Singing Yoruba Christianity: Music, Media, and Morality

Singing Yoruba Christianity: Music, Media, and Morality

Singing Yoruba Christianity: Music, Media, and Morality

Singing Yoruba Christianity: Music, Media, and Morality

Synopsis

Singing the same song is a central part of the worship practice for members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Christian Church in Lagos, Nigeria. Vicki L. Brennan reveals that by singing together, church members create one spiritual mind and become unified around a shared set of values. She follows parishioners as they attend choir rehearsals, use musical media--hymn books and cassette tapes--and perform the music and rituals that connect them through religious experience. Brennan asserts that church members believe that singing together makes them part of a larger imagined social collective, one that allows them to achieve health, joy, happiness, wealth, and success in an ethical way. Brennan discovers how this particular Yoruba church articulates and embodies the moral attitudes necessary to be a good Christian in Nigeria today.

Excerpt

I visited the Cherubim and Seraphim Ayọ̀ ni o Church in Lagos on the first full day of my first visit to Nigeria in 2001. Though I was headed for Ibadan, where I intended to scout out potential sites for my dissertation research on religion, music, and urban experience, I was taken to the Lagos compound of the Ayọ̀ ni o Church by my host, who earlier that day had informed me that the “center” of Cherubim and Seraphim music was not in Ibadan but in Lagos. Jet-lagged and a bit groggy from my travels, I nevertheless agreed to visit the church before leaving for Ibadan. After a whirlwind tour of Lagos, made possible because there was little traffic on the road that Sunday morning, we pulled off of the OshodiApapa Express Road and slowed down to enter the church compound. Our first stop was at the gatehouse to collect a tally from a smiling man wearing an orange safety vest over his white prayer gown, who greeted us with a hearty “Ayọ̀ ni o!” (It is joy!).

We drove into a compound filled with dozens of churchgoers wearing their white church uniforms and clutching Bibles. They were all rushing to enter the already packed church building to attend the service that had already begun. Music blared from loudspeakers positioned on the corners of the buildings, broadcasting what was happening inside the church to all those that were outside. We parked the car just outside of the building that was marked as housing the Church Secretary’s office and, slipping our shoes off, we walked through the sandy compound toward the door. a churchgoer stopped us, asked us what our interest was, and after explaining our purposes we were directed to the “Public Affairs Unit.” After introducing ourselves, we were ushered into a carpeted room with sofas lining the walls. Pictures of Jesus, the Last Supper, and elders in the Cherubim and Seraphim Church—including one of Prophet G. O. Fakeye, the general leader of the Ayọ̀ ni o Church—were hung on the walls of the room. We sat for a moment while someone was sent to bring soft drinks for us and listened to the broadcast of the service that was taking place in the church. Boisterous music could be heard, featuring sung choruses, drums, and guitars. As I learned later I had arrived during the offering portion of the service.

The public affairs officer echoed my friend’s assertions that the Ayọ̀ ni o Church was the center of Cherubim and Seraphim music and strongly suggested that my research would be better served by studying his church’s choir. “They have many, many cassettes available,” he explained, “They are at the forefront of gospel music in Nigeria today.” I indicated that I had made plans that required . . .

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