Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Singing is not Necessarily Prescribed

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”   ― Mary Oliver

Recall a time when you were required to sing and, in reality, it was the absolute last thing you wanted to do. Like at church, when you didn't know the hymn, or you were new, or you weren't really feelin' it. Or for a less than rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" for a colleague at work, in a somewhat stiff professional setting, where nobody really wanted to sing but it was kind of expected. It was kind of prescribed. It was kind of, well, awkward.

Contrast this with a time you've found yourself singing at the top of your lungs and you just couldn't help yourself - at your favorite concert or in the shower. When it just happened, and it was pure bliss. Music is impactful when it's spontaneous and connected to authentic, unhinged emotion. When it wells up from deep within us, when there's nothing left to do but open our mouths and sing with abandon, not because we are suppose to, but because we can't stop ourselves. It's meaningful when we have something to say, something to express that goes beyond what stripped down, transactional words can tell us. Somehow feeling and movement connected to melody become the only way to really express those deepest sentiments locked in our hearts. As someone who sings for a living, this is the story of my life.

Mozambican culture is a culture of song - not because they're forced to sing, but because song is ingrained in the very fiber or their beings. Singing here is not mandated. It's natural, it's normal. Singing occurs as a joyous, spontaneous eruption celebrating a togetherness that transcends language barriers and culture. Perhaps this is the very reason that I love my work here so much.

These two video clips are just two examples of spontaneous song that I experienced during my last visit. The first is at a church called Mucuassula UMC in the Nampula District. As we sat around the common area and talked and ate, the pastor, lay leader, and families in the village were overcome with joy, and song and dance poured forth. It wasn't planned, it wasn't expected, we were just sitting around, and as naturally as someone might flip on the TV when conversation slows, there we flipped on our voices and connected in a way that a television would never allow.

The second video is a welcome I received at Makanga UMC in the very remote Zambezia North District. This congregation met me in the road. They ran to me, miles from where the church was located in great anticipation of my visit, while I was still a long way off...the prodigal's story takes on a brand new dimension. This wasn't about obligation, it was about ecstatically welcoming a long lost, misfit daughter into the arms of family.

I believe in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.

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