STJ#1033, Bwana Awabariki

There are days when I am sure my ability to come up with the perfect search terms are to blame for my not finding what I seek.

Other days, I know I have the right terms, but nothing comes up easily and I either have to dig deeper into the rabbit hole, or assume there is no there there.

Welcome to my world this morning. And I don’t have a lot of time this morning to dig deep into the underground tunnels and hidden rooms of the internet to find a morsel of information about today’s song. Which is frustrating, because there’s not much I can say otherwise.

What I do know is that everyone, including STJ, attributes this as a Swahili folk hymn. I have found scores of scores – arrangements for voices, bands, handbells, drum ensembles. I even found the arrangement we use, from Gather, a Roman Catholic hymnal.

Bwana awabariki,
Bwana awabariki,
Bwana awabariki, milele.
Ukimcha Bwana.
Bwana awabariki.

May God grant you a blessing,
may God grant you a blessing,
may God grant you a blessing ever more.
*Revere the Lord.
May God grant you a blessing.

*insert personal words, i.e. “Thanks to our teachers,” “Peace to all nations,” etc.

What I can’t find is any evidence of it outside of a fairly comprehensive high school (and maybe church choir) market. I wish I had some links to its original form, some native Swahili speakers/singers, some history of the song as passed down and passed around. There isn’t even a note on the UUA Song Information page, which I’d been counting on.

So I guess, given that my time is short and I have nothing, really, I will offer my own two cents about use. First, while it is quite simple, it’s unexpected in its last phrase, and so will perhaps benefit best from having a choir sing it the first time used, then have a strong song leader teach it the next time it’s used. Also, percussion seems key to giving the song life. Finally, remember that is a folk song, so bring less formality and more joy.

Because at the end of it, it’s a joyful song, asking for blessings from that which some call God.

By the way, the image has no specific meaning – I searched under “Kenya” to see what came up, and I found these great meerkats, who made me giggle.

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