positioning, and the role of the pharynx in eliciting various phonemes. The instructor was amazingly gifted in helping us all understand and make use of our specific idiolect in making an accent, particularly our own.

 

If you missed this workshop and would like to attend one in the future please let me know, it's only through demand for this type of material do we know there is a need. If you would like to purchase the book authored by the instructor, you can find it on Amazon, or you can purchase it from me at a discounted rate.




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