A few years ago, I produced Annie Karto‘s CD, “Refuge,” which featured Annie’s “Song For Immaculee.” This song was inspired by Immaculee Ilibagiza‘s incredible book, “Left to Tell.” Annie has since become friends with Immaculee and there is a VIDEO of Annie singing her song live, with Immaculee in the audience. The emotional hug at the end of the video is a very touching moment. Because of this new friendship, I had the honor of meeting Immaculee and also producing a new CD for her as well. The CD is called “Let Your Will Be Done” and I am very proud to add this title to my Discography. Reading Immaculee’s remarkable story is life changing in her books “Left To Tell” and also “Led By Faith.” These books should be required reading for the entire world!
Immaculee, who loves to sing, liked the work I did on Annie’s ‘Refuge” CD and asked me to help her create this special new CD. Her 12 minute song, “Let Your Will Be Done” is a very simple, but beautiful song. Since it is supposed to be a meditation, it repeats the same verse and chorus melody many times. My concept was to have the musical arrangement gradually develop over the length of the song to keep it building and interesting throughout. First, I created a basic track with music for one verse and one chorus. Among other things, I used some sounds from Spectrasonics‘ “Heart of Africa” sample CDs, Volume 1 & Volume 2, and also “Symphony of Voices.”
Immaculee came to my studio and sang all of her many verses and a couple of choruses over my basic track. It was interesting recording her. Here in my studio, singing into my microphone was the inspiring woman from those life changing books I read. Immaculee miraculously survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide by hiding in a tiny bathroom for 91 days with 7 other women, and now tells her amazing story to large audiences all over the world. But I tried not to think about all of that. Like on all vocal recording sessions, I was focused on making sure her performance was the best it could be – in tune, in time and with clear, understandable English, making the most of her beautiful Rwandan accent and rich singing tone.
The next step for me, on another day, was to edit Immaculee’s singing and create a developing music arrangement that was emotional, inspiring and interesting to listen to over the course of 12 minutes! I did this by slowly building up the instrumentation and singing and then starting over again small and building it up again. To do this I arranged a piano part that starts the song and gradually added in elements from my previously created basic track and adding some new sounds as well. Immaculee asked me to include some type of “high pitched” instrument. I showed her some of the instruments I had and she seemed to like everything! I decided to use my soprano saxophone and this instrument became a very important and featured element in the arrangement, especially during the interludes in between sung sections and at the end where the chorus repeats numerous times. I improvised melodies on the soprano saxophone throughout much of the song. During some of the interludes I used Gregorian Chant samples (from “Symphony of Voices”) of men singing “Amen.” I thought that was not only a beautiful and lyrical musical addition but it was also fitting to sing “Amen” in response to all of Immaculee’s simple but profound lyrics. To build up the arrangement some more I sang along with Immaculee on later choruses and sang in harmony with some of her phrases in the later verses.
This was a fun project for me. I don’t think I ever featured my soprano saxophone as much as I did on this recording. And I almost never sing! I love incorporating world music elements in my arrangements and this was a perfect opportunity to use some of my African sounds. When I finished recording and mixing the song, Immaculee’s only comment in an email was, “I love it.”
Immaculee mentioned recording an album of Rwandan music sometime in the future, and I hope that I get to do that with her as it was a great experience for me to work with her on this CD. Wayne Dyer, in his foreword to Immaculee’s NY Times bestseller,”Left to Tell,” wrote: “Her story will touch you deeply.” That is most certainly true. On this CD, there are 3 tracks. Immaculee first tells her story and how her song came to be. Then there is the song, and then there is a meditation prayer. The story and the meditation have an instrumental version of the song playing in the background. Unlike my earlier blogs (scroll down) that describe the 12 recordings on my SoundCloud Playlist, there is no recording of this song for me to share other than the 30 second sample on Immaculee’s website store. I would encourage you to buy this CD in order to hear it. A portion of the profits are donated to charities that are close to Immaculée’s heart, including the Left To Tell Charitable Fund.
For more info about Immaculee please visit her website: Immaculee Ilibagiza