Sometimes, our morning praise time includes some of that Kenyan praise music. But more commonly, we use European hymns that have been translated into Swahili (Kiswahili, for you purists).
Here is Amazing Grace, in Swahili:
In the grace of Jesus, I am saved; I was lost in sin, blind in soul.
You might say that some important phrases were literally 'lost in translation.' And you'd be right. But that's no fault of the translator. Swahili commonly requires more syllables than English to convey the same information. So when fitting the words into the song's meter, the translator had to truncate. In order to keep the tune and meter, we finish with words that seem less profound, less lyrical.
Some of our instructors are also prominent singers in their local church's choir. But don't think of this choir as a stationary arrangement of robed Southern Baptists. Oh, no. Their music is festive, responsive, active, harmonious, and thoroughly wonderful. When our Kenyan instructors give us original African hymns, with words and music not wedged into the grid of European hymnody, oh, how much more appropriate! Responsive, joyous music with complex rhythms and harmonies. That's how Swahili music is supposed to sound!
We do love singing tunes we have known for years. The Sunday before we left the US, our wonderful Church blessed us by singing "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms." We especially love this hymn, because we get to 'act up' in church (we lean when singing "leaning"). And a very neat thing happened here. On our first day at Language School, we were very happy to recognize the same tune, this time with Swahili words.
As we integrate into Kenya, we are trying to keep in mind that we can't wedge our American expectations into Kenyan life. Those expectations often will not fit, and may produce awkward, truncated relationships. We need to be ready to stretch and grow and find new, fuller ways of living. Dwight Gradin taught us a quote: "Learn a new language; grow a new soul."