This is story of how a Christian prayer became the main sound track in a video game and then went to be awarded the Grammy amongst several other awards. This is the story of the song Baba Yetu…
Unlike movies, games have to create an immersive experience and every pixel and every beat has to be in sync. Game creators and their musicians literally create worlds, where gamers can start and lead a glitch-free and seamless second-life.
Game production companies probably innovate the newer concepts faster than any other in content creation industry. While they are always challenged to create something unique, they are also challenged to create easy-to-learn-and-adapt game play and content. And very few turn successful and go on to become a series. Among those few is the series Civilization, having sold more 35 million copies worldwide, who have launched the latest 2016 title Civilization VI.
Making the song Baba Yetu, and the award
In 2005, Christopher Tin was approached by his former roommate Soren Johnson to compose a theme song for the game he was working on. Sid Meier was the most popular name in the gaming circles as one of the pioneers in strategy games like Transport Tycoon, Alpha Centauri, etc. Soren was working on the fourth title in the Sid Meier’s series, Civilization. It would have been difficult to ignore such an opportunity, and even more difficult to compose a score worthy of the Civilization world.
Civilization is an immersive strategy game that takes long hours of game play where the player builds empires through the history of mankind.
Tin did what geniuses do best – create an unfathomable association of two of the most important voices from the history of mankind.
Tin chose the single most important Christian prayer Our Father in Heaven, otherwise known as the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer that was associated with the rise and fall of empires and the globalisation of the world. There are many renditions of the Lord’s prayer in music form, but Tin’s version was unique. He translated and sung the prayer in Swahili. The old, primal African music and language, and the effect just screams the cradle of life and origin of mankind. There could not have been a better way to represent Civilization IV.
Here’s the song and the official trailer from Christopher Tin’s YouTube channel,
Awards and Accolades
Pure genius always attracts appreciation. For the first time ever, in 2010, a music score from a computer game was nominated and awarded the Grammy in 2011 for the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist. Baba Yetu also won Tin a couple more awards, later.
The song became increasingly popular and several musicians and gospel singers have been inspired by the composition. The videos they have made have all collected thousands of YouTube viewers, commenting on how much the original Baba Yetu has moved them.
One of the grandest accolades to Christopher Tin came from an unexpected place; the last place one would expect to hear a Christian prayer in Swahili – Dubai. The famous fountain in Dubai is choreographed to few select songs, and the most popular of them is Baba Yetu.
I’m not usually one to dwell on the life I’ve lived or the career I’ve had, but this… this was something special. Standing there by the water’s edge, surrounded by hundreds of people, the music blasting on the loudspeakers and feeling the spray wash over me… I couldn’t help but be a little proud of myself at that moment.