Many of the pieces in our upcoming “Salute” concert are probably familiar – certainly “The Star Spangled Banner” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. But one that may be relatively unknown outside of video game circles is “Baba Yetu”. Once you hear it, though, we think you’ll agree that in addition to being inspirational, it’s also truly unforgettable.
Baba Yetu Meaning and Lyrics
“Baba Yetu” is essentially the Lord’s Prayer sung in Swahili. The title translated means “Our Father”.
The lyrics are as follows:
Baba yetu, yetu uliye
Utupe leo chakula chetu
Ufalme wako ufike utakalo
Our Father, who art
Give us this day our daily bread,
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
Video Game Origin
Unlike many orchestral and choral pieces that are either classical music or film scores, “Baba Yetu” has a unique story. Composer Christopher Tin was at his five-year Stanford University reunion where he reconnected with his former roommate Soren Johnson. Johnson told Tin that he had been working on the video game Civiliztion III at which time Tin relayed his love of the series.
A few months later, Johnson contacted Tin and told him that he was working on Civilization IV and needed music for the game’s introduction and menu area. Recalling his interest in the series, he asked if Tin wanted to help. Johnson had heard the Stanford Talisman, an a capella group at Stanford, sing traditional African music and wanted something similar. Tin composed “Baba Yetu” in 2005 and recorded it with Stanford Talisman for the game.
Tin re-recorded the piece for his first solo classical crossover album titled Calling All Dawns in 2009, recruiting the talent of the Soweto Gospel Choir for vocals.
Grammy Award Winning
“Baba Yetu” received a lot of critical praise, including from over 20 reviewers from major video game publications like IGN and GameSpy. It was also particularly memorable for fans of Civilization IV because of its combination of an inspirational and majestic theme with African percussion and rhythm.
In 2011, it won a Grammy Award which not only made it the first video game theme nominated, but also the first piece of music composed for a game to win. It also won at the Independent Music Awards and the 2006 Game Audio Network Guild Awards.
Today, the piece is frequently performed at Video Games Live concerts and has even made appearances at venues like Carnegie Hall, The Dubai Fountain, the Kennedy Center, The Hollywood Bowl, and America’s Got Talent.
Below are a couple of popular recordings from YouTube so you can hear this amazing piece yourself. To hear it live, be sure to join us on October 26 at 7:30 PM at the PACE Center for “Salute”.
Christopher Tin – Baba Yetu Official Music Video
Alex Boyé, BYU Men’s Choir – Baba Yetu
America’s Got Talent – Baba Yetu performed by the Angel City Chorale