Translating Nina Simone’s Civil Rights Songs into Dutch
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This master thesis concerns the translation of Nina Simone’s civil rights songs. Seven songs have been translated and analyzed. These are “Ain’t Got No/ I Got Life” (1968), “Mississippi Goddam” (1964), “Sinnerman” (1965), “Four Women” (1966), “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” (1969), “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free” (1967) and “My Baby Just Cares For Me” (1958). The last two songs form an ‘encore’ following the custom of a setlist. The majority of the first five songs were written by Simone herself, except for “Ain’t Got No/ I Got Life.” The songs in the encore were written by others, but were made famous by Nina Simone. Firstly, the Framework is set out: Nina Simone, the artist is introduced, the civil rights era in The United States is set out, and, in comparison, a character of the sixties in the Netherlands is given. What follows is the image of Nina Simone in The United States, compared to her image in The Netherlands. Other than in The United States, in The Netherlands, it is not commonly known that Nina Simone is a civil rights singer. Secondly, the theoretical framework is set out, and the applied theories in this thesis are introduced. A comparison is made between translating poetry and lyrics. Next, arguments are given to answer the question: ‘Why translate Nina Simone’s songs into Dutch?’ Thirdly, the song selection is substantiated, and the seven songs are analyzed. This part forms the majority of this thesis. The analyses are divided into translation problems regarding content and form. For the analyses of content, the theory of James S. Holmes for translating poetry is applied, since lyrics are a specific form of poetry. The socio-cultural context of the songs is described each time, as well as the literary intertext, which, in the case of lyrics concerns the music culture of the source and target public. For the analyses regarding form, the third division of Holmes’ theory is used, the linguistic context. Furthermore, Peter Low’s pentathlon principle is applied. Moreover, for each of the songs Bindervoet and Henkes’ advice is taken to heart to try and find the unique quality of the song. This quality should be honored in the translation. What follows are the translations of the seven songs, the source text and target text side by side, so that the reader can compare the texts. Lastly, the conclusion dilates upon the main research aim, explaining which strategies were used in the process of translating Nina Simone’s civil rights songs, which problems occurred and it elaborates about the process of translating the lyrics. Since content is a prime aspect of each song, the sense of Peter Low’s pentathlon was important in the writing process, binding the translator. The cultural color of the songs should be maintained, the expressions of these influences had to be translated to Dutch using equivalents that did not color the Dutch with a dialect or with street language. Therefore the AAVE language, for example was mainly translated with colloquial and idiomatic language use. It was concluded that the unique qualities present in the songs, were maintained in the Dutch languages. About the process of translating lyrics, it is emphasized that with all the theory and tools and golden rules a translator has the disposal of, he still has to come into a creative process and has to come with creative solutions in each song, each stanza, each line.