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Religions 2017, 8(11), 249; doi:10.3390/rel8110249

The Untidy Playground: An Irish Congolese Case Study in Sonic Encounters with the Sacred Stranger

Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Castletroy, V94 T9PX Limerick, Ireland
Received: 12 October 2017 / Revised: 8 November 2017 / Accepted: 8 November 2017 / Published: 15 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music: Its Theologies and Spiritualities—A Global Perspective)
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This paper explores the proposal that music, and particularly singing, has unique properties that render it amenable to encounters with “the other” or the sacred stranger. Drawing on the deconstructionist works of Kristeva and Derrida, as well as the postmodern hermeneutics of Kearney and Caputo, it explores current debate concerning the nature of “the sacred” in contemporary life and the erosion of the theistic/atheistic divide, while proposing a deepening of the debate through the inclusion of the performative. As philosophical and theological discourses embrace this aporia, it does so against the backdrop of unprecedented human migration. The concomitant cultural and social disruption throws up new questions around the nature and experience of religion, spirituality and the sacred. This paper explores these questions in the context of a Congolese choir called Elikya, which was established by a group of asylum seekers in Limerick city, Ireland, in 2001. In tracking the musical life of this choir over the last decade and a half, including two musical recordings and numerous liturgical, religious and secular performances, it suggests that the sonic world of the choir both performs and transcends these descriptors. Using a three-fold model of context, content and intent, the paper concludes that musical experiences such as those created by Elikya erode any easy divisions between the religious and the secular or the liturgical and the non-liturgical and provide sonic opportunities to encounter the sacred stranger in the untidy playground of creative chaos. View Full-Text
Keywords: music; singing; migration; asylum-seeker; refugee; the sacred; creativity; sonority; Ireland; the Congo music; singing; migration; asylum-seeker; refugee; the sacred; creativity; sonority; Ireland; the Congo

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Phelan, H. The Untidy Playground: An Irish Congolese Case Study in Sonic Encounters with the Sacred Stranger. Religions 2017, 8, 249.

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