Thursday, September 11, 2008

Musical surprise for Zaqatala

Life is surprising. The beauty of clouds drifting over a mountain can surprise me. The question asked by a student may surprise me. The peripatetic Christian rock band that plays a set in front of the Zaqatala Culture Hall can surprise me.

This band was playing yesterday evening in the main square as I was hurrying to get some materials translated. Otherwise, I would have lingered, not so much to listen to the music to observe the interaction between the musicians and the singers. And there was an audience. You can see from the photo above. They appeared to be listening politely, interested if unmoved. The lyrics concerned the resurrection of Jesus, God’s love, and similar nice sentiments. OK. I didn’t stop to listen for more than a minute, so I’m not completely certain of this – but these subjects are pretty much the standard fare of Christian rock.

The visitors didn’t seem to be bad musicians. A black woman in a flowing skirt was dancing around the stage as the musicians played. This must have seemed very exotic also for the locals. A few Chinese merchants sell plastic toys door to door, and ethnic minorities like Georgians and Avars have lived in this area for centuries. But I doubt the region is often visited by African-Americans.

I heard from a Peace Corps volunteer that the band had played earlier in the day in a small city down the road. I’m not sure where they were headed next. I’m sorry that I didn’t have more time to spend in square, to talk with the audience and the musicians. I would be interested in the visitors' impressions of Zaqatala. I know there is some evangelizing that occurs in this area, and it is in general met with official hostility. Not long ago, a pastor in this area was charged with gun possession, a charge that supporters said had been entirely fabricated.