He Lives in You

26 09 2006

I read this post on Razel’s blog about the Image of God (Imago Dei) being found on/in everything we really desire – food, money, books, stories, power, fame, love, sex. I don’t mean an actual “image” (duh), but it is as if all those things come to us with very, very fine print written on them, saying: Made by God, and the reason we desire them (sometimes to a pathetic degree) is because they point to God; we’ve simply trained ourselves to forget the fine print.

This is not my best of definitions – Imago Dei will have to wait for another, separate post.

Nevertheless, I suppose that it is this Imago Dei that draws me to certain genres of music that many people find…unusual. Case in point – I have a strange fascination with African music, their vocal traditions in particular.

My first exposure to this, I remember, was in the gospel song O Sifuni Mungu. I heard this over the radio one Sunday afternoon when I was maybe five years old and it just sounded different – the harmonies, the rhythm, the sound of the language. It seemed…old, but not in our derogatory geriatric sense, but in a deep, mysterious, wise way…it had a palpable sense of realness to it.

In high school, one of my favorite records was the soundtrack to The Lion King. I especially loved the track Under the Stars, which had a melancholy orchestral theme that suddenly broke into an all-out tribal chant.

And not too-long ago, I discovered the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an all-male singing group out of South Africa. Their voices have an edge to them; none of that velvety smoothness that Western music holds so dear – and in the sound they create, it is as if all the hopes, dreams, sufferings and heartaches of the African people have found their voice.

A lot of musicians find their sound interesting and different, but how many of them realize that these are the songs of a people who, to this day, are not yet truly free? They have yet to sing their songs of freedom; to this day, they are still discriminated against (yes, we laugh at them behind their backs to my unending shame), their hearts and minds numbed by the magnum opus of what Joseph Conrad called The Heart of Darkness.

And still they sing: Oh King of Kings, we kneel before You, Father, appealing, asking for peace in the rest of the country. To borrow the words of musician and composer, David Amram, “That’s soul music, man.”

That’s Imago Dei.




2 responses

2 10 2006

nice post! new perspective. =)

5 10 2006

perhaps that’s the reason gospel music tugs at the guts more than the brains. and perhaps the reason it sounds more potent and soulful is that these are praises from a people in their own music. that would be a challenge for filipinos; there isn’t much music in authentic philippine tradition on air (praise music, much less).

by the way, i think there’s more magic in O Sifuni Mungu when it’s danced 😉

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