The Yale Journal of Music & Religion (YJMR) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal publishing scholarship on sacred music in all its ritual, artistic, and cultural contexts across a range of methodologies.
Liturgy and Musical Inculturation in a Post-Apartheid South African Catholicism
Austin Chinagorom Okigbo
There is a developing trend within mainstream South African Churches to incorporate styles of traditional African music and cultural elements in liturgical functions. This is happening in places where such ideas were hitherto unwelcome because mission churches witnessed the denigration of indigenous African cultures by Europeans during the eras of both colonialism and apartheid. Inculturation Theology underscores the current drive for liturgical transformation. It comprises a part of Black Theology in South Africa, which developed as an intellectual framework for liberation during the time of the anti-apartheid struggles. Using the ethnographic study of the cultural mass at Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban, I suggest that through liturgy and musical inculturation, modern Zulu Christians are reinventing their indigenous cultural forms, which previously had been suppressed in the mission churches. I argue further that Zulu Christians use the process of liturgy and musical inculturation to articulate their religious experience as African people, as well as fulfill their aspirations to maintain their Christian heritage without losing their African and Zulu identities.
Bodies of Silence, Floods of Nectar: Ritual Music in Contemporary Brahmanical Tantric Temples of Kerala
The Tantric concept of sound (nāda) as universal life-force has seen worldwide diffusion over the last few decades but such a fame does not reflect academic interest in the impact of Tantra on music. Indeed, while a number of essays have been written to demonstrate the contribution of Tantrism to the evolution of Indian religions and culture, its contribution to music has been left largely unexplored.
The word Tantra refers to a pan-Asian religious phenomenon spread over numerous centuries and including a wide number of sects having different and even opposite philosophical and theological approaches which may be addressed from the perspective of the concept of the body. In fact, the divinization of the body or the understanding of the human body as the major Tantric metaphor of the cosmos and its processes is the most important uniting factor of such diversity. The tradition of Brahmanical temple Tantrism practiced in contemporary Kerala, with its own map of the body, interior practices and rituals including music, helps an understanding of the concepts and ideas embedded in Tantric ritual practices and musical forms. It adopts the human body as the model for temple architecture and also for musical forms and intends the ritual activity as a re-enactment of the process of enlightenment.
By adopting a multidimensional approach including ethnography, musical analysis and textual sources, this article studies how ritual music is structured and attributed meaning in the Brahmanical temple Tantric tradition of contemporary Kerala. It reconstructs a narration behind the contemporary ritual procedure associated with the pouring of water and other substances (abhiṣeka) on the icon of the deity and argues that the ideas embedded in compositional forms mirror and complement such narration.
The Dance of Ādi Śakti: The Goddess in the Songs of Bharati and Nazrul
C Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) and Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) were significant poet-songwriters of the Indian freedom struggle. Their works explore a wide range of themes – political, philosophical, romantic and devotional. Both poets were educated in rāga music, which is prominent in many of their songs. Bharati wrote in Tamil, while Nazrul wrote in Bangla. It is highly unlikely that they read or were influenced by each other’s works. However, one finds several similarities in their poetry, especially the importance given to the goddess Ādi Śakti in her various forms, Kālī in particular. The goddess plays a major role in their national consciousness; yet, they are not sectarian in their approach, and believe strongly in an inclusive Indian nation. Both of them criticize caste and patriarchy, and turn the worship of the goddess into a revolutionary act. Neither was confined to one religion or to the worship of only one deity, or to one genre of poetry. Bharati, a Tamil Brahmin, challenged the supremacy of his own caste. Nazrul, who was from a Muslim family, sang songs of Islamic and Hindu devotion alike. The goddess occupies a special place in both their hearts. Crucially, both poets used religious imagery propelled by music to convey their progressive and liberationist ideals to a large public. My work is a comparative exploration – the first, to my knowledge – of their songs on the goddess. I choose three broad aspects of the goddess: the beauty within the terrifying; the goddess as a child or daughter; and the goddess of the nation. Through these, I examine points of convergence in their poetry, the musical interpretations of their works, the influence of their contrasting cultural backgrounds, their views on women and caste, and how the goddess inspires them to contribute to the struggle for a free India.
Sermon and Song: A Musically Integrative Homiletic
Catherine E. Williams
For centuries the interdisciplinary dyad of sermon and song has been in the toolkit of effective preachers. Yet scholarship on conjoined preaching and singing has been relatively sparse, despite the abundance of strong biblical, historical, and cultural warrants for its effectiveness as a means of proclamation. Seminary students have been known to graduate without ever seeing the synergistic combination of sermon and song in a preaching syllabus. With the help of musical analogue Theme and Variations, this essay illustrates a variety of ways this preaching method works for musical and “non-musical” users alike. It highlights the spiritual and cultural value of this blended form of preaching to communities of color, particularly in Black preaching traditions. Ultimately the article shows the need for preachers and teachers of preaching to more honestly engage with the values and needs of increasingly diverse students and congregations by giving the homiletical dyad of sermon and song a more conspicuous place among sermonic methods taught in seminaries and practiced in pulpits.
Nadia Chana reviews Kirin Narayan, Everyday Creativity: Singing Goddesses in the Himalayan Foothills (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).
Carolina Sacristán Ramírez reviews Andrew Cashner, Hearing Faith: Music as Theology in the Spanish Empire. Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 194. (Leiden: Brill, 2020).