Friday, February 11, 2022

Language and instrumental

Since we redesigned our site in 2018, we can also enter the language in which the songs are interpreted. Sometimes this is not so easy, because if a Japanese woman sings in French, you sometimes have to listen very carefully to recognize it. It gets more difficult with rare languages, and they don't even have to come from distant countries. Who of us knows what Corsican or Maltese sounds like? Sometimes the song title and Google Translate help to recognize it, but if the title is a first name, only a probability calculation helps.

If a song is tagged with a language, then it has almost always already been edited and completed by an editor, that is the case now for over 36 % of all song entries in the database. Most of the over 186,000 already checked songs are sung in English – that are over 116,000. German is represented with over 33,000 songs, then comes French with just over 15,000 songs and it goes down to Amharic with 2 and Umbundu with only one song entry. 17 other languages are in our database with two and 20 languages with only one entry – but that's just by the way.

Songs without a language, i. e. instrumental, make up almost 40,000 entries, the second largest category after English titles. And at this point, some users are often not sure whether the song is really instrumental, since voices can be heard. Yes, it is, because the human voice is also an instrument and if only syllables like "Uhuhuh" or "Dubdeedoobeedie" can be heard without any content being transported, then the song is "instrumental". A prime example of this is scat singing in jazz or gospel.

Something like a gray area is the case when the background choir warbles the song title every now and then. Here we have decided that this should also be instrumental, since the sung part is limited to the title but the essential part of the song is only played instrumentally. Only when whole text lines sound in the background, then the song is no longer instrumental and gets assigned a language.

Artificial languages like Esperanto (29 times in the database) or Volapük and Klingon (both not represented at all) can of course also get their language label. A very special species are the pseudo-languages, of which we have 46 songs in the database. These are onomatopoeic interpretations that sound like a language but don't convey any content. The best known example of this is perhaps "Ameno" by Era or "Bla Bla Bla" by Gigi D'Agostino. I have two really funny examples from this category to finish with: "Prisencólinensináinciúsol" by Adriano Celentano and "A Nonsense Song" by Charlie Chaplin.

Adriano Celentano, in the early 1970s, really wanted to write an English song lyric to go along with the spirit of the times. The problem: he didn't speak a single word of English! But in his nonchalant way he solved the problem by simply inventing lyrics that sounded almost like English. And this is the result.

In Charlie Chaplin's case, the reason for using pseudo-language was quite different. During the filming of "Modern Times" there was a scene where Charlie was supposed to dance and sing in a restaurant. A song with lyrics was written and rehearsed for this. But when the camera was already running, Chaplin had a total blackout and completely forgot the lyrics. Since he did not want to interrupt the recording, he ingeniously improvised and simply invented a text.

In retrospect, he himself liked the scene so much that he used it as it is and even produced and inserted another take in which his partner calls out to him from the dressing room: "Sing! Never mind the words." Since he was producer, director and leading actor in one person, there was no problem with that. You can watch the film scene here.

That's the end of this little excursion into the world of languages in songs and have fun with our site!


1 comment:

  1. It's a good idea to have language tags and clicking on the appropriate language to check the number of covers added by a given language.For example,i am very curious how many Bulgarian adaptations are here?Maybe between 700-1000?