Hundreds of diplomats at the US-Africa Leaders Summit at the White House on Tuesday were entertained by the vocal stylings of Alabama’s own Lionel Richie.
However none of the African guests would understand what Richie is actually singing about in his 1983 hit “All Night Long”.
Although most of the Caribbean-influenced track’s lyrics make complete sense (who can argue with “raise the roof and have some fun”?), it’s during the song’s break when things get a little dicey.
Tom bo li de say de moi ya
Yeah jambo jumbo
Way to parti’ we goin’
Yeah jumbo jumbo
“Jambo” means “hello” in Swahili, but the rest (save the pidgin-ish “Way to parti’ we goin’”) is gibberish.
“That is a wonderful joke,” 65-year-old Richie told the New York Post in a 2013 interview.
Looking for some African phrases to compliment “All Night Long’s” global-inspired beat, Richie said he called up a friend who worked at the United Nations. The singer-songwriter was informed that there are “101 African dialects” and that it would take weeks to get just a few words.
Instead of waiting, he did what so many cool kids have done before him and made up his own lingo.
“Somewhere in that made-up language,” Richie continued, “I am actually saying something, because even to this day, we’ll play India, and someone will tell me, ‘Yes, you’ve touched on certain words in (our language).’ As long as I am not cursing you out, I am going in the right direction.” – The Washington Post