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Pidgin English helps rappers’ musical fly

Using West African language boosts appeal

Two of Ghana’s biggest hip-hop stars have teamed up for the world’s first pidgin English musical, a fast-paced odyssey into the daily lives of two up-and-coming rappers.

“Coz ov Moni,” directed by musicvideo helmer King Luu, stars musicians Wanlov and Mensa in a day-in-the-life drama set in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

It’s the first musical to be produced entirely in pidgin, a language spoken by millions throughout English-speaking West Africa.

West African pidgin English has its roots in the Atlantic slave trade, when British sailors and African traders developed a common language to facilitate commerce in coastal areas. The language quickly pushed further inland, allowing trade among native ethnic groups who spoke different languages.

Today it remains the lingua franca for a large section of the continent stretching from Gambia to Cameroon.

Producer Panji Anoff says that the language’s appeal went beyond its common usage to the richness of its descriptive power.

“Pidgin really is a language that describes your emotions and your feelings, and not your thoughts,” he says. “Thought is not a very powerful motive in cinema or in music. It’s emotion that drives art.”

Pic has seen limited release on DVD in Ghana, where Anoff hopes to sell it to TV later this year before distributing it more widely.

In the meantime, “Coz ov Moni” will be touring festivals in Europe and Asia, as well as the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Anoff says he also planned to distribute the tuner online, hoping to build on pic’s growing cult following.

“It wasn’t my goal to try and package it as a blockbuster,” he says. “The fact that it’s on every student’s laptop (in Accra) — that, for me, is success.”

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