Originally published on November 1, 2017
What messages do the songs you listen to carry? Are they important to the community in which you live? Have you ever thought about who is an artist? Particularly a Christian artist? What kind of lives should they live?
A team of three from HSI in partnership with Arts in Mission Korea explored these questions and many more at a songwriting workshop in Uganda this past August. The primary goal was to help participants write songs with stronger messages while also learning as much as possible about the area and its soundscape.
Research was the first step. Upon investigation, the team found that making money as a professional musician is nearly impossible. Singer-songwriters are never paid for their creations; rather, they pay studios to produce their songs which are then given to radio stations and street vendors in the hopes of getting a paid gig. The area’s soundscape is dominated by characteristically East African popular music as well as Western pop and Christian music, but the traditional music is still taught in schools and performed at events. Armed with this knowledge, the team set about to help the participants strengthen their songs.
The workshops started by providing the participants with a biblical foundation. When songwriters understand what the Bible says about worship, how to interpret scripture well and that God loves our creative responses, they are better equipped to write songs with stronger messages. Furthermore, understanding what messages are beneficial to your audience as well as what kind of music is important to them will help any songwriter compose songs that go straight to their audiences’ hearts.
It’s also key for a songwriter to understand that God loves beauty. Creativity and the arts are important to God. When an artist is living fully into who they’re made to be, not only can they communicate more deeply and beautifully with God individually, they also help others deepen their experiences with God. It’s an artist’s job to beautify God’s worship with what they create!
With these lessons in mind, participants set out to compose songs. Not all the songs were turned into demo recordings, but what they learned at this workshop has birthed in them the confidence and means to keep writing songs with strong messages, firm in their identity as God’s artists.