A few years ago, my then drummer Samson Tan said to me “it’s about time the church started singing Asian worship songs”. I had previously listened to albums by City Harvest Church and New Creation Church, but never really taken to them. But since Sam suggested it, I thought I’d indulge him and we started introducing the song “God of My Forever” (by CHC) to the band and then to the church.
It has since become one of my favourite songs.
Songs that have come out of the church in Singapore bear a different quality to mainstream worship music.
On the one hand, the lyrical style is a bit less developed. For example, the lyrical content of many of New Creation’s songs tends to be reflective of the preaching of the church so that at times, in an attempt fit some of Joseph Prince’s great phrases – which sound great spoken – the lyrics appear really clumsy (like one of the songs that has the rather unpoetic words “irrevocably saved” in it).
But there are two important distinctives of the Singaporean worship song. First, the melodic quality. Whereas a lot of mainstream worship has embraced grunge and hip-hop, driven by rhythm and atmospherics, the songs of New Creation and City Harvest hearken back to the old days when worship songs had soaring melodies which sounded great even when with a simple accompaniment. In other words, the songs stand on their own without the need for much musical embellishment The same can’t necessarily be said of some of the newer songs from Hillsongs.
The other distinctive is the engagement of “spirit”. I can’t really adequately describe this quality, but there is a spirit-driven spontaneous element within a lot of the Asian songs that goes beyond a mere performance of the song.
In days to come, as the poetry and lyricism become more refined, I believe that Asian worship will truly rival some of the mainstream offerings in the worship market.
Until then, here are three of my favourites:
God of My Forever
Come Holy Spirit
I See Grace
Come Holy Spirit was in fact significant for me because in 2007, we ministered to a church in Sapporo and realised that this song was being sung in Japan. For us, it was a much needed prophetic invocation of the power of the Spirit on the worship in Japan, to move beyond sung truth towards spirit and experience.
I hope you guys enjoy these!