African Festival Promotes Traditional Hymns

Two sopranos sing together during last year's International Hymn Festival. | YouTube

An international festival, now in its 10th year, aims to preserve traditional Anglican hymn-singing in Central and East African nations. As with many churches throughout the world, hymns often must compete with folk and pop settings, or different worship music entirely.

The organizers of the International Hymn Festival, which will hold its 10th annual meeting October 26-28 at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, encourage choirs to retain the lyrical and musical legacy they have inherited. This year’s festival is hosted by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania.

Those who compete at the festival sing hymns without altering tunes or lyrics. Last year’s festival, which met at St. Crispin’s Cathedral in Bungoma, Kenya, drew choristers from 30 churches in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. This year, singers from Malawi and Zambia will join the festival.

“The church was losing its traditional format of singing hymns and thereby tunes and rhythms started to change with drastic speed,” said Dan Madalanga, director of music at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Nairobi and the festival’s technical director, in a report by Ben Ahenda for The Standard in Kenya.

The annual festivals “have made Anglican churches regain their traditional format of singing her hymns,” Madalanga said. “It is our happiness our efforts are paying off.”


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