From the day I arrived at the Kilimanjaro Airport in Moshi there has been a constant awareness of the sounds in Africa. Two African pastors picked me up at the airport and we drove about 45 minutes in a van with the windows rolled down to cool things off. Bars and nightclubs lined the road and there was loud African music playing as we passed by. Motorcycles are everywhere here and they would zip past us with their throttles wide open, filling the air with competing noise as they moved around our big van. When I awoke the next morning it was to the shrill calls of those backward-knee birds – I guess they are cranes – sitting right outside my porch. I do not speak one word of Swahili but it is a curious thing to hear Africans speak to each other in this language and then seamlessly transition into polite English with the mzungu (white man). All week in our gatherings with the believers the women communicate their affirmation in worship by giving a loud, high pitched shout of praise wherein they rapidly move their tongues from the bottom of their mouth to the roof of their mouth. It sounds like a happy, female machine gun and they somehow smile when they do it. It would likely scare us if someone did that in our American churches but here it is commonplace and quite enjoyable. I have not heard a single child speak – not once. That absence of sound has impacted me also. The music and singing are loud here and I do not know the language so I simply listen and clap my hands. For having little in material goods this is a happy people and I enjoy listening to the various things as they come in nonstop waves.
I live in Metro Atlanta and it is also filled with noise but, when you live in the noise constantly, you do not hear it anymore. What I am describing in Africa is not noise. It is sound. Noise is something you deal with because it always exists. Sound is something you stop for, putting down your backpack, standing still with your only purpose being to let it fill your ears because it is good. I will leave Africa remembering many things but I believe most of all it will be the rejoicing of my own ears as they have been reacquainted with the precious gift of sound.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together.” Psalm 98:4-8
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