Freedom Song by Suzanne Sterling

If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing – Zimbabwean Proverb

We have been here in Uganda for close to two weeks now and I am in utter bliss!  Throughout this entire trip, each time we make our way to our destination, we are greeted by profoundly joyful songs and dances.  The 20 women chosen to become staff at the Birthing Center created a welcome birthing tunnel of sorts and as each of us danced our way through the greeting lines we were sung to and strung with copious necklaces made of the paper beads that are such a strong part of the commerce and sustainability of this place.  Then as we gathered in the straw thatched round “community house” where community meetings are held and decisions made, we were treated to songs in Swahili and English with each woman introducing herself by singing her name and as the dancing began some of us were plucked out into the center to tie around our waist the fur covered bustle that is made to enhance our behind and shakes like a giant lions tail.  And we in turn sang back …a song we had sung together in yoga that morning…a reminder to be present to the gifts around us…”see through my eyes, sing through my voice, open my heart, to the beauty of the world.”  As we arrived in the Shanti Uganda village for a bonfire and feast under the stars, another procession by the women and children playing plastic water jugs for drums and smiling as they welcomed us into the dance.  Then I brought out my own drum, at first playing with the children as they gathered around and then finally gathering the whole village into a snakelike spiral dance that erupted into applause and celebration.  Later that evening, as I sat by the fire, I tried my own hand at the water container drum and sang with the 15 or so local children, improvising and exchanging nonverbal melody lines in the universal language of sound.  At the New Hope School, a more formal line of boys and girls comprised a chorus that sang a well rehearsed welcome song in English and that stuck in our heads for days “for our God is good and allowed you to come… we are happy to see you today!”  And finally at the Building Tomorrow site, the unforgettable sight of 150 children gathered to meet us and all taking turns at playing whatever rhythm I banged out on the drum right back to me – most with an amazing and natural sense of timing and rhythm.  That same number of kids following Seane and Nikki as they contorted their bodies into the funniest of yoga poses and remembered long sequences of dance moves as led by Victoria (who is now “reinspired” to bring dance to children).  Every day in so many ways, we were surrounded by this unselfconscious expression of the life force and joy of using our bodies and voices as instruments of beauty.  As a musician and teacher I have dedicated my life to helping others find their own voice and feel safe and empowered enough to give it form…and I come up against the fear, self consciousness and perfectionism that keeps all of that truth and beauty stifled and silent.  I have worked to release those critical voices inside of myself and to help others to truly appreciate the joy that comes from creating art in each moment.  I am not talking about the Art that we buy and sell and which must be packaged and sold to the over saturated ears of western culture but the sheer joy of allowing sound and movement to come through us.  The sheer sensuality and aliveness that lies at the heart of each of us…an innocent and childlike voice, a voice that can express the full range of our human experience without thought to how it sounds and with only a willingness toward how it feels.  This, in my opinion is our birthright and this is what brings us closer to our own divinity and this is how I wish to celebrate life in all its glorious complexity and this is what I love.  I will never forget sitting on the red earth of Africa, surrounded with laughing children as we sang song after song into the starry skies together.  More real, more alive and more truly grounded than ever before.  My hope is that every child (and every child inside every adult) can find their own song and know the freedom that can come from allowing that song to be sung – into the beauty of the world.


3 Responses to “Freedom Song by Suzanne Sterling”

  1. 1 michele meixner
    February 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    YOU are a beautiful person… and this was a most eloquent and touching description of VOICE, CREATIVITY, &FREEDOM… Divine:) OMSHANTI

  2. February 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

    The profound sense of FEELING and beauty of your words transports me right there to Africa with those beautiful children of Uganda. In all that the country has been through, I’m sure when they sing the spirit of joy and comfort transforms all the tragedies into hope for the moments. Seriously Suzanne, thank you so much. Your deepness of healing your own life reflects back to us, the ones you teach through this very writing.
    Everything you spoke about evokes faith and courage in me to be that “inner child of joy” which I’m sure, every person will feel and be blessed by upon reading. . . Thank you for shining your light into the world like you do, it is special and unique and I cannot wait to finally meet all of you one day. Love, erin

  3. 3 Lea-Rae Belcourt
    February 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    So beautifully written, Suzanne! I believe that the more we share this way, as uncomfortable as it can be in the beginning, the more our ABILITY to share expands and then our individual gifts for the world become known. Also makes me think of a quote I read on Twitter a couple weeks ago that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, “Singing is a way of honoring oxygen.” – Bjork
    Thanks for sharing of yourself!

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