September 25, 2007

When The Saints Go Dancing In

After a month of mostly observing and figuring out how things work in Itipini, I brought my guitar along with me this morning and decided to teach the pre-school children some music. After all, I reasoned, they sing quite beautifully a capella every morning so surely they would enjoy a little accompaniment and some new songs. I thought, briefly and at the back of my mind, that the fact that I only knew songs in English and they sang mostly in Xhosa might prove to be a challenge but I quickly dismissed the idea.

Like children everywhere, they got excited when I took out the guitar and taught me the Xhosa word for it, which I forget. But a sort of confused and dumfounded look came over their faces when I started teaching them the words to “When The Saints Go Marching In.” I asked them to repeat after me but they could only sort of mumble a rough imitation of the lyrics. Undeterred, I started playing and singing, hoping they would join in.

They didn’t join in the singing but as soon as I started playing the guitar, a new look came over their faces – one of excitement and joy that said to me, “This is really neat! He’s playing a guitar.” All of a sudden, they stood up and started dancing to the music. Only about one or two got the hang of the lyrics by the tenth time I had played it through but everyone was moving and grooving, much like saints marching in heaven, I imagine.

It was then I realized I did know one song from South Africa, “Siyahamba” or “We Are Marching in the Light of God.” The lyrics I learned in the U.S. are slightly different to how they sing it in Xhosa here but the chords are the same so we had a very long rendition of the song in which we not only marched, but also danced, sang, clapped, and much more, all, of course, in the light of God.

It was a fantastic way to start the day and I got invited back tomorrow. My next goal is to get someone to teach me how to sing in Xhosa.


Anonymous said...

Jesse, That is so great! This is a great wa to enjoy some your time in Africa. Have a great time!

Anonymous said...

Jesse, That is so great! This is a great wa to enjoy some your time in Africa. Have a great time!

Leigh Preston and Andy Thompson said...

Jesse - sounds like fun! For what it's worth, we did Siyahamba (in Spanish, "Caminemos a la luz de Dios") our first couple Sundays here, too.