Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Psalm 100:1
When we think of noise we tend to think of a loud concert, a busy restaurant or maybe a monster truck rally. We are sensitive to noise, try to drown it out and, if possible, replace it with the soothing sounds of our favorite Spotify channel. In short, we really don’t like noise and yet the Psalmist commands us to “make a joyful noise the Lord”. So from Gregorian chants in the 9th century to the hard rock Christian sounds of Skillet, Christians have been making a joyful noise to the Lord in every musical genre and on every continent in the world, including Africa.
In Africa there is a noise that is undeniable that resounds from village churches and children’s choirs across every nation. The Bambara people in Mali, West Africa call it a djembe (JEM-bay), but we know this rope-tuned, skin-covered, goblet-shaped noisemaker as a hand drum. It comes from the name Anke die, Anke be, which translates to “everyone come together in peace”. Wow! Who would have thought a noisy drum would bring people together in peace?
I, for one, can testify that when the hands of a skillful African drummer hit the djembe my toe starts tapping, my shoulders start swaying and all at once I’m “together” with my brothers and sisters in Christ making a joyful noise to the Lord. The djembe is less of a sound to my ears and more of a feeling deep in my bones. I can feel it in my chest as it comes alongside the rhythmic beating of my heart… and I love it! Yes, it brings me together with others in peace.
No doubt the djembe is loud and can distract and annoy us if we choose to let it. Or, we can let the pounding of the hand on that skin-covered djembe be a noise of joy to our soul and a beat of exaltation to the living God. We can add to it a shout of praise to Yahweh or a dance of thankful celebration for our redemption. I know for many of us this seems inappropriate or impossible in our local church context, which may be one of the many reasons Americans should visit Uganda!
In 2020 I invite you to leave the comfort of your theater seat in the church auditorium and take a seat on a wood bench under the tattered tent of a church-plant in the bush of Northern Uganda. There you can make a joyful noise to the Lord to the beat of their drums and experience what you’ve only seen online. Please check out our website and come make some noise in Uganda this year!