'​Old MacDonald’ in Yoruba? Why a Nigerian mother was inspired to create a YouTube channel

Putting a spin on English and Nigerian folk songs has helped preserve the heritage for the diaspora community.

Culture Tree TV is a new YouTube channel that transforms popular English nursery rhymes and traditional Nigerian songs into animated videos in the Yoruba language, encouraging young children, especially those living in the diaspora, to learn their maternal language.

The idea behind the project comes from a Nigerian mother living in London, Gbemisola Isimi, who observed that her three-year-old daughter enjoyed watching children’s videos on her iPad. However, when Isimi sought to find videos in her native Yoruba language, her YouTube search results came up empty.

So she thought, why not create the videos herself? As stated in the introductory video, Isimi saw the need to “keep our heritage alive, we need to keep our culture alive, we need to keep our language alive”, and decided to do so, taking advantage of technology and the reach of the internet.

With the help of friends skilled in animation, she started to create and record new videos and upload them to the new channel. This was her contribution to ensuring her children – and others elsewhere in the world – maintained their Yoruba roots despite living thousands of kilometres away.

Yoruba is one of about 520 Nigerian languages in the culturally and linguistically diverse country. It is spoken primarily in Nigeria and neighbouring Benin, and by an estimated 20-million people worldwide. That figure includes many millions of Nigerians living abroad. The diaspora community includes a large population in London, so much so that the southeastern Peckham district is affectionately known as Little Lagos.

Making children’s videos available in the Yoruba language helps make the language more visible and entertaining for young children. Culture Tree’s YouTube channel features universal nursery rhymes translated into Yoruba with bilingual subtitles, such as Old MacDonald and Baba MacDonald or Incy Wincy Spider and Rondo Rondo Alantakun.

According to Isimi, the analytics provided by YouTube indicate that the largest number of visitors to the channel are from the United Kingdom, the United States and Nigeria. – Globalvoices.org

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