Music Monday - Share the Well

It is Sunday morning in Lucknow, India. Two young sisters huddle near a well, each clutching an empty clay cup. There on the dusty ground they wait, thirsty, as morning gives way to the heat of late afternoon. Throughout the day, hundreds approach the well to fill their pots as the two children watch, holding their cups. Soon it becomes dark and still they are waiting…waiting for someone to share the well.

Folk-rock group Caedmon's Call has always had a heart for corners of the world such as this. Throughout their incredible twelve-year history, they've focused much of their ministry toward global causes, working to benefit such aid-giving organizations as Compassion International and India's Peace Gospel Ministries since the mid-nineties. In years past, band members have traveled to Bolivia, Ecuador, and Haiti, where they witnessed faith behind the eyes of poverty-stricken people and were changed.

Today, the group has followed this calling beyond their musical borders too, creating Share the Well, a culturally-influenced album they began while traveling to India, Ecuador, and Brazil in spring 2004.

In early 2003, lead vocalist Cliff Young met leaders from Dalit Freedom Network, a ministry to the severely demoralized Indian population called Dalits (meaning "oppressed"). Through their conversation, he discovered staggering facts about the Dalit people that he shared with the rest of the band. Victims of the caste system, Dalits are deemed the lowest class in India, referred to as the "untouchables," by their lack of worthiness. Stripped of their most basic human rights, they are forced into extreme poverty, treated as animals---tortured, beaten, and removed of their dignity, with no real hope of ever rising beyond their circumstances. Staggeringly, the 250 million Dalits in India exceeds the entire US population.

Soon after that meeting, Caedmon's Call began planning for a recording that infuses multi-cultural sounds and stories. With the help of Compassion and Dalit Freedom Network, they scheduled trips to meet the Dalits and others whose plights inspired them. The band also decided to title their project Share the Well when they learned that Dalits (many whom they met while traveling through rural India,) are not permitted to drink from wells unless an upper caste person draws the water for them. Many Dalits wait all day and are never given a drink. For the band, this reality came as a metaphor to those thirsting for hope and a savior. The title track's lyrics echo the group's resulting vision for the album:

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well my friend.

While journeying to some of the most deprived parts of India, Ecuador and Brazil, Caedmon's Call awoke to even more harsh realities. They encountered people living next to vast sewage dumps. They performed songs and puppet shows for village children, most who lived in huts with dirt floors. They met eager musicians who traveled for as long as three days in trains, standing up the entire trip, to come play for the band.

"We recorded their music every place from a remote village in the middle of India to a room above a restaurant in Ecuador," remembers drummer Todd Bragg. "We would hear musicians that came to play their songs for us and in the process we would hear their stories."

Share the Well came from the band's personal desire to impact other cultures, but spreading awareness to their audience is another goal. A nationwide fall tour reunites the band with musicians from India, Brazil, and Ecuador, who will climb aboard tour buses along with the band. Fans will not only enjoy an unprecedented concert of ethnically-rich music, they'll hear personal accounts of life in a third-world country. And hopefully, they'll be inspired to get involved.

I have favorite artists, and favorite songs, but this is by far my favorite album. The songs make me laugh, weep, they make me want to dance, sing, worship. This is a definite recommend for anyone, as the variety of sounds and honest messages will appeal to most tastes. Listen to samples of the album here. Volcanoland, Wings of the Morning, and the title track can also be found on YouTube. But go buy the album, you won't be disappointed! :)

The track that always moves me most on the album is "All I Need," a simple folk song about the strong faith of a poor Ecuadorian woman. She feels the presence and peace of God despite her circumstances.

Tiny plot of land
Corn stored up in piles
Years it doesn't rain
They just stay hungry for a while
No fatted calf to kill
She made a feast of cuy and corn
She said, "Who else knew my name
Before the day that I was born?
Jesus is all I need
Jesus is all I need."

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