Country Western

Sign - Philips Memorial ClinicNot long ago, I sat in the waiting room of a doctor’s office in Accra listening to a Ghana FM station. One of the songs was in great classic Country Western style, sung by a female vocalist. From its style and quality, it could have been on any classic Country Western station in the US – with one exception. The excellent vocalist was singing in the Twi language.

We live in a world where cultures are no longer nicely discrete things that only rarely interact with each other. Some stuff we export from the US makes me ashamed, but a Gospel Country Western tune in Twi by a Ghanaian Gospel group sounds pretty good in my ears. By the way, the staff and some patients were quietly singing along in Twi on many songs.

Where did a Ghanaian language group pick up Country Western style? Well, I don’t know, but we can get a clue from a Ghanaian word – Boga. It means a Ghanaian who emigrated to a different country, lived there for years, and then moved back to Ghana, usually with some money earned abroad. When a society has a word for something specific like that, it means that it happens a lot.

Sign on car window - Boga

Ghanaians, especially taxi divers, like to put words, slogans and Bible verses on their rear windows


Flag map of Africa

This map of Africa marks each country with its flag. Almost on third of the countries in the world are in Africa. For two places on the map the 2012 flag is different from the 2011.

  • The new nation of Southern Sudan
  • Libya reverted to a pre-Khaddafi flag

Flag-map-of-africaDownload a higher resolution PDF of this map here.

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A Symphony Orchestra in Kinshasa – the rest of the story

Not long ago 60 Minutes did a report called Joy in the Congo: A musical miracle. If you have not seen it, you should. But the rest of the story is even more interesting.

Kimbanguist band in Isiro

Kimbanguist band in Isiro

The name of the orchestra gives us a big clue. It is the “Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra”. The Kimbanguist Church (that’s right, a church) is perhaps the largest African Independent church at 5.5 million members. It was founded by Simon Kimbangu in the Democratic Republic of Congo,  then the Belgian Congo. They are known for their brass bands, such as this one I found parading in the city of Isiro.

Kinshasa SymphonyIt was the leader of the Kimbanguist church himself who gave the instructions to start music groups with more variety that eventually led to the formation of the symphony orchestra. They had vision, but not much else: few instruments, no one who could read music. More, even Congolese laughed at the idea of classical music, saying that it just puts people to sleep. But they kept at in and they are making a sensation. You can buy a DVD documentary of the orchestra on Amazon!

All this happened in a country where corruption, abuse of human rights, sexual violence against women and poverty are rampant. The Kimbanguist Church has lost its way a bit, but it seems that there are reform movements in the church that could bring it back into the mainstream.

Christianity is growing fast in much of Africa. Up to now, that growth has mostly been in numbers. But now there are many signs of growth in depth. The world may not take Africa seriously. It may not take Christianity seriously. But just watch and you will see the suffering, poor, patient, and faithful people of God in Africa will do impressive things in the middle of the messes made by their leaders. A symphony orchestra?  You ain’t seen nothin yet!

Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? (I Corinthians 1:27-28, The Message)

Really Easter

By comparison, we Americans are not very serious about celebrating Easter.

Here in Ghana, many start the celebration 40 days before Good Friday with a dawn to dusk fast with water allowed. The fast is broken on Good Friday with a celebration. Good Friday and the Monday after Easter are both official holidays, giving a long weekend. So many churches organize “conventions” where church members travel to a “camp” for a few days of meetings, prayer and worship. It sounds like the old-fashioned “revival camp meetings” which used to be widespread in the USA.

For those who do not go to conventions, there are services on Good Friday and on Easter in most churches.

Worshiping on Palm Sunday in Tamale

Worshiping on Palm Sunday in Tamale


Linguistic diversity

How likely is it that the next random person you meet will speak  your heart language (mother tongue)?

A man named Greenberg developed a Linguistic Diversity Index based on that question. It takes into account the number of languages in a country, but refines that by looking at how many people speak each one. When one applies his formula to the countries of the world and maps it, this is what you get. Darker is more diverse (more languages and few large languages).

Linguistic Diversity Index

This graphic has huge implications for all sorts of things, from education and development to religion and  politics. As a Bible translator, it tells me where people are least likely to have the Bible in their language.

Click on the map and you will get an interactive version on the originating site.

For you math gurus, Greenberg’s formula is DI = 1 – Σ(Pi)2

Pi = the percent fraction of the total population which comprises the ith language group

i = 1 to n, where n is the number of languages that comprise the society
Σ = is the summation of (Pi)2 for all i