Rivers of Babylon

28 06 2017

I’ve yet to meet someone who is not moved by the song ‘Rivers of Babylon.’ The first group performing it musically is usually considered to be The Melodians, arranged by Brent Dowe and Kenneth Bilby. The popularity and the seemingly universal appeal is seen by the number of musicians who have recorded a version. Dennis Brown, Boney M, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt and The Skatalites, as well as Sublime are among the many who have recorded a version.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the lyrics resonate with so many people are the qualities of humanity represented lyrically through the reference to voice and heart, used poignantly to express the suffering of an oppressed group of people, due to their removal from their homeland, and suppression of their culture.

As sound travels as a pressure wave, the voice in this instance can be taken to represent the physical world, while the heart is a traditional representation of spirit. The tone of the words, and the redemption found through the aching question ‘How can we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land?’ provide an insight to the original writers of Psalms 137 and 19. Having experienced such a level of joy to be placed in a position of slavery, yet still being able to create, in the manner that their faith places great value upon, the human chorus, the expression of experience through emotive emotional enunciation eradicates and surely provides catalyst for catharsis regardless of the cataclysmic conditions.

Perhaps then, it is not so far a stretch, to consider that to the ‘ears’ of one who stated ‘I am that I am,’ that these words, though not expressing gratitude, or providing wisdom, as many of the Psalms do, are still able to bring joy to their creator because they are proclaiming what is. The truth of these words then may reverberate and be pleasing to their creator for their truthful description of their situation, therefore, still fulfilling the advice to worshipers found in Psalm 100: ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.’