Sounds of Global Worship

    -- compilation by Heart Sounds International

The strains of Arabic pop music sizzle through my speakers, with oud, frame drum, and swirling synthesizer lines. Then the female singer enters with impassioned vocals. It could be Oum Kalthoum of Egypt, or perhaps Fairuz from Lebanon. But wait … the Arabic lyrics are about “Christ the Lord.” Where did this music come from?! It’s new indigenous Christian music from Tunisia, recently recorded by members of the underground church. Two tracks (from two full-length recordings) open this compilation of worldwide Christian music produced and recorded in conjunction with Heart Sounds International (HSI), a ministry founded by Frank Fortunato and friends. In conjunction with local churches and missionary organizations around the world, HSI volunteers work in the non-western world to encourage indigenous Christian music through worship teaching, music training, and the digital recording of songs. In many places they work with the underground church, where being a public Christian musician can land you in jail.

HSI has produced close to ten recordings so far, with more happening every year. Projects have taken place in North Africa, South America, Central Asia, East Africa, Central America, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Mongolia, and elsewhere. See the website for photos, field reports, opportunities, and much more. As well as CDs, several short videos are also available (and recommended for both teaching and personal viewing).

A unique feature of HSI is that for some projects they raise funds to purchase a digital portable recording studio, take it into a country, and leave it after training local believers in its use. This is truly “equipping the saints” and empowering them for ministry!

The CD under review is a compilation of songs from various HSI projects. There is ethnic-flavored pop music from Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Bosnia and Sudan. Music with a more rural identity is found in selections from Brazil (“simple samba” with percussion and acoustic guitar), Guatemala (children’s choir), and parts of Africa (handclaps and voice). And one of my favorite melodies is a Christmas song from a South Asian Island with a strong influence from musics of India.

All of the songs are professionally recorded and edited on digital equipment, and the care put into audio production is noticeable. The liner notes are a bit skimpy. However, informative reports for many of the recording projects can be found at the website. The biggest problem of documentation is that nine of the twenty-two songs have no titles listed. This is partially because the recordings were originally intended only for the country of origin, not for distribution in the West. Therefore, not all song titles received a good translation at
the time.

Overlooking that matter, you will find the compilation to be a great expression of joy, sometimes sung by people who have endured tremendous persecution. This is not “smiley-face” music performed by big-name Christian artists to win big-time Christian music awards; this is music of faith and hope born out of suffering and oppression under difficult circumstances, at both the political and personal levels. These people are not singing to win awards they can put on their shelf… their rewards shall be far greater in heaven.

    --reviewed by Paul Neeley, a recent addition to the HSI team

Published in Vol.2, No.2 of

Published by
Artists in Christian Testimony