New Anthem : Song of Kabir
  • A new anthem has been suggested for my choir: "Song of Kabir" , Seafarer Press, It is based on a poem written by a Hindu mystic honoring the god "Brahma". I am doubtful as to it being appropriate for a Catholic mass.
    I would like to hear your opinions.

  • I looked it up. I couldn't make it through 30 seconds of it. Stay far, far away.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,601
    Has your community so exhausted the treasury of Catholic/Orthodox sacred liturgical music that it has to make a passage to India, or is this text one that your community is so familiar with that it has been adapted into its Christian life?
  • I am familiar with it.

    The text is questionable. I think it is just barely philosophically and theologically defensible if one gives it the benefit of every doubt, but there are plenty of opportunities for doubt.

    If one is familiar with the Hindu texts on which it is based (I am, to some extent, having studied them in graduate school long long ago), then the questions are redoubled and the defense so much the more complicated and convoluted. Do we really want hymn-texts that require such a defense and explanation?

    The music attempts to be chant-like in nature and I think does not utterly fail, but as mentioned above, there are many alternatives that are both better and more clearly theologically sound.
    Thanked by 1ChrisG52
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,241
    On what basis was this suggested, and by whom?
    Thanked by 1ChrisG52
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,049
    It is not, I suspect, "some other suitable liturgical chant approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop". If it is not approved, then it must not be sung at Mass, simple as that. GIRM makes this quite clear (e.g #48, #87)
    Using it in church in some non-liturgical circumstance is a quite different question.
    Thanked by 2ChrisG52 eft94530
  • It is quite fanciful to propose that a hymn written to honour the Hindu God Brahma could by any stretch be appropriate in the worship of the One, True, Living God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Fanciful indeed!
    Thanked by 2ebullock ChrisG52
  • Just for the sake of scholarly clarification (not taking issue with the judgment about appropriateness): Kabrir based his poetry on themes and texts from both Hinduism and Islam, but identified with neither.

    In modern-day terms he would be called 'spiritual but not religious', as the saying goes.

    The 'god' to which his words are offered is non-descript, certainly not Brahma.

    (Edit: the word 'Brahma' in his and many hands of the time did not necessarily refer to the Hindu deity. The term may be used as a stand-in for the much older spiritual concept of 'Brahman', which is not a personal deity but a kind of impersonal principle of being. The personal deity, Brahma, is probably a late development, and in general 'not a big deal', in Hinduism proper.)
  • Ask them if they'll allow you to do this hip, contemporary contrafactum, written by Yours Truly for his Hinduism class.

    To the tune of My Milkshake

    My moksha brings all the boys to the dharma
    that's right, it's better than kharma
    damn right, it's better than kharma
    I could teach you - but it's in Samsara

    Ah, ah, A-nan-da (It's Liberating . . .)

    and so on.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    The sound world it evokes reminds me of Stephen Paulus; I think it's appealing musically. On the other hand, the language of the poem sounds like it's describing Hindu faith, which has a different concept of God from ours. Christians believe that God *created* the material world, and that God is present to the material world, but absolutely distinct from it. The poem seems to present an image in which God and the material world are not that distinct. For this reason, it is not suitable to be performed in Christian worship.

    For a similar-sounding piece with a more acceptable text (though I still think it's more suited to a concert than to Mass), look for the "Pilgrim's Hymn" by Paulus:
  • Yes, that is indeed the rub with the text. The Church has a long tradition of philosophical and theological struggle over reconciling God's transcendence with His immanence, omni-presence, etc., but the Church has never lost sight of or failed to insist on His distinctness from the world. Hindus (and, I think, even more so Kabrir himself) are much more wiling to flirt with pantheism.
    Thanked by 1ChrisG52
  • Thanks again for your comments. Our music director has decided to put Kabir back on the shelf and use another title. May you all have a blessed Easter.
    Thanked by 2Carol StimsonInRehab