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Codeswitching as a means and a message in hiplife music in Ghana

M Quarcoo
EK Amuzu
AP Owusu


Ghana is a linguistically diverse country where the alternate use of multiple languages in conversations (i.e. codeswitching / CS) is an everyday phenomenon. However, CS in the popular music industry has been rare, a situation that is changing, with the emergence of bilingual hiplife songs. Unlike CS in spontaneous speech which is largely unconscious, the CS in Ghanaian hiplife music is usually premeditated, designed to elicit certain audience reactions. This paper explores the motivations for the use of CS in three hiplife songs: Praye’s Angelina, Ɔkyeame Kwame’s Medo Mmaa and Eduwoji’s Yεnko Nkoaa. We show that these artistes do more with CS in their songs than to merely use it to reach out to clients in their multilingual country and beyond. They use it (i) as a means to achieve aesthetic effects, which make their songs memorable and danceable, and (ii) as a message on various social issues, including love and social harmony. It is argued that in using CS for these purposes the artistes are simply reflecting what has long been a widespread communicative praxis, especially among fellow (urban) youths.

Keywords: hiphop, hiplife, youth culture, multilingualism, codeswitching, Ghana

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print ISSN: 2343-6530