Sunday, July 22, 2007
HAS MARCOS WITT SOUNDED THE DEATH KNELL FOR TRADITIONAL HYMNODY?
WHO IS MARCOS WITT?
The explosion of contemporary evangelicalism in Latin America would not have been possible without the music and songs of Marcos Witt. He is by and large the most sucessful modern & urban Spanish speaking singer -songwriter in the evangelical Christian world. Marco Barrientos, Danilo Montero, Jesus Adrian Romero etc.. are the other big names whose songs are also flooding Christian churches. Their CDs are marketted aggressively and bought by musicians immediately when released.
An Anglican bishop once said that Witt's songs are the reason for the demise of Spanish hymnody. There is some truth in this assertion. Marcos Witt's songs and choruses are never far from the lips of an evangelical latin christian. His tunes are catchy and the lyrics are easy to remember. Most of his songs, although latin in spirit, sounds like stuff fabricated in the States. This is not surprising because he is based in the US and Mexico. He certainly may not have intentionally wanted to curtail or extinguish the use of hymns or the more rural & pastoral latin sounding songs/ hymns but the popularity and the constant use of his music in urban churches has not helped to bring about a greater diversity of local home made spanish devotional music and songs.
A POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION
His music resonates with the younger generation and in some churches totally dominate the average Sunday service. A new generation of christians have emerged in Latin America without any knowledge of songs or hymns except for the ones composed and sung by Marcos Witt and composers like him. Traditionalists and purists, if they've not passed away, shake their heads in disdain.
We use his songs and choruses during our services in Santa Cruz Bolivia because they move the heart and get the folk excited. We use what is available and most of his stuff is easily accessible. Some of his songs are gilt-edged classics. My favorite is Jesus Christ Is The Reason For My Song (Jesucristo Es El Motivo De Mi Cancion). The theology of the lyrics of this particular song is rich and the tune in some parts is not unlike some of the hymns from the past.
In conclusion, its hard to minimize the impact of Marcos Witt on contemporary urban latin american evangelicalism. My assessment of his ministry is, on the whole, positive. And perhaps he could revive, with some contemporary tunes, some of the old hymns.