Laudato Si’ songs in Nairobi

June 4, 2020

Lusungu Kumwenda, composer and singer in “Waka Waka”

The lyrics feature words sung in Latin, Italian, French, English, and Swahili. But the song from “Waka Waka” that celebrates Laudato Si’ has one unifying message: it’s time to come together and care for our common home.

Steeven Kezamutima is a lay Franciscan, the regional manager for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Franciscan Africa (JPIC-FA) in Nairobi, and the lead singer and composer of “Waka Waka.”

The Nairobi-based Catholic band is named after the Swahili word that means shining or brightness, and the band recently released two songs meant to brighten people’s days and bring encouragement to everyone around the world.

Kezamutima wrote “Laudato Si’ Celebration” to spread the message of Pope Francis’ inspiring encyclical on climate change and ecology, which calls on all people to understand that “everything is connected” and that now is the time to care for creation.

Steeven Kezamutima

“Our common home is falling apart, is on fire. Climate change is a moral and spiritual challenge,” the song goes. “Human beings, water, and trees connected. Climate change, poverty, peace and economy, connected. Your generation, our generation, connected.”

Kezamutima said he also wrote the song to help people understand that although Laudato Si’ was written by Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, the document is for all people to study and celebrate.

Members of the Waka Waka band

“People can embrace it and realize that Laudato Si’ has a simple message for everybody,” he said.

Last month, the Holy Spirit connected hundreds of thousands of Catholics on six continents during Laudato Si’ Week (16-24 May) to honor the fifth anniversary of the world-changing encyclical.

“We believe Laudato Si’ . . . can go far. People like celebrating, especially in Africa,” said Kezamutima, who is from nearby Burundi, also in East Africa.

All 10 members of the band live in Nairobi and attend the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, which recently announced its plans to divest from fossil fuels. (Kezamutima is close to finishing his master’s degree in “Justice, Peace & Cohesion.”) The university joined 41 other faith institutions in 13 other countries as part of the largest-ever joint divestment announcement from fossil fuels from faith institutions.

Read more: Faith institutions divest from fossil fuels

The band also recently lifted spirits around the world with another hopeful song: “Anti COVID-19,” which reminds people “God is in control,” even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is room for hope. Stay safe don’t be afraid. There is a God taking control,” the band sings.

Kezamutima’s sharing of Laudato Si’ isn’t limited to music, though. He spreads the good word in schools as part of his work with Laudato Si’ Generation, a network of young Catholics who organize for climate justice and to create a future that protects the most vulnerable and all creation.