The Language of Song: Why We Care About Music

There is no power like that of a song. It can melt the hardest heart, it can cause the saddest lips to turn upward, it can provoke a tear on the happiest of days. Music is a universal means of entertainment, education, and encouragement.

Throughout the bible, writers used songs to communicate more than what prose could. When words spoken run out, there are somehow still words to be sung. Human beings use songs to express their thoughts and feelings to the Lord.

In 2011, this group of Kenyans and Americans put on a concert for the residents of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Molo, Kenya. The residents, victims of post-election violence over 3 years prior, were still suffering its effects. In a small church building with just a gas-powered generator, the music gave way to a very emotional and powerful evening for everyone gathered.

Often, music can be medicinal for people. It helps relieve stress and worry, factors that can make people ill. It takes the mind off of realities that are too much to handle, and in the end, can leave people more thankful and joyful than before the tune began.

Music can be shared by all people, even across cultures. Don’t know the language of the people you’re with? Try learning one of their songs. It’s simpler than talking, and can put tensions at ease. Go to the poorest people in the world, and likely, at some point, you will find them playing music, singing and dancing. Even when people can’t read or write, they can make music. Music allows for self-expression without discrimination.

During a winter immersion in the Philippines in 2012, Leafa Vagatai visited this high school in Sariaya, Leyte. Conversations easily led into sharing songs. The music is what drew this group of students together.

Currently, we are creating a history wall that will display the historical narrative of the people of Hopewell, the neighborhood we live and work in. It is a primarily black community of people who have been long-suffering, since World War I, through segregation and the civil rights movement, and today. This neighborhood has been largely ignored by the surrounding world, but we want to tell their story. What often unified and motivated the individuals who were a part of the civil rights movement was their songs. Their spirituals are powerful retellings of a suffering people longing for freedom. They sing about Jesus, about being God’s children, about escaping slavery like the Hebrews. They know what it means to overcome, and their songs demonstrate the freedom they find in the presence of the Lord, despite the persecution they experience in this world.

During the music seminar in El Salvador in December, Britt Edwards instructed the students in songwriting and guitar. Here, he and his students, who had never even touched a guitar before, performed, and later recorded the song they wrote.

Recently, G.O.D. Int’l put on a music seminar for young people in an impoverished community on the outskirts of San Salvador, El Salvador. Many of the youth received the opportunity to record their own music, an opportunity that, prior to this, was unheard of for them. They were encouraged to write songs that could inspire their families and neighbors. We believe that their suffering has not left them without a story, and that story must be told and shared. Songwriting is storytelling. Their stories are worth listening to; their songs are worth recording.

This winter, G.O.D. Intl’s events venue and theater company, The Arts at Center Street,  put on a 3-act musical about the struggles of Irish and Hispanic immigrants entitled, “Alien.” The show is moving, to say the least. The impactful narrative is supported by over fifteen original songs, each which compels the listener to consider what kind of person he is, someone who takes life, or who gives life. The music offers more than each spoken line could on its own, provoking something in the soul that words alone often leave untouched. It invites the audience to feel, to be human, and recognize the humanity of their neighbor.

Music can do that. Music can change people. Music can cause people to do the right thing. Not all music does. But music can.

We believe that if you give the poor a chance to learn, a right denied them day after day, and then you put the pen of the songwriter into their hand, they can rewrite history. They can write a truthful story, one that cannot go unheard, or be silenced. Because people everywhere love music, and they will listen, and they will learn. And humanity will know a better day. And we will all sing. Not songs of freedom someday, but of freedom now.