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date: 06 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Through the experience of the Sabaot of western Kenya, this chapter highlights the complex dialectic that engages both missionaries and the missionized in ongoing cultural exchange. While early missionaries may have introduced Western hymnody (which did not follow the tonal contours of the Sabaot language), many current musical projects are directed toward the search for a “traditional mix” that assigns Christian lyrics and meanings to songs in a local cultural mode. This discussion draws attention to a surprising coincidence between identity politics, privileging the “local” and Protestant ideas on religious truth: because religious truth hinges on rightly interpreted and comprehensible texts, local melodies and instruments are important both to those who wish to promote a “Sabaot” identity and to missionaries who are concerned that local churches encounter textual “truth.”

Keywords: music, Christianity, Africa, Kenya, Sabaot, missions, hymnody, language, cultural exchange

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