Walter Kitundu, one of this year’s Macarthur “genius grant” winners, creates amazing hybrid instruments (see the phonokoto to the left) and teaches at-risk students about tabla, turntables and invented instruments.
This is a beautiful quote about what this intimate connection between music, creativity and identity has done for the students in this program:
Our young people have a chance, through the lens of another culture, to reflect back upon who they are and what they can be as citizens of the planet.
As Asian American followers of Christ, we are constantly reflecting through different lenses. Unfortunately, that liminality often leaves us feeling a sort of spiritual homelessness. Living as people who are neither here nor there definitely takes its toll, and the natural temptation is to retreat. In many ways, church culture has become our refuge, instead of, as the psalmist says, God. Sometimes we just want to sit and mindlessly consume the religious goods and services someone else can offer to us, like watching a couple of hours of television to unwind.
However, it seems clear from many of our church experiences that this enclave mentality has failed: it does not promote sincerely following Jesus, nor does it actually provide much of a refuge at all. If we can find that creative spark (ignite it, if you will) perhaps we can forge a deep sense of identity — “both/and” instead of “neither/nor.” Music, creativity, the arts — perhaps these lenses can cause us to reflect on who we are and what we can be as citizens of the Kingdom.
Kitundu’s music is strange and beautiful (and, really, isn’t that what the church is called to become?):