Singing is praying twice

throwback (1992-93) that I can’t stop listening to now 🙂

Name: Makafui F.

Country of Origin: Togo

One of my favorite musicians once uttered in his lyrics that, singing was like praying twice. If that’s true, then my house, growing up, was filled with prayers. When we were little and we would get scared at night, we would crawl in our parents’ bed and fall asleep with them. They never went to sleep without listening to music. One of their favorites was the song “Guantanemera”. To this day, I zone out a little when I hear this song. I would wake up often to their voices, singing hymns and praying for us and for their day at work, as they knelt in front of the bed.

Music fills my childhood memories, whether they were Sunday School songs, songs we learned and sang in school or what the radio played at 4pm in the afternoon (My parents took nap time, “la sieste”, very seriously).

I guess, at some level, it’s true that some things are better sung than said. People always sung the hard stuff. There were the “I love you” songs, the “please, don’t leave me” songs, the “my baby left me, who do I have left in the world” songs, “life is great” songs and “what a great God we serve” songs. People sang with tears in their eyes, and people sang when they haven’t seen each other in years. People sang about the evil step-mother (why was she always evil?) and they sang about oppression, suffering and poverty.

My dad’s cassette collection was ample and quite diverse: from  Mireille Matthieu and Nana Mouskouri to  Prince Nico Mbarga and other 70’s African bands and musicians. We grew up on the Kwasa Kwasa, the Makossa, the Africando and the Zouk. My father also had quite a collection of gospel choirs and American countrywestern music. One distinct memory of my father was of him singing hymns one Sunday night, as he ironed his clothes for Monday morning.

Even when we lost electricity at my house, the whole family sat around a bowl of freshly pounded fufu (because, what is a Sunday lunch or dinner without Fufu?) and ate, as the radio played Highlife hits into the dark night.

I’m not sure if that’s the reason I love music today. But, I’m sure it has something to do with it. I love how it fills in the gaps and the silent moments. I love how it unites the past and the present, as beats get re-used and music styles get edited, tweaked and recycled. I love how it can be a great companion. I love how invigorating it feels to belt out a song like “I will not be shaken” from the top of your lungs and by the time you finish, you’ve gained perspective or at least felt a little bit better. I love listening to  rhythms, to syncopated beats like heartbeats and lyrics that pick you up, stabilize you or take you to an entirely different world.

After all, some things are better sung than said.

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2 Responses to Singing is praying twice

  1. Paula says:

    I loveee this post. When I lived in Haiti, the nuns at the school thought us many songs–some of them we sung at these masses that were celebrated in our school once or twice each semester and to which we invited our families. The nuns would encourage us to sing at our “rehearsals” by saying EXACTLY that: “singing is praying twice”

    And I grew up listening to Nana Mouskouri (in English, French and Spanish!) I love her to this day. Her, and other artists that my parents listened to as I grew up, where that tie that you mention between past and present. I was a 10 year old who could sing classics of Puerto Rican, Latin American and French music that where written decades and decades before I was born. There weren’t too many other children around me who could do that. And the love my family had for music has definitely encouraged my own love for it. Your last paragraph resonates so much with my feelings now and as I was growing up ❤

    • That African Girl says:


      It’s great to hear that someone can relate to this experience. What are some of your favorite classics?

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