When I teach aerobics/ exercise to music at Full Figured Fitness I try to listen to and screen the music I choose to choreograph. For me it is the first stage in the process of designing a class – therefore nothing negative nor rude gets played – especially for young people. An example of this is the song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke – their are many different theories as to what the lyrics of Blurred Lines actually mean theories range from being indecisive about love to date rape!
Screening music is getting harder to do for many reasons i.e meanings in language change over time – that’s me thinking with my both logical and my Cultural Theorist head. Additionally language and annunciation has changed, with many urban or street dialects developing and being adopted as norm across many cultures some things are difficult to pick up/ identify or understood when said/ rapped or sung. Instead of listening to lyrics we often digest the song as ‘mindless entertainment,’ without ‘chewing’ or pondering – decoding the song.
Earlier week I taught in a school, it was a new class for me, we all enjoyed some fast paced dancing to a selection of music in particular the song ‘Incredible’ by General Levy. I love the song and use it in my class with adults. The children embraced and loved song and the high energy routine. Later I heard some of the children singing the song as the class ended – soon to be going home. It was the first time they had heard the song in particular they sang the ‘Booyaka’ part. It was then I thought ‘what does Booyaka mean? First thing that came to mind was is that the word was a onomatopoeic sound a gun shot perhaps from Jamacia I said to myself – ‘Ohh No!’ Not being a Jamaican (I was at junior school) I had to look it up. The website The Urban Dictionary.com maintained: “Booyaka booyaka” was quickly absorbed and accepted by humanity as a word to describe and let out the awesome feeling inside, when one is king of the world. It was saying it is a vocalisation of euphoria. Another said it meant ‘hell yeah’! The website The Dialect Dictionary.com believes Booyaka is a gun shot – meaning: A term used to emulate the sound of a gun shot salute. It is used in a celebratory tone.
There may be some surprised parents this weekend. Oops!
I have attended classes when songs are played with foul language or offensive lyrics – often it seems the teacher has not noticed or does not know what it means because they cannot understand what is being said. This can include the ‘N’ word or ‘B…h’ or/and lyrics that are derogatory to women – which is often the case in rap and similar genres.
Meanings do change over time – the song engaged a room full of young people however I guess if you know what you are doing any music would do. For many, music is mindless entertainment they don’t actually take it in. The song has always had positive connotations ever since its release – even now when it is played everyone jumps up and gets moving.
Some of the teachers came and joined in and danced when they heard the tune. The song reminds me of happy days and the buzz of excitement the song created knowing he was a young man who lived locally. I don’t know General Levy but we lived in close proximity to each other and we share some of the same friends. Who by the way keep saying ‘you must know him’. The thing is I was not allowed out yet alone speak to boys!! I do remember seeing him perhaps a passing hello or a cool head nod – styling out my shyness.
I now am left to decide – to use or not to use – given that some lyrics are lost in translation and meanings may have changed and the source of the lyrics is ambiguous this will defiantly need to be considered. I will have a word with the teachers.
If I were to see General Levy again I will pluck up the courage and ask him what he meant when he wrote the words to his tune now a legendary song.