Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Baba Yetu

A few days ago, I got around to firing up Civilization IV and playing it some. My impression of the game is for another time; today is about the title theme, Baba Yetu.

I couldn't tell what language it was at first, but after a few times through I decided it must be Swahili or a similar language. Now I don't know very much about Swahili at all, but I was able to pick out the phrase "baba yetu" from the lyrics, and googled it.

(I just realized I didn't capitalize "googled". Is it becoming as ubiquitous as xerox, kleenex, and internet?)

It turns out that "Baba Yetu" is Swahili for "Our Father", and that the entire song is the Lord's Prayer, slightly rearranged for musical continuity. Wow. I found the actual prayer on Wikisource and the song lyrics (in both Swahili and English) on Those people are nuts, by the way.

The music itself is beautiful. It begins with tribal instrumental and vocal overtones, but the soft cymbal sweep and C-C-a-FG chord progression foreshadow something more culturally mixed. And as if my thoughts alone created action, the moment I sensed this, so it was. The second repetition of the chorus fills in the aural palette with a rich vocal harmony and beating percussion that offsets the tribal portion magnificently. Right then, the sun rises over Europe, Africa, and Middle Asia on the title screen.

As the verses progress, more and more modern instruments add their part to the whole, starting with simple strings and leading to more complicated brass timbres. The evolution mirrors, to some degree, the progression of our music and technology as a world. Quite fitting for Civilization.

The instrumentation is not the only part of the song that evolves. In the B part, careful listeners will recognize the a-F-C-G pattern that is so pervasive in modern music. I thought that was a nice touch.

Maybe I read into it too much. Even without any interpretation, the piece is exquisite. It's the perfect opener for Civilization IV.

1 comment:

CT said...

Nice analysis. ;)