The Queen’s Baton passed into Scotland early on Saturday morning, headed for the Commonwealth Games which begin in just over a month’s time in Glasgow. A symbolic handover took place at the border, when the Baton was handed from the great former decathlete, Daley Thompson, to one of Scotland’s current main hopes for the Games, the hurdler Eilidh Child, and then the Baton sped north towards Edinburgh, where it spent the day being carried around the capital, and ended up in Princes Street Gardens, against the backdrop of the imposing rock of Edinburgh Castle, where a crowd of 1,500 was gathered for a concert in honour of the occasion.
These community occasions are fabulous – they are all about celebration and joyfulness, and the music was made for moving. In particular, a South African song (written, in fact, for the Glasgow 2014 Big Big Sing by Eugene Skeef) caught the mood of the event; led by a large adult choir, it was designed to be infectious, and had the audience up and singing. The words were simple: ‘Moya wothando’ (meaning – ‘Spirit of love’), ‘Ngiti moya’ (meaning – ‘I say spirit’)’ ‘Gdumba dumba dumba’ (meaning – well, nothing other than the wonderfully round, grounded and joyful sounding ‘Gdumba dumba dumba’!). When repeated again and again, the words and tune embed themselves into the ears, mind, voice and soul of all who hear them – try listening to the last 25 seconds or so of this link, and you will have a small flavour of its catchiness.
And so the power of music demonstrates itself once again. Through the words, the discipline of the music, the movement, the togetherness, this song engendered a feeling of goodwill and happiness – and of love and harmony towards one’s fellow human being. Music has that power – and communities have that power. All too often we are told that it is naive to think that we can actually change the world for the better by what we do, think and say, but we sell ourselves short if we succumb to this view. The world is an amazing place, and when we all work, live, act and even sing together, we can create a harmony which has the potential to transcend the conflict, unhappiness, anger and cruelty which can be so prevalent.
Sing out today – reach out today – be, as Gandhi said, the change you seek in the world. And let us hope that the imminent Commonwealth Games are as amazing for the unity that they bring between nations as for their outstanding competition.