I hail from a church background. I know, you would never guess. My grandfather was a church deacon, my grandmother was a church matron, my dad bought the church bell and my older siblings taught Sunday school. Fast forward to 2013 and attending the church mass is not exactly a regular fixture of my life. However, when you come from a conservative Christian background, one can get nostalgic. Church services were characterized by worn hymn books, sleep inducing sermons and the clergy wore a uniform. Therefore, the style of contemporary church services can be a bit unnerving.
Recently, I was invited for a Sunday service at the Nairobi Chapel, one of the more progressive youth populated churches in the city. The theme of the month was on masculinity values. I was asked to share some thoughts as a commentator on the subject. Shiny cars filled the parking lot. The church venue consisted of sprawling tented structures of varying sizes that sat like gypsy fairy ground tents over a large area. In the main dome I found a full boogie in swing, guys on stage dressed in football jerseys breaking a sweat in this winter weather before 9am. If it was not for the holy lyrics, I might as well have been getting down to Wenge Musica in concert.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t get over just how relaxed attitudes had gotten since I was last in church. The pastors had no collars. They didn’t look very pious in their jeans and casual jackets. They were outfitted with ear pieces that made cord less mic look analogue. There was an MC cracking jokes. The church service kicked off with a comedic skit, then moved to a movie trailer that was splashed from suspended big screens. Quiz questions followed for a chance to win tickets for the screening later that day.
I got a little confused when the offering pouches starting doing the rounds. Where I come from, offering always signified the end of the service. When the pastor didn’t make sense you could always skip the bowl. A rapper came onto stage, with a hooded jersey, dropped some sensible lyrics, rhyming each verse. His name was Number 8. The guest preacher thought it rhymed with Size 8. Around the congregation many appeared to be on their phone sending tweets, possible to secular friends missing the highlights.
Eventually, I was called on to stage, said my bit about why men should man up and stop being such whiners. People clapped, I returned to my seat, sat through a relevant sermon that distilled the basic message of a month long theme around the essential values of masculinity in our modern times. A number of changed men who had emerged from a camp shared their personal testimonies of realization. They looked very serene.
Nairobi chapel has devised a creative method of revitalizing Christianity progressively and making it appealing to a demographic that is typically areligious. It is crucial for churches to provide real solutions that transform the lives of their congregations without the motive of profit.
At the end of the sermon, I walked out with an elated feeling, half expecting to be met with a glass of wine at the exit.
WHAT ARE YOUR KIDS LISTENING TO?
I ran into an old friend, playing Harry Belafonte’s’ music off his lap top. There were old calypso classics. He had all of Belafonte’s signature songs like “Matilda”, “the Banana boat song,…its a Day-O”,”Angelina”, “Come Back Liza” and the like. I must sound ancient. My family owned a record player, so I become acquainted with his music at quite an early age. The Calypso style of music, the Caribbean smooth delivery was associated with fun times. It is impossible for anyone to be gloomy around Calypso. I haven’t listened to Belafonte in years. It was never my choice of music but I remember my parents singing along to the lyrics as kid in the late 70s. Interestingly, enough despite the span of decades, I could recall the lyrics fairly well. I get the same nostalgic reaction when I listen to Franco Luambo Makaidi TP OK Jazz classic “Mario” despite the fact that I still can’t speak Lingala. The musicians of the bygone eras told stories in song that triggered pleasant memories. Children inherit sound and I am grateful my parents had a decent taste in music. This was about the same era that Rod Stewart was all rave with“ If you want my body and you think am sexy, come sugar let me know”.
Music obviously influences young minds. Since children cannot select their choice of music, they are subject to tastes or lack thereof of music that their parents listen to. It follows that a child who grows up listening to the Naija duo P Square’s “Chop My Money (I Don’t Care)” will end up with the lyrics subliminally lodged in their brains. Thirty years later, a parent wonders why junior would chop the family fortune painstakingly earned over a generation to impress girls and he does not seem to care.