The first time I played the video game Civilization IV in 2005, I didn’t make it past the startup screen. I was too stunned to click any further; the music was extraordinary. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It sounded African. It was bristling with joy and energy. I’d never heard anything like it before, especially not in a video game. You can listen to it here.
I did some research the next time I was online, and discovered the song was called Baba Yetu. It is a choral rendition of the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili, composed by American Christopher Tin. The song was an immediate hit. Dozens of game reviews praised Baba Yetu, it was widely discussed on message boards, and it won several awards.
I’ve Googled Tin’s name every year or two since then, hoping to find more of his music. Yesterday I was finally rewarded for my persistence: I discovered that Tin released an album in October titled Calling All Dawns. The album is a masterpiece. It contains twelve tracks, starting with Baba Yetu. Each song is in a different language–everything from Mandarin to Polish to Farsi to Sanskrit. There are three movements comprising a cycle of Day-Night-Dawn. The final song flows seamlessly back into the opening, closing the circle. You can read a more detailed review here. Suffice it to say, the album is an extraordinary work of art. It is a beautiful, powerful celebration of culture and diversity–in the best sense of those words.
The Album isn’t on iTunes, but you can download DRM-free MP3s at Tin’s website here. The album is already a hit among Civilization fans who have kept up with Tin, but this guy deserves a wider audience. Check it out.