Choir links translation team to community

March 20th, 2017 by Ruth

Recording worship music in the mother tongue can be a great way to cause a language community to get excited about a new translation project.  Here’s a window on what is happening near Mbeya, Tanzania, describing a choir from the Bungu language community recording with Wycliffe member Jo Clifford and team:

Choir recording (photo: Mary Pence)

The voices seemed to soar in the tall church, as if filling a cathedral. Traditional lines of melody wove skilfully together. Chants arose like medieval prayers. Then, suddenly, in an amazing fusion with African tradition, drums began, then metal whistles followed by trilled yells, as if everyone were celebrating a wedding.

Jo was impressed with the choir’s preparation. They moved quickly through the first group of songs. All had been written or translated into Bungu expressly for this day. All had solidly worshipful themes: ‘Let Us Love All People’, ‘Come to Me All Who Are Troubled’, ‘Father Please Receive Our Gifts’, ‘I Am the True Vine, You Are the Branches.’

After the first set, everyone stopped to wipe their sweat and listen to the playback. Jo’s crew handed out bottles of water. A breeze through the tall windows felt good. Outside, a schoolboy drove a herd of goats through the churchyard. The largest stopped to scratch his hide impiously on one of the church’s front steps.

Among all the percussion instruments, only the whistle seemed store-bought. Animal skins stretched over tin buckets became drums, struck by fists or a thin branch. Soda caps strung on a wire were shaken. An empty soda bottle struck with a steel opener made a sharp, far-ringing clink. One woman twisted a three-legged stool — its leg bottoms had been shaped to scrape over the surface of an overturned earthenware cooking pot. Different sized pots achieved different sounds…

Choir recordings like this are important for the project because they can be done before Scripture translation, during those first slow years while linguists build alphabets, and local speakers train as translators. An audio CD is something the community can see and hold (and hear), long before any Scripture portion gets printed. And every choir wants to produce its own recordings — it’s one of the ultimate things a church choir can do here in Tanzania. So offering this service puts the project in very good standing in the church community.

But most of all, it lets people know that, as Jo says,
“God speaks their language.”

(Read full story on TheTask.net by Steve Pence, Language Team Administrator, Mbeya, Tanzania)

You can read more about Vernacular Music and Arts on the Wycliffe blog.

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