Youth With A Mission to encourage traditional music styles in worship

NON-WESTERN Christians are being encouraged to be true to themselves in expressing their faith, rather than simply "importing" worship styles from overseas. While "world music" - traditional and indigenous styles - is growing in popularity in the commercial mainstream, in churches there is a move towards an international style that is essentially Western, according to one concerned missionary leader.

Now a group of Youth With A Mission workers is spending six months studying how to use traditional music styles in church services in a pilot programme. Participants have come to Kiev from the first School Of Indigenous Music And Songwriting from Switzerland and Bashkir, as well as across the country. The course is being led by Vicki Hoodikoff, an American YWAM leader who developed the programme after being involved in the mission's evangelism and discipleship work in the country for several years. She noticed that many churches were modelled on American worship styles "which seemed very odd to me, as we are in Ukraine".

"As I began to think and pray about it, I believed that God was saying that he wanted to hear the Ukrainians write their own songs to express their adoration to him, and to include the Ukrainian sounds, too." Subjects covered during the course include ethnomusicology, cross cultural missions and communication, songwriting and biblical worldview. The group plans to make a recording of some of the new songs they create, along with a songbook, to be made available to local churches.

Ukraine has a rich musical heritage, with special songs for every occasion. The music is usually played in a minor key, as opposed to the West's major key, and songs tend to be composed without repetition of notes or lyrics. The bandura - a pear-shaped, stringed instrument - is often played. "We need to be careful as Westerners how we introduce things to other cultures," said Hoodikoff. "Many developing countries have a poor image of their country and who God made them to be. Some Christian musicians here have told me they would much rather learn the Western style than play their 'primitive' music in church. One woman, a professional folk singer, was turned down by the worship group at her church because her voice did not fit the contemporary Western style being played," continued Hoodikoff. "If we are not careful, we can unknowingly impose the Western style on an international level and so exclude the local styles which very often tend to be the real 'heart music' of the people. Besides often songs are translated at an individual church level, so the translations vary and cause confusion and arguments over which is the right way to sing them." CR

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