Hymns in Periodical Literature

By Budwey, Stephanie A. | The Hymn, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Hymns in Periodical Literature


Budwey, Stephanie A., The Hymn


Songs and Prayers for Nigeria

Introduction

Given the way our national attention that has been turned to Nigeria as a result of the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls following the horrific kidnapping of over 200 girls from the school in Chibok, Nigeria, in April 2014, it seemed appropriate to focus on music from Nigeria for this installment as we pray for the safe return of all the girls and an end to violence everywhere.

One of the main questions addressed in all three articles below is whether or not it is appropriate to use indigenous Yoruba elements in worship-particularly the use of their language and/or music in hymns and the use of instruments to accompany those hymns-and how these questions have been navigated following colonization, which often stripped the Yoruba people of the indigenous elements of worship. Following the "rediscovery" of these elements, they have now had to consider if, how, and when to incorporate these elements that were once considered idolatrous. One can notice differing tones from the authors regarding colonization; while Auda seems to appreciate the work of the missionaries, calling for "joy and gratitude" towards their work (202), Adedeji has a much harsher critique of them, saying that people were "coerced into worshipping God in the European way" (177), while also hinting at a critique of the current practices in the West today, saying, "we all know what is happening to Christianity in the West today" (179).

The topic of inculturation is an important one and Auda points to the work done on this issue at Vatican II, which has encouraged a revival of indigenous church music. Auda describes how hymn texts and tunes are being composed in indigenous idioms as they are also accompanied by indigenous musical instruments, clapping, and dancing. This indigenous music acts as "sources of encouragement and inspiration" as it helps to "make Africans feel at home in worship, deeply stirred, attracted and touched at emotional depths which foreign liturgies cannot reach" (203).

Brennan's article, while also exploring these tensions, includes an exploration of the connection between hymns and healing, as well as the power of hymns to call upon the Spirit and recall stories from the past. She gives an outstanding account of the role of music in the founding of the Cherubim and Seraphim churches in Nigeria. All three of these articles offer a fascinating glimpse into the history and current worship musical practices of Yoruba people in Nigeria.

Adedeji, 'Femi. "Yoruba Traditional Musical Elements in Church Worship: Cultural, Musicological and Biblical Considerations." Ogbomoso Journal of Theology 17, no. 2(2012): 173-96.

This article addresses whether or not it is appropriate to use traditional cultural elements in Christian worship, a topic debated for centuries (173). Adedeji's focus is on Yoruba culture and particularly the traditional elements the Yoruba people bring to music in worship services, although he writes his work can be applied throughout Africa. He does say that "not all of our indigenous cultural practices are 'good,'" and these include such practices as witchcraft, sorcery, and magic (173). Adedeji follows the thinking of E. E. Uzukwu whose goal is for worship to be both truly Christian and truly African (174).

Adedeji explores some of the elements in Yoruba culture that play a role in their music, beginning with language. He then looks at aspects of Yoruba music which are particularly different from Western music, including pitch, rhythm, harmony, and melody. In Yoruba vocal music, there are both songs and chants that are composed in common African structural forms such as call and response and improvised forms. With instrumental music, the most common instruments are membranophones or drums. Dance is also an extremely important part of traditional Yoruba music, so much so that without it, music is incomplete (176).

Adedeji then goes on to discuss what he describes as the imposition of Western music in Yorubaland, as Christian missionaries would not allow the Yoruba people to use any traditional aspects of their culture, because the missionaries deemed them "demonic and idolatry" (177). …

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