Monday, December 04, 2006

Bi-Okoto -- an African experience

Honestly, I normally wouldn't have chosen it as tops on my list for evening entertainment. But one of our congregation members was performing in the recital -- and Tammy and I wanted to support her. So we sprung for a babysitter and tickets and went to see this weekend's performance of the Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theater.

I'm glad we went -- and I know we'll be back. Sure there were more than a few technical glitches -- they were performing in a new space and working out kinks with the sound and the lights. But when it came to performance, this troupe was on fire.

They performed the expected traditional African drum and dance routines -- which were interesting and high energy. But rather than two hours these routines, the Bi-Okoto threw a few surprises. After the second number, three young men came out to sit behind the keyboard, drumset, and bass guitar on Stage left. Then four elegantly dressed ladies came out and took their place behind microphones -- the three men struck up a reggae beat and the ladies began to sing a gospel tune, first in English, then in Ghanan. This group was the Hyssops African Praise Band.

After intermission, the Hyssops band was back, but this time with help from Mama Lizzy, a Ghanan woman leading a group of drummers. Mama Lizzy told us about the first song they would all perform together (in Ghanan) -- the lyrics were simply "I've been delivered by the blood of Jesus". After an inspiring set with that song, Mama Lizzy invited members of the audience to come forward and dance -- about 15 people went down and learned a few steps -- and then as the drums and the band continued with a dancable beat, each person took a few moments in the spotlight as a dancer. Then, after all the amateur dancers were thoroughly exhausted, Mama Lizzy told us about the next song: "It shall be well" -- encouraging the people that even in the midst of adversity, all shall be well through their faith and trust.

At that point, my heart was rejoicing. I had heard the gospel sung in Ghanan; I had seen people dance before the Lord (at least a few of the people were dancing before the Lord, for one of the audience dancers whom I know to be a Christian told me that she felt the presence of the Holy Spirit down there as she danced), like David bringing the ark home. Scripture kept ringing in my head: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) All the nations find their union and ultimate fulfillment in Christ. "For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshippers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering." (Zeph 3:9-10) -- that new tongue is not necessarily a new language, but a purifying of all languages that every nation, every tribe on this terrestrial ball would ascribe Him majesty. And I love the imagery "From beyond the rivers of Cush" -- Cush being Nubia (today's Sudan). From the heart of Africa will come praise said the prophet -- and so it does.

Africa is reminding the world what it means to call upon the Lord. I didn't expect such a reminder in a cultural presentation of traditional African dance -- but I was truly blessed to experience it. Praise God!

Other Posts on African Christianity:
Whose Christianity is it Anyway?
Advice from Africa: Start with prayer
Sometimes its good to go hungry

Soli Deo Gloria