Friday, June 20, 2008

A New Song

The power of music never ceases to amaze me. Music has the power to unite, the power to lift spirits, the power of peace, and the power of joy. A song transcends words, it speaks directly to each person in its own way. Music is a gift granted and received, and it moves through time and change, but always remains. Music was, for our group at Baluchaura Mission, the main point of connection with the people we met. How blessed I was to be surrounded at Baluchaura with people who love to sing; people who enjoy making music for the sake of making music. And it was there that I was reminded of the power of music. I will share with you a few examples of the power music played in our two weeks at the mission.

Music provides a bridge. We found ourselves in a village in Northern Bangladesh on the way to the Mission with a flat tire. Not an entirely atypical situation, but one which required some attention, so there we were standing by the rickshaws when, and slowly emerging from their dwellings were the local children, mothers and unemployed men. Cautiously they approached us to watch us, and feeling friendly and cheerful we struck up a conversation. Within a few minutes the crowd had grown from a handful of children and women to a group of over fifty people. The normal greetings were exchanged, the necessary questions were answered, and we found ourselves facing a large crowd not having any idea what to do. When suddenly a young girl was pushed in front of us and told to sing a song. She sang a beautiful song in Bangla and to thank her we decided to sing a song. And so we sang, the children's fascination grew as big as their eyes, and when we finished they quickly asked for another song. Now the crowd was quickly growing as word spread of the bideshis singing in the village, and a minute or two later, after another song, we were ushered onto a concrete platform, provided with a bench to sit on and stared at. It was the closest you could come to a village stage, the crowd grew to over a hundred people, and we sat there on the stage and sang until our rickshaw was prepared. The fascination and joy on the faces of the children and women said it all. Songs are a powerful tool to bring people together. The sharing of songs could brake the awkward barrier between us that no words ever could.

Songs provide a connection. Music also played a large role in our english classes at the Mission. Songs were in many ways the bridges or connectors to the girls at Baluchaura. Songs brought us together, songs made language irrelevant, songs provided entertainment and friendship without need for words. We taught upbeat versions of "This Little Light of Mine" and "Kumbaya" to the girls, as well as "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes", and the songs were a hit. With most of the girls still hiding and giggling behind their ornas when we walked by, we would often hear them quietly singing the songs we had done in class while they washed their clothes or before brushing their teeth. The songs were not boring class, songs are fun, enjoyable, and not like work. But songs did more than teach English, songs started the connection, the bond that formed between us all. When the end of our class time together came, the girls would all ask for one more song (which often turned into more than that!). The songs we would sing brought us together and were the launch pad for some wonderful friendships.

Songs console. One day we went to visit a woman gravely ill with cancer. The was on her deathbed and we came to pray for her. I was asked to pray in Bangla which did not work as well as I would have liked, due to my lack of preparation. And after the prayer we asked if we could sing for them. We sang the song "Lord, Listen to your Children Praying". The words were not understood by the family, caring for their ailing mother, but the meaning was. The music was an inspiration to the family, a consolation in a time of sadness, and after praying once more in english for the woman, with tears of thanksgiving in their eyes, the children of this dying woman thanked us for coming to pray for them, and the happiness in their faces spoke louder than a thousand words. Prayer is a powerful tool, and music is a gateway.

Song bring us together. They brought our group together at Baluchaura, they brought us together with the Bangladeshis we visited and met, and they linked our communities at home, with the community here in Bangladesh. Music is a gateway to our common humanity, a torch in the darkness, and tie that binds. As we go forward in life may we all sing a new song of joy, happiness, peace and communion.



Anonymous said...

What a powerful piece you've written. Music really does reach across cultures, time and distance. Do you remember the power of the first song we ever listened to together?

Philip said...

This is why I am so enthralled with seeing how music can further aid in my development as a human and how I can aid others through the immense power of music. It is a joy to be able to create joy just through the music that we perform and listen to.