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Music Notes for April 17, 2022

Hymn of the Day: “Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia!” (ELW 364)
Text: Bernard Kyamanywa (1938) tr. Howard S. Olsen (1922)
Music: Tanzanian traditional

There is a wonderful spirit to the singing of people in countries that seem poor, but whose songs reveal their richness of faith and strength. “Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia,” is a Lutheran text built on a Tanzanian song we call “Mfurahini, Haleluya.” The tune is an old song from the Haya people of northwestern Tanzania. They are an ancient people notable for their support of and hunger for education. Historical evidence suggests that they invented a process for forging steel well before Europeans. They would sing the verse and refrain unaccompanied except by a drum pulse.

Bernard Kyamanywa gave the tune a Swahili text while he was studying at the Lutheran Theological College—now Makumira University College—in Arusha, Tanzania. He had been trained as an elementary school teacher and received basic musical training, but came to the college to earn a degree in theology. He was an excellent linguist, and was part of an ecumenical group of scholars who first translated the Bible into Haya. He also served as a pastor and bishop of the Lutheran Church in Africa. He wrote the text in a very African style, envisioning a story-teller and congregation responding; the story-teller presents the simple story of the Easter Gospel, and the congregation responds with the refrain, although it can be sung in unison.