Music instruments

Artists do not play musical “tools”; they play musical ‘instruments’

By Abdi Sultani

This is the first article of 2022 for the “Our Kind of English” column; so it’s appropriate for me to say, “Happy New Year, dear esteemed readers.”

Let me start by registering my appreciation for the massive reader responses. There were those who wrote to say that I was wasting my time and my space in the newspapers; others said I was doing a commendable job, urging me to keep going. The most positive were those who suggested that I compile selected pieces into a book.

To all of you, I say thank you very much. Why, any feedback, be it a pat on the back or a slap on the face, is motivation for a writer. Pushes him to continue or to make improvements.

I will now proceed to share the linguistic “gems” recovered from recent editions of Bongo’s English press. Here we are…

A reader communicated and drew my attention to the caption of a photo on page 4 of Bongo’s huge colored sheet of paper from December 25, 2021. It reads:

“Traffic Police Commander of Muheza District in Tanga Region, Richard Muwe TALKS to passengers to USE seat belts for safety…”


Now Muheza is the name of a region, just like Tanga. These are best placed next to each other. And then, what does “speak (to passengers) to use” mean? Signs of intellectual laziness are apparent here—under the guise of being brief! Let me redeem the legend with a rewrite:

“Traffic Police Commander FOR Muheza District in Tanga Region, Richard Muwe TALKS to passengers about the need to USE seat belts for THEIR SAFETY…”

Come Friday, December 31, 2021, and the tabloid associated with this columnist published a solemn year-end article on page 14, titled “Hi and farewell to all the stars we lost in 2021.”

Updating readers about late hip-hop artist C-Pwaa, the entertainment scribbler wrote:

“He started music in the band Park Lane with Suma Lee, before the two drifted apart.”

It seems that our colleague doesn’t know what the expression “to stray” means, so one wonders why he used it, even if it is in the past tense — has strayed?

According to the Oxford dictionary, “to go astray” means “to get lost”, “to be robbed”, “to go in the wrong direction” or “to have the wrong result”. There are no details that show that Suma Lee and C-Pwaa suffered an accident that can be defined by the phrase “losing their way”. Kwenda mrama in Kiswahili. So, we affirm that the two artists simply went their separate ways, each going their own way.

Next, the doodler gives a summary about another late artist, Simao, who he describes as someone “who knew how to…play TOOLS music.”

Play musical tools? We’re sure our colleague is referring to things like guitar, piano, or drums. They are not musical tools; we call them MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.

Writing about another entertainment star who died in 2021, the doodler mentions radio presenter Fredwaa, who died due to what police described as OVERSPEED. Well, let me remind my fellow communicators that when you drive over the legal limit, that’s just SPEEDING (not speeding)!

Finally, a look at what was picked up from Bongo’s oldest diary of Saturday January 1, thanks to an article titled “Mwinyi swears to wage war on MALPRACTICE”.

Well, how about “Mwinyi swears TO WAR AGAINST MALPRACTICE”? In any case, the intro reads: “The President of Zanzibar…has sworn to lead the (sic!) fight against corruption, embezzlement of public resources and acts of humiliation (sic!)…” Several wrongdoings have been mentioned, haven’t they?

In paragraph 4, the scribbler purports to quote what the President said and wrote: “The ISLE is guided by the principles of human rights and good governance…”

The island is…? No sir! When you want to cut the ‘monotony’ of referring to Tanganyika’s partner in the United Republic of Tanzania as ‘Zanzibar’, then say ‘THE ISLANDS (are)’ not the Island (is).

Ah, that treacherous language called English!