Posts Tagged ‘EthnoArts’

Choir links translation team to community

Monday, 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 by Steve Pence, Language Team Administrator, Mbeya, Tanzania)

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

Empowered to worship with the music of their hearts

Monday, March 6th, 2017 by Camilla

An EthnoArts team had been invited to spend a week working with musicians from several indigenous churches in Bolivia. The goal: to recover their own music and their own languages for incorporation into their existing repertoire of Christian praise and worship.

It looked like reclaiming local traditions might be an uphill road. The younger generations seem to prefer urban sounds, modern rhythms, and the latest global music styles. They seek new songs from famous Christian artists, learn them and take them to their churches.

However, once people started talking about their musical heritage, traditional dances and folk music begin to fill the room. Everyone knew these cheerful musical genres of the Bolivian rainforest. ‘In the mountains there are other, more Andean rhythms. These are typical of our peoples,’ explains Isaac, one of the Cavineña leaders and pastors who traveled to Riberalta to participate in the workshop. ‘But we never use them in the church…. The people of our community sing them at parties and popular gatherings, but we only sing choruses and hymns.’

In general, the Latin American evangelical tradition is marked by the traditional European songbook, translated into Spanish by the missionaries who brought the word between the ’60s and ’80s. European music traditions usurped local expressions, and for decades ‘the devil stole our culture’, says Antonio, one of the Trinitario participants. He explains: ‘We thought that (our) music was a sin, and we simply put it aside. The people use this music, but it is always associated with wild parties and alcohol.’

During the first few days of the workshop, the group spent some time reflecting on this and other related subjects, before getting down to some songwriting. The group then spent a whole day composing new songs in their own languages, using the same music and instruments as untold generations before them.

Finally, the day came to record. A small but functional recording studio was improvised, and from 9am to 6pm groups came by to record their new songs…. There were 21 recordings in one day! Everyone asked for another workshop. They promised to present the new songs in their churches and to continue composing. They know that in any upcoming activity they will perform better and their creativity will be better honed and attuned to the Holy Spirit.

This blog post is adapted from a story which originally appeared on the Wycliffe Global Alliance website. Read the original story and see more pictures here.

Intrigued by the concept of EthnoArts? Read more here.

Sing a new song with gongs!

Thursday, January 26th, 2017 by Camilla

The name of our organisation is Wycliffe Bible Translators. Bible translation is a huge part of what we do – but it’s not all we do.

Recently in a country in Asia*, Wycliffe Bible Translators held EthnoArts and Storying workshops, designed to equip people to tell accurate Bible stories in their own language and culturally authentic storytelling style. The idea is to encourage local Christians to share the content and message of the stories with songs, music and other art forms that are rooted in their own culture.

One worker involved with the workshops reported: ‘In one location all of the language groups involved have historically used gongs for their indigenous music. In a previous training, several groups lamented that the Christians among them had given up using gongs when they became believers, and now they no longer owned any gongs. They recognized the value and power of using these traditional instruments and musical style to worship God. At the most recent workshop two groups reported that they had acquired some gongs and were composing new worship music to glorify God. One man told of playing the new songs on the gongs and four families (about 15 people) responding by deciding to follow Jesus! A man from another group told of making a recording of their new songs on the gongs and introducing this to a neighboring community. They were having trouble with people stealing the discs from each other because the music was so popular! Part of a new song: Lord, show mercy to my villagers because so many have not come to know Jesus. The coming day of Jesus Christ is so soon; He promised to come back.’

Back in the UK, we’re so encouraged by this, and we hope you are too!

  • Praise God for these translated Bible stories, new songs, and new believers!
  • Please pray that God will help these new believers to become strong in their faith over the coming weeks, months and years.
  • Pray for further workshops over the next year – for good attendance, participation and new, culturally authentic music that glorifies God.

Read more about why we have a passion for Bible translation, and how we help to bring God’s word to people groups around the world.

*details withheld for security reasons