I almost didn’t turn up on that Tuesday night, I mean I don’t even hum and I certainly can’t sing. I had seen those choirs on TV, in films and even in church – you know, the ones that belt out stuff that ordinary people can’t do. My occasional bursts of joy that sound like songs only make sense to me, with my friends and family begging me “please stop” with laughter or pained looks. So what was I doing thinking about accepting Shilpa’s invitation to a women’s singing group? I had stressed to her that I can’t sing, she had simply said that doesn’t matter. I didn’t really believe that and whilst I can take my siblings laughing at my singing, could I take the public humiliation? So I did the thing I could think of ….. I googled ‘How do I know that I can sing?’
I wasn’t filled with much hope by the search results, so I read her blog and I was touched her work being rooted in community development (something I understood), that she also grew up believing she couldn’t sing and that our ideas of what singing is are based on TV shows and concerts. I reflected on my time in Kenya with some school kids, who found it strange that I would even say I can’t sing, with giggles they would say “everyone can sing and dance!” Then they would proceed to teach me how to sing and dance, some of the best times in my life.
With that I got the courage and decided I was going to go and hell I felt nervous. I found a group of women sitting in a circle with friendly welcoming smiles. I didn’t know the songs, they sounded hard and I had no idea what words like ‘high note’ or ‘harmony’ meant, it was bringing out self doubt. I must have joined on the perfect day because the whole group was going through a bit of a wobble with the song, timid and not going for it, Shilpa stopped, asked us to tapped our shoulders and told us to “dust it off”, move on, let go, don’t care. I was grateful for this, no expectation of perfection or performance, just voice and seeking of joy. I don’t even remember the songs we sung that day, I just remember those words. With those words, I felt OK about being part of a singing group, I felt OK about my voice and I trusted the diverse range of women to carry me and each other. I kept going and twelve months later, I am still going.