Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Swaying to the soothing ebb and flow of the rhythmical sounds of beating African drums, and the soul-wrenching but wordless song of the African woman, one cannot deny the intense impulse to join the dance. Arms reaching towards the heavens, legs stomping bare feet into the smoothed sand below. The tribe's trance-like dance leaves you intoxicated.

Welcome to Earth.

It should come as no surprise that music is the kind of refuge to the soul that a bomb shelter is to anyone awaiting an impending doom. Only hours after an earthquake crumbled the lives of thousands in Haiti, earlier this year, CNN showed footage of survivors who had gathered in huddled groups and sang to sooth their pains. Songs of faith: songs of a nation's past and history, shared and known by all.

A man whose house had been spared walks out into the streets to find that others in his neighbourhood were not so lucky. He returned to his house and re-emerged carrying with him his guitar. He proceeded to wonder the neighbourhood throughout the night singing to those who he could still hear were alive beneath the crushing weight of what was once their home.

What that man did was to me an affirmation of a truth my father once told me. He said: "Look how amazing is the African, hmmm. Even at the worst of times they find a reason to sing. Music is our strength. Even the slaves, when they were out in the fields, would sing in order to keep going."

The beauty of music is in the power it is capable of unleashing on the human soul. It is somewhat impossible to say why it is that a song upon its first hearing might lead you to tears or force you to reopen unhealed wounds. It is also difficult to say why a certain amount of healing does then begin to take place.

Long before Man discovered tangible speech or language, he knew how to sing. And what determined the nature of the song was the pure and raw emotions seeping through, straight from the heart. A low tuneless humming could express content or the repetition of long, drawn-out moans express deepest sorrow or mourning.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out."

Just as powerfully expressed in music as the emotions of joy and anguish, is hope: The idea and heartfelt wish that things will change for the better. And though there is no certainty that they will, sometimes it is enough for man to hope. Music has the power to provide such hope. And for this reason, music can never cease to exist – it cannot be removed from us. For without it, we lose the message of hope, and without hope a vital part of the human soul might too cease to exist.

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