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Song Writing Workshop

posted Aug 3, 2010, 8:01 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Aug 3, 2010, 8:34 AM ]
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one
another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
Col. 3:16  (NKJV)

On returning from our time in the Philippines, we are rejoicing with the Koronadal Blaan Christians over the wonderful gift God has given them in their traditional music.

The song-writing workshop began on Monday morning, June 29th, with what would become 11 participants. They were from four different church groups. All were pastors except one young man. One of the pastors was a woman. Many, it seems, had already tried their hand at writing songs, with varying degrees of success. They saw the training as meeting a need.
Trying new songs

Playing the Fuglung

One of the primary challenges to the participants was to look closely as Blaan musical instruments and see if they could be used for worship. Some felt they were not appropriate, but when Glenn Stallsmith, the ethnomusicologist leading the workshop, pointed out to them Scriptural examples of how the harp, the lyre, and others were used…

…for many purposes, they changed their minds. The harp, the lyre, and others had beem used to call people to worship idols, but then these same instruments were also used to worship the one, true God, and to celebrate events. So the instruments themselves are neither bad nor good, the purpose and use are what is significant. This new freedom was clearly a blessing.  
Playing the Tanan-gong

Playing the Falimak

From this the participants in the workshop were urged to look at traditional instruments in a different way. Likewise music used in events such as weddings and planting rice were also studied for their appropriateness in worship. When one of the pastors created a song using a traditional music form, but with words for worship, everyone grew very excited.

The song writers were given various topics to focus on. Their first assignment was to write a song that would address some problem the Blaans face. One wrote about the loss of their land. Others wrote songs exhorting people to turn from sinful ways. Some wrote about raising families to follow Christ. In each case we "heard" the Blaan heart.


Their second assignment followed a devotional talk about people who are the last, the least, and the lost. They were encouraged to use music that reflected traditional Blaan musical patterns. Blaans tend to view themselves as down-trodden and unimportant, especially when they have been cheated or swindled by outsiders. One pastor wrote a very moving song, reminding those who…

…think of themselves as unimportant to remember that they are chosen and loved by God. The third assignment was to write a song for a special occasion. The most popular in this category was a birthday song to be sung as a serenade early in the morning of someone's birthday, reminding him or her of how God has blessed them with another good year of life.

The First Blaan Music CD
The collection of songs grew, so that on the final day they chose the 12 best songs. Each singer practiced and then a recording session captured the songs in digital form. As the workshop drew to a close we held a rousing program of songs, dance, chanting, and playing of instruments. Each participant went home with a CD of the 12 selected songs.

The most significant part of the workshop was the great desire which sprang up for these 10 men and one woman to continue to write songs to present the Gospel message to Blaans. They formed a group and chose leaders. We assured them of our help to preserve the songs. Their plan is to write songs, gather every month or two to edit their songs and teach them to each other, then, when they have a set of 12-15 perfected, to contact us to arrange for SIL Vernacular Media folks to go there and record them. Of great concern is that they do not have the skill of writing the tunes so want to be sure the songs are recorded and thus not forgotten.