Hymnal: Sound the bamboo, CCA Hymnal

I-to Loh, general editor. Manila; The Christian Conference of Asia and The Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music, 1990. 280 hymns, 442 pp.

Sound the Bamboo is the trial edition of the new hymnal of The Christian Conference of Asia (formerly the East Asia Christian Conference). It is to be the successor to the 1963 EACC Hymnal, prepared by D.T. Niles, which was internationally respected, especially in Western ecumenical circles, but which has had little impact on the worship of local Asian congregations.

The majority of the hymns in Sound the Bamboo come from the "grass roots" of Asian churches in China, Taiwan, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and so on. Many of the hymn texts are given in the hymn's native tongue as well as in English. The editors admit there are "gaps" in this uneven trial collection (e.g., there are few hymns about the Holy Spirit), complain that many lyrics still only rework the teachings of foreign missionaries, and challenge Asians to produce "texts of great power and honesty."

If the editors are not fully satisfied with the texts, they can be justly proud of the music in Sound the Bamboo. Admittedly going against the tide of Westernization, this hymnal offers many indigenous Asian tunes, Asian harmonizations, and Asian modes of song forms and performance practice. Some Western music styles are also present. Various symbols indicate essential modifications to the Western notation in this hymnal. I-to Loh suggests the use of flute, lute, and/or drum as the preferred accompaniment instruments (not organ or piano!), or tabla drums and drone instruments for hymns from the Indian subcontinent.

In addition to the copyright acknowledgments and First Lines Index (in English only!), there are indices for Topics, Biblical References, Authors, Composers, Tune Names, and Countries & Languages. A novel feature of this hymnal is its Melodic Index.

This trial version of Sound the Bamboo is intended to be used by Asiatic congregations in the Orient and in the West, by other Christians (probably somewhat selectively), and, one would hope, by Western hymnal committees and in ecumenical gatherings.

Bert Polman was a hymnologist, professor and chair of the music department at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He passed away in July 2013. 

Reformed Worship 28 © June 1993, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.