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Song Information

The information about the sources and the particular context of each song is a work in progress. These summaries, variously based on the observations of composers, writers, and/or authoritative interpreters of each song, are provided to assist in the presentation, teaching, and performance of this music. We welcome additional or corrective information to this resource, which may be sent to


There is a Balm in Gilead

The song title refers to an ancient trade item such as was carried by the caravan of merchants to whom Joseph was sold. It is likely that it is what is now known as balsam of Mecca from a tree native to southern Arabia. In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven, a character believes that the balm of Gilead can heal his broken heart from the loss of his lover’s death.

Thula Klizeo

A Zulu chant written by Joseph Shabalala on trip to New York City in 1988. He missed his home in South Africa, and with Apartheid still in effect, he did not know if he would ever be allowed to return. He said, “Be still my heart, even here I am at home.” You wouldn’t think that such a short song would have so much meaning behind it, but we’re talking a different paradigm than our paradigm of wordy hymns. The power in chants like Thula Klizeo is in the depth of the meaning, its connection to the traditions of the past and its defiance for a better tomorrow.

The song should be repeated a number of times! It should be performed a cappella with no percussion. Nick Page learned this song from Shabalala by rote, and Nick recommends teaching it by rote. It can be used in a procession as well as a dance. There are two different versions of the dance which can be found in the following sources: Sing and Shine On published by World Music Press and from Circle of Song printed by Full Circle Press. Additional information can be found at Circle of Song.

Turn the World Around

An arrangement of the classic Harry Belafonte tune, which was first performed when he appeared as the guest host of the Muppet Show in 1977. As the song was being introduced on the show, Belafonte was asked where he gets his ideas for his songs, "Well, they don't come easily, you have to get inspired. Like the song we're going to do next; I discovered that song in Africa. I was in a country called Guinea; I went deep into the interior of the country and in a little village, I met with a storyteller. And that storyteller went way back into African tradition and African mythology and began to tell the story about the fire, which means the sun, and about the water and about the earth and that he pointed out that all these things put together turn the world around. And that all of us are here for a very, very short time and in that time when we're here, there really isn't any difference in any of us if we take time out to understand each other. And the question is, do I know who you are, do you know who I am, and we care about each other? Cause if we do, together, we can turn the world around."

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Last updated on Monday, April 9, 2012.

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