review: Sout Project
May 6, 2010
It has often been said that the last thing to change in church is the liturgy. And it’s more often true than not. Theology develop, or maybe more correct would be to say that theology is contextualized, continually, but changing liturgy is often the most dangerous thing to do in church. In the church tradition that I am part of that has certainly been true on many occasions.
The current paradigm shifts happening in the world and the church, and also in South Africa, has been well thought through in many blogposts, academic articles, conversations, books and more. But on Sunday morning when I go to church our music still seem to reflect either the Renaissance era from which our tradition was born, of the height of the revivalist, late-modern fundamental, era which has strongly influenced the mega-church movements. Here and there you’ll find some of the old mystical hymns which is refreshing, but much of the words we sing would sound totally strange is we were to ever say them to each other in a conversation.
Along come my friend Nic Paton and the Sout Project. You can read the story behind the South Project, and it’s debut album Story here, so I’m not going to repeat too much of that. What first struck me about Story was the diversity of voices on the album. Children’s voices, men and woman, black voices, different languages. Suddenly I felt like being in South Africa, and no longer in Australia or America, where the gospel of my youth was born. But not entirely South Africa either, Nic lived in England for a long time, and I believe I hear some of Europe inbetween as well. It has somewhat of a global feel.
Brian Mclaren’s voice come through early on, I still remember the day when Nic recorded Mclaren for the album. But Mclaren’s voice not only come through when he himself sings, but throughout the album Mclaren’s influence on Nic can be heard in the theology. And this, for me, was the most refreshing part of Story. Nic put emerging theology into lyrics. I can now sing along to words which I am so comfortable with! Words to which I can say Aumen, So be it. And I can sing Aumen in various languages on one of the tracks as well.
Vine (Ubuntu), the second track on the CD, bring Nic’s brilliance to the fore in a special way for me personally. The words of John 15, about the vine and the branches are pulled into the lyrics, together with the Spirit from John 16, and merged with metaphors from our own world. “The Web of Life (remember that important book by Fritjof Capra a few decades ago?) is spun by your Spirit“, we hear a few times, “everything contained and sustained in you“, early on in the song, God’s spirit is what holds the universe together, is the energy within, and this flows from the vine of John 15. Maybe this is the song that I’d like to give to my confirmation class when we talk about the Holy Spirit.
One other song that I’d just must mention is Meditation with Mechtild, which is basically my very very good friend Annemie Bosch telling something of her story, which Nic then mixed in with some music to provide, for me, the deepest moment of spiritual reflection on the CD.
Nic will be in Jo’burg this weekend, and you can find him on Sunday morning at 9:30 at Ridgeway ministries in Wessels road in Woodmead, for what promised to be a truly postmodern and post-Apartheid event, with Nic’s music and our mutual friend Jackson Khosa bringing a message. You can find the event on facebook here. Story can be bought @ R110 here.
It would be really interesting to see how Nic’s creation will be used in local congregations that engage creatively with their liturgies.