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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Global harmony

'World music' crosses borders, bridges differences

One of the points I try to make in this column is the ability of the arts to transcend particular cultures, languages, backgrounds and other barriers that divide people and lead to violence. The arts can bring people together across many differences.

Case in point: One of the most interesting musical phenomena of recent years has been the growth of "world music" that crosses many boundaries, even generations. World music always joins different strands and influences: instruments and musical forms from various nations, along with a mixture of traditional, jazz and pop forms.

Much world music is explicitly religious, for example, Anthology of Sacred World Music, Vol. 1 (Sounds True, 1997). This CD includes Vietnamese Zen Buddhist chants, music by Irish monks, devotional songs from India and a selection from one of my current favorite groups, "Keur Moussa."

In 1963 nine monks from a French monastery that specialized in plainsong founded a Benedictine abbey at Keur Moussa in Senegal. Today there are 35 brothers, 24 of whom are Senegalese, who created a form of music combining Gregorian chant with African instruments, melodies and influences. The result is a transfixing blend. All of the music is either specifically liturgical or invokes themes of peace and harmony. You can hear them on the CD, Keur Moussa: Sacred Chant & African Rhythms from Senegal (Sounds True, 1997).

These CDs may not be easy to find in your store, though it is worth looking in the world music section. You can obtain information, including prices, or a Sounds True catalog by calling (800) 333-9185 or writing to P.O. Box 8010, Boulder, CO 80306.


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