Now I know the U.S. border is only mere hours away from us here in Toronto, and even closer for those living in Windsor and Niagara…but really. What logical excuse is there for continuously speaking in American ‘twang’ when you were born, bred, raised, and surrounded by Canadians--or at the very least [insert your parent’s origin here]--your entire life?
Yes, there are many born-Canadians with very natural Jamaican accents. Or those who can use Filipino slang, or put on an Indian accent at a moment’s notice. This is understandable, as living in Toronto one might easily grow up in a predominantly Chinese, Somali, or [insert your ethnic group here] community and pick up elements of the culture as a result of who they grew up around.
But who in Toronto has grown up in an African-American community? Are there even any predominantly African-American communities in Toronto/Canada? Probably not. So that leaves 1) music 2) television and 3) wishful thinking that leads these lost Canadian souls to adapt this “preferred” tone of speaking.
Maybe 15 years ago when a Buffalo, NY radio station was Toronto's urban standard, or maybe 20 years ago when Toronto didn’t have the high-profile urban media representation that it does now. The talent and potential has always existed, but I understand that there previously might not have been an alternative to emulate in the absense of our own urban culture.
But it’s 2010. There are plenty of alternatives. In fact, Canadians are making big movements across the board in entertainment: sports, film/television, and music. So, if there are so many accessible Canadian influences…why then do people still choose to latch on to the American one?
Do people living in Los Angeles try to sound like they’re from Chicago? Do those living in Houston try to sound like those from Detroit? Not likely. Because they embrace their differences, they celebrate their unique qualities, and they let it out…naturally.
Have you ever met someone who used the hardest patois, the strongest Trini dialect, or the most serious Nigerian accent…and then behind closed doors they sound about as Canadian as [insert your European friend's name here]? When the day is over and they’re in their comfort zone, that’s when they decide to be natural and just be Canadian. We all know someone like that. Someone you went to elementary school with, back when they knew they were Canadians....and somehow developed another accent in their late teens/early twenties and beyond...
I would be so impressed if the time came when all Canadian entertainers could pick up a microphone (because this is often an issue with those in the public eye) and out came….their natural Canadian-ass voice.
Even the comment “Oh, it just SOUNDS Canadian,” is something that should never come out of a Canadian’s mouth with disdain. Again, I think for years Canadian artists have tried their hardest to “not” sound Canadian. Instead they were trying to sound authentically…? From where? Atlanta? Memphis?
I once overheard someone critiquing a song composed by a Canadian artist, and his response was that he didn't like it because it "sounded" too Canadian. I couldn't help but think, of course it "sounds" Canadian; it "is" Canadian.
I think it’s important that Canadians just BE Canadians. Yes, there are going to be cultural trends coming at you from all over. Friends, family, entertainment, the dreaded and ever-influential BET, and the like…but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your natural self to adapt to someone else’s image of validity.
It’s OK to just be Canadian. Right now, more than ever.
If you’re a rapper, it’s OK to sound like a Canadian rapper, with Canadian-sounding beats. Because if you're a Canadian rapper sounding like a New York rapper...the people in Canada will know you're acting, and the people in New York will really know you're pretending.
I feel that the Canadian rappers who have "made it big" are the ones who really embrace their Canadian-ness and sound natural and confident as a result. The ones who know where they came from, and aren't trying to convince millions of Americans that they are a [insert popular rapper stereotype here].
If you’re a DJ, a radio host, an MC, or someone who holds a mic in their hand….it’s OK to sound like you’re from Brooklin…and I do mean Brooklin, Ontario. It's OK, because chances are you don't live too far from there anyhow.
It’s time to stop fronting, and start accepting that we just are who we are. Canadians need to own up to their culture, especially the growing population born in Canada. Yes, many of our parents were immigrants and we want to keep the culture strong…but it is what it is.
Don’t be afraid to embrace your Canadian identity.
Don't be afraid to build a stronger Canadian identity.
Don’t be afraid to set a new trend: sounding like you’ve always sounded…like when you were a kid and hadn't yet realized it was cool to sound Guyanese, or to sound like you were raised on the streets of Compton like Ricky and DoughBoy (I'm pretty sure that's when a lot of this imitation started)...
It’s OK to just BE Canadian. Let someone else try and imitate our sound. Set it in stone, and work with it. We’re here for a reason, and it’s to establish our own reason for being...not borrow someone else's sound and hope that it fits...it doesn't.
Other cultures can't and won't respect us and our products (particularly our urban products), unless we respect ourselves. So just be Canadian! It's so much easier.