Tuning In To A Different Song

    -- Joyce Scott, 2003.

Joyce Scott, the presenter on this video, is from South Africa and has been involved in Christian music ministries in Africa for many years.

In the 20-minute introduction, Joyce is interviewed about the experiences that led up to her ministry in multi-cultural music. After being a missionary in Kenya for 12 years, she was asked to teach music at a seminary. She taught western music skills using western pedagogical methods, and both she and her students were frustrated with the process and the results. She was eventually challenged by an African speaker, who asked this question about his own childhood music teacher, “Why did I have to learn her music to praise God in my country?”

Scott is candid about her own growth in understanding that came in part through her ethnomusicology studies with Andrew Tracey. She went on to successfully work with eleven ethnic groups in Kenya, and also in other parts of Africa.

The bulk of the video is an hour-long teaching session at a church. The following topics are discussed:

On the video, overhead slides are used. Most of these are printed and included with the video. Scott suggests that to effectively use the video with a group, there should be a time after each of the sections above for discussion. The many important truths that are covered would especially benefit a congregation that has multiple ethnic groups, as so many do.

I found all the material to be helpful except for a chart on “Cultural Differences in Worship Styles.” In this chart, Scott makes statements that I feel are over-simplifications. Here are some examples: She generalizes that the African way of worship involves primarily the soul and strength, while the western way of worship primarily involves the heart and mind. Africans have a right-brained approach to worship, westerners use their left brain. Africans find one central truth to be sufficient for a song, while westerners prefer a high text load. There is some truth to these generalizations, but I can think of numerous exceptions from my own experiences in Africa and in the west. Part of the problem is that “African Christian music” and “western Christian music” are both so diverse that it is difficult to make statements that cover them all.

The video is based on teachings found in Scott’s excellent book with the same name (published 2000), reviewed in EthnoDoxology 1/2: 18-19. Both are available from Joyce Scott at rejoyce@netactive.co.za

    --reviewed by Paul Neeley

Published in Vol.2, No.1 of


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