Since Internet broadband speeds reached MP3 levels, Radio in many places has lost its way completely, plus of course, to talk about music all the time as the be all and end of the station’s output, masks or attempts to make excuses for the pathetic talent, or lack of, we see presenting it. Get over it!  Radio stations no longer have the music monopoly and why should an enthusiast wade through hours of pap listening for something he or she might like, when all is available at a click. So really, presentation is everything, but so few realize it, even argue against it. It is not only in the Middle East where this cache of mediocrity reigns supreme, half of Britain is pretty dire and obviously these presenters cannot hear themselves for no matter how many years in the business they never change or improve and they keep on turning up. If you are one of these deluded stars reading this right now, don’t worry, because you will not assume I am talking about you since most could never believe they are awful and just like me, go on and on and on as to how great we believe we are, reeling off time checks and station clichés between every three records.

Good DJs, with good voices often make good voice-over artists, but not a lot of actors do. The reason is a good DJ makes the grade is because he or she has ears.  Yes, a set of ears that can actually hear their own voice speaking and each and every nuance emanating from the gob. Amateurs sing along the sentences and obviously cannot hear themselves or they emulate what they think they hear in their heads from other examples. If they could hear themselves they would not do it. Accents, dialects, rhythm and flow are all part of it.   Unless one has an extremely good command of the language it is a myth of course that almost all non mother tongue English can hear dialects and accents of someone speaking English to them, they just hear English. This applies to all languages; if I spoke Arabic to an Arab, he or she would instantly know I was English, but if I didn’t know that someone was not Arab and spoke Arabic to me, then I would probably have a very hard job determining where that person was from. So, speaking with an obvious local English dialect on an English language station is no big deal unless you have a high squeaky, unpleasant voice, because most of the listeners in a non English mother tongue country don’t pick it up, accept accentuated bad grammar and pronunciation.

In fact in Gulf Countries, the local boys happily get away with Pidgin English most severe, which is actually quite tiresome for English mother tongue listeners to spend time with, but since we are guests and nobody wants to rock the boat, we put up with it. Besides, more than any other nationality, the British are used to listening to their own language bastardized, because the world speaks English, or almost.

On the contrary, we often come across Copywriters and Creative Directors who so sadly insist on using dialects within their script scenarios; for imagined impact one must assume. In somewhere like the Gulf region the majority of your listeners have absolutely no idea what you are doing as they only hear English spoken in such scenarios. The other very negative aspect of doing this is the impact it has on mother tongue English who only hear the dialect and take absolutely no notice of what is being said as far as advertising copy is concerned.

Proof of this happens on a daily basis and without knocking the voice-over, there is one bank in Bahrain which has been running the same commercial for about a year now and obviously with some very strange deal because the commercial airs after every song, around the clock, 7 days a week. Imagine how much that would cost under a straight payment deal?  One of my greatest friends and a smashing very talented Australian lady is doing the voice. It is not her fault, she did what she was asked, but whoever directed the thing is a dildo of the highest order and has absolutely no creative ability whatsoever and obviously is not a mother tongue English speaker.  She screams out: ‘For just BEE DEE FIFTY’ in her rather pronounced Ozzy dialect and it grates home hard. You hear people mimicking it all the time, yet nobody can remember the bank’s name. It would have been better if the Director (A joke ladies and gentlemen) had indeed allowed her to say; ‘FOR JUST FIFTY DINARS’ instead of reading exactly what was on the paper because the client had signed it off, so they dare not change it.  Pathetic!  My girl knows what she has done and furthermore was paid peanuts for it apparently, yet they run it over and over. Fortunately, it will not affect her standing as she really is a star and an excellent singer and musician.

On a very sad day for creativity, a similar incident happened just recently between the studio and an agency.  The script came in and it was to say the least 3rd world, but in retrospect this is apparently the appeal the client wanted in the first place. I was speechless as I was told that my production of said awful script was; ‘Too high for the Bahrainis’. After several warnings to the Agency concerned, stating that they were heading for a disaster and this was terrible creative and bad direction, we decided to take the job and simply press the buttons as requested by their creative geniuses present. After struggling for 5 days without charging them extra, I made the six odd voices on each spot gel together as this is what was required.  It was a sort of street riot of conjoined voices shouting long, impossible to synchronize, complicated dialogue. ‘We want a prosperous future’.  The Arabic language has no ‘P’ sound and it comes out as a ‘D’.  ‘Combooter – Bolice – Bob chart – BrosBerous’etc. But off they went anyway. The client rejected the results and the agency blamed us stating that we were unprofessional and our quality was not up to standard. The whole affair stems from deluded, unqualified people within the agency ranks imagining themselves to be Steven Spielbergs or whoever. Ludicrously it was decided that the English version should be spoken by Arabs because they wanted to hit the lowest level of listener and I quote from the Agency when we sent over the initial English voice samples;  ‘These English samples sound a bit English’. I should have walked away at that moment, but I did not want to upset them. This is so patronizing in the first place to assume your audience is as thick as pig sh*t and you as creator are superior and understand their needs, but it is very common around here.  Read above; this accent and dialect thing is a total myth and I told them so, yet I am the arrogant one apparently because I challenge their ability, but they refused to listen so who is the kettle here.


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