How on earth can a group of Caucasians sing a Yoruba song so perfectly?!
A video has emerged online of a white choir, giving a soul stirring rendition of a Yoruba Christmas carol, Betelehemu– complete with African drums, tamborines and shekeres; delivering a performance as beautiful as it is jarring.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir – the 300-person choir of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – performed the Yoruba song in a way that has led to a big question: How on earth can a group of Caucasians sing a Yoruba song so perfectly?!
The song in question was composed by a Nigerian drummer by the name of Babatunde Olatunji.
Olatunji was born in Ajido, near Badagry in 1927 and won a Rotary Foundation scholarship to study in America in 1950 at the world famous Morehouse College.
While there, he collaborated with a tutor, Dr. Wendell P. Whalum to write the carol. Babatunde Olatunji would later work with several musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Bob Dylan.
As a matter of fact, the Grammy Award-winning Carlos Santana once sampled a song of his, ‘Jingoloba’. He died in the United States at the age of 76, in 2003.
It is not entirely clear if he ever was a member of the Mormon Church – unlike former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The sect has often been criticised for its beliefs – the book of Mormon says that the black race is descended from Cain and thus cursed; they do not believe in the Virgin birth that is the bedrock of Christianity, as well as being accepting of polygamy.
However, it is to their credit that they do believe in missionary journeys and as such, travel widely to spread their gospel across the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are all over Nigeria and are usually identified by their American style buildings, basketball courts and a zeal for attracting young people who have the ‘American dream’.
It is not beyond the realm of imagination that a member of the choir would have come across Olatunji’s composition or be familiar with the Yoruba language.
Either way, the rendition of Betelehemu in the video above will be the most beautiful thing you will see today and throughout the Christmas season.
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