Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arts Consultant and Ethnomusicology

If you love performing, are interested in cross-cultural research and want to see Scripture reach every culture, God may want you to work as an arts consultant!

Arts Consultant: Understanding:

The following is a report from the BTA-SIL Port Moresby Music Workshop, 7-11 June 2010

Topics of the new songs reflected our discussions of local, contextual imagery. One song, for example, talks about how in PNG towns every building has a fence or wall around it, with security guards keeping watch; but despite the fear Papua New Guineans feel about criminal activity, our only true security is from Jesus (“Jisas em i strongpela banis tru”). Another song laments a broken family, telling the troubles a family faces when the father leaves: “Who can look after a family like a father? Now he's gone and our mother doesn't have work, so how will we pay our school fees, buy new clothes, food?” Then the song turns to God as our true father who never leaves and will always provide. I appreciated seeing these participants move away from easy and generic Australian and American praise songs and begin to wrestle with the real issues in PNG.

Friday afternoon we talked about how to keep this new interest in songwriting going. Steven Thomas offered the BTA Centre for a meeting place if participants want to keep meeting periodically, and also offered BTA's assistance in getting songs recorded in a studio and on the air on NBC Radio and Wantok Radio Light. Participants have a strong desire to keep meeting and continue the songwriting. Steven suggested that I make another visit to Moresby later this year and run another course, this time using these participants as teaching staff and reaching out to even more of Moresby's church leaders. Earlier in the week, one of the Lutheran pastors said that he wants this course to be taught at the three Lutheran seminaries in PNG; he stressed that the changes that need to take place musically in PNG churches will only happen if pastors understand the concepts and even preach it from the pulpit. He is eager that I meet with other Lutheran leaders in Moresby the next time I pass through. I was encouraged by these comments, especially as these are directions that SIL-PNG is already moving.

As immediate follow-up to this workshop, I have edited the recorded songs and sent them on CD to Steven at BTA, who will make copies for each participant. I also hope to see some of these people again when I pass through Moresby next month en route to Singapore.

This workshop could not have happened without BTA's assistance and strong support. All of the BTA staff who assisted with the workshop were amazing. I felt that this workshop not only marked a great partnership between SIL and BTA—a partnership that we plan to continue in the next year with further courses in Moresby and a course in Lae—but it was a tremendous opportunity for BTA to reach out to local churches in Moresby, showing love and providing teaching and training that was of immediate value to participants.

Music to My Soul

Rebekah Drew spent a short time as a Discovery student on the island of Lambom in New Ireland Province. She didn’t know much of the language, and that made it difficult to really connect with people. But she found that music opened many doors. “I spent many hours learning to sing songs in their Siar-Lak language, and teaching them songs in English as well. These were great times of sharing and strengthening each other’s faith. They also asked me to teach them how to read Western music notation.”

Six years later, she had the opportunity to return to Lambom after receiving some training in ethnomusicology. “The people were very enthusiastic about the songwriting workshop I held. About 50 people showed up each day. Together we studied God’s Word to discover what it says about worship and music. Then the people composed new songs in their language.” They were recorded, burned onto CDs, and put into songbooks along with other songs that they already had in their language. At the same time, Rebekah noticed that the men’s side of the church was noticeably emptier than the women’s side on Sunday mornings. The youth group that was strong before had dissolved. The young men walked around pridefully and rebelliously.

Five months later, Karen Rowe, the translator who has worked with the Siar-Lak for many years, noticed that the young men of the village had stopped being trouble-makers, and were filling the men’s side of the church. Another person told her, “The prideful young men have repented and turned from their former ways.” When asked why, she said that it was from them hearing the songs that were composed during the song-writing workshop. “Hearing the songs, they couldn’t rest,” she said. “Through the worship songs which were in their heart language, the Holy Spirit convicted them of their sins and they have now repented and are being taught by the church!”

Praise God for this wonderful change, and for the fruit that has come from this songwriting workshop!

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