Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Sout Project

This is a first for this blog.

I am not a prolific blogger (I prefer the more interactive environment of Facebook and Twitter) and I am not good at putting my thoughts "on paper". I am more of a relational person - I enjoy one-on-one or small group interactive discussion. But, one thing I am definitely not is a reviewer - Oh, I love to discuss stuff but, again, it's a case of "let's chat over coffee".

In this case though, I felt I had to make an exception. That's because I was asked to review something that I believed in the moment I first heard about it. I believed in it because it holds to some of the values that I hold most dear: Collaboration, Diversity, Spirituality, Inclusiveness. The project I'm talking about is "The Sout Project":

From the website:

sout : salt (rhymes with “note”, Afrikaans)

1. A preservative and flavourant.

2. From the Sout(h).

The Sout Project is ready for launch, with its debut album, “Story”.

This fresh expression of "world emergent" music has been conceived and recorded in Cape Town, South Africa.

While deeply engaged in diverse musical traditions, and oozing creative musicality, "Story" is more than just an album: it represents a vision, woven into song. Eclectic and ecumenical, the music emerges from a spiritual journey which is being shared by many others across the world.

Featuring the American writer and visionary Brian McLaren, the dazzling African choir Siyaya, the haunting Xhosa traditional musician Madosini, the poignant voice of "tribal elder" Annemie Bosch, and a dizzying array of exotic instruments & organic electronica, the Sout Project is a broad collective of creative people, singers, instrumentalists, writers, and prophets, curated and cajoled by composer/producer Nic Paton.

“Story” will appeal to spiritual seekers and seasoned worshippers alike, as it frames the concerns of today’s world as well as some ancient responses to perennial questions, in an inclusive, open ended invitation to take part in the Divine drama, this Story in which we find ourselves.

The album is truly diverse and eclectic and, it is deeply spiritual. It seems to draw on the ancient traditions of contemplative spirituality (like Taizé) while blending traditional African sounds with a hint of Eastern and even modern electronica and house beats.

To be quite honest I am not a huge fan of electronica and house music but I found that the unique blend grew on me. It reminded me very much of the "Spirits: Music for the Soul" series of CD's (which are amongst my favourite CD's).

It is extremely diverse and will not appeal to all. Some may find it a bit repetitive at times (especially lyrically) but when one understands the contemplative disciplines (e.g. Meditation) one will be familiar with the place of repetition. Some (traditionalists) may not like all the "imagery" like, "You are our network and we are the nodes" (in the song "Story" based on the ancient Celtic prayer, "Be thou my vision"). But, "everything can change if we learn and live a new story beginning today, beginning now, beginning with you and me" (same song).

And that may be the lesson of this project; we need to learn to live a new story that breaks the pattern of "fear, revenge and greed" that we have been living and that what's this project attempts to do.

I applaud Nic Paton (grandson of the author Alan Paton) for this effort. Nic has always been slightly (OK, maybe not so slightly) subversive but his passion for Inclusiveness and for the Love of God (prevalent from his first collaboration with "Friends First") will continue to force us to think outside of the box and to embrace the Other (the neighbour that Jesus refers to in the parable of the Good Samaritan) and will help lead us to the Peace his grandfather fought for.

It is this that is captured in the CD for me and the more I listen to it, the more I find myself challenged to think beyond my own story - to take the traditional and find new ways of expressing it (or giving expression to it). It is a testament to the work of David Bosch (whose wife Annemie makes and appearance on the CD) who spearheaded a Post-Colonial understanding of God's mission in the world.

Listen to it. Give it a chance. But, above all, be willing to embrace that which is Other in order that we might all grow. I could have been more critical of this project but, I believe in it's spirit and I believe we all have something to learn from that spirit.

Thanks Nic for challenging us. Keep going!!!