Thursday, May 6, 2010

Behind The Scenes: Shooting Music Videos In Kenya

In our recent missions trip to Kenya we had the opportunity to take part in a new aspect of Ben Bahati's ministry: writing songs in collaboration with Kenyan musicians, recording them in Ben's new studio, and shooting videos for both of the songs! We recently were able to see the videos, and they turned out great! It was a lot of fun from start to finish.

The first song is called Jesus Saves (though the video has the title as None Like You currently). This song combines music from our band from Conway Celebration Church with Kenyan and American rappers. A few weeks before our trip I wanted to get the 'shell' of a song together in hopes that we could record with our brothers and sisters in Kenya. The line "Jesus the Son of God" was pounding in my head. For a few days I sang that line over and over (the melody was exactly the same as the finished version!). I decided that if we have one shot to make a video in Kenya, I want it to be a clear gospel message (that's where the power's at! - Romans 1:16). So I sat down and wrote out the chorus:

Jesus the Son of God, you died on the cross for all my sin and shame;
Jesus, you rose up from the grave – You are alive and you are mighty to save!
You are mighty to save!

I wrote a verse that I would sing about man's need for salvation (there is none who is good), and a tag at the end calling for a response to the gospel (repent and believe – the kingdom of God is here!). Krys and TJ and I practiced this shell one time before we left for Kenya! When we got into Ben's studio (Lucky Ben's Digital Studios, or LBDS), Krys set up the microphones on the drums and then TJ and I laid down our parts together (drums and acoustic guitar). From there we built up the rest of the song. I told Pastor Luke Geraty from Wisconsin (who is a rapper) and 2 of our Kenyan musicians (Moses and BaMdogo) what the song was all about. These 3 began to write their parts while TJ and I recorded ours! (Did you know that rappers carry around a notebook to write their lyrics in?) This was a cool experience for me. You have the sound of music being recorded in one room, and the sound of musicians pacing the floor writing lyrics and rapping them to themselves in the adjoining room! In about one day we had this song recorded, and Krys spent HOURS mixing it.

When it was finished, we met with the videographers at the video shoot location: under an overpass. Complete with graffiti on the walls, train tracks, and even a herd of cows that walked through while we were recording (you see them during the first verse). We were recorded over and over again in different spots.

Here is the finished version of Jesus Saves:
YouTube - Jesus Saves Kenyan Music Video

One Tribe
Ben wanted the rappers to do a rap song that spoke out against tribal violence, calling for unity through Jesus Christ. He shared the vision with the musicians and they got to work writing lyrics. Luke brought approximately 417,309 rap beats with him on a flash drive; these are beats he has created. One of them became the favorite, and the loop was created. The rappers recorded their parts, the mixing took place, and we were ready to shoot!

On our last day in Kenya (just before heading to the airport) we found a spot beside a busy street and shot the video. During Luke's verse he had the idea to include a local (there were quite a few people gathering to see what we were doing). So he grabbed a guy with a cool green hat and asked him if he wanted to be in our video. This guy (and later a 2nd was added) sat on the tracks and looked at Luke while he rapped at him! Of course after we were done, the guy asked for 100 Kenya shillings (and was promptly paid)!

Moses' verse (the first verse, which is in Swahili) takes us back to the garden of Eden and the fall of man at the deception of the serpent. Since that time we have been fighting. So he roots tribal conflict in the depraved nature of man and says that we are calling on God to fix the problem. We were also happy to have Martin (D-R Gooya) join us on this song; he added a verse. BaMdogo is the "chorus guy" who sings that we are promoting, or inciting, against each other, and that if we kill each other who will be the future? We are one. Luke adds that this reconciliation comes "through God's Son" (this part of his verse becomes the outro tag, as it is said over and over in English and in Swahili; rapped and sung).

1 Tribe, 2 Tribe, 3 Tribe, 4                     
Bitterness and anger has me settling the score
4 Tribe, 3 Tribe, 2 Tribe, 1
Reconciliation through God's Son

Here is the finished version:
YouTube - One Tribe Music Video

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