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Freedom is coming

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Freedom is coming

Oh Freedom,
Oh Freedom,
Oh Freedom,
Freedom is coming, oh yes I know!

Oh Jesus,
Oh Jesus,
Oh Jesus,
Jesus is coming, oh yes I know!

Lyrics: Trad. South Africa / Anders Nyberg

Comment: This little song is one of the big one’s in my life.

Not because it has been given wings and spread all over, but because it has carried with it a promise always to be fulfilled – Oh, yes I know! At the same time, the freedom it's promised is never fully realized, except maybe for when I sing it…

The wonderful paradox is that regardless of the oppression, squalor or chaos that surrounds us, when we sing it we can taste its promise of freedom. We live it, we are free! Always there, never there…

I heard it the first time in Kimberley, South Africa. It was one of the favourites with the youth there in the early 80’s. But then, of course, we sang “Jesus is coming, Oh Yes I know.”

On the score sample above I have endeavored for the first time to put my name on the lyric credit-line. Not that it matters. And it is only one obvious word that anyone could have suggested anyway. But I still remember so clearly the surprised faces when I suggested to sing “Freedom is coming” for the youth in Kimberley in 1981. They did not warm to it. At that time it was still regarded as too political, too hot to handle for a church context. Only a few years later, when the oppression had taken a few more turns for the worse, and the resolve of the inevitable resistance had gotten even stronger could songs like this be heard in and around the churches.

But well back home in Sweden it worked - and both ways. In the churches we sang “Freedom is coming”, helping to bring awareness of the political context and a realization that politically motivated thought and action was imperative. Faith as if politics mattered. And at the political meetings we slipped in, maybe not always as boldly but still, a “Jesus is coming”. Politics as if eschatology mattered.

But man, did we ever sing this one… Every single concert we ended with it, often dancing down church aisles singing the people out through the portals. My memory is that I often did not stop until the church-warden stood there in a dark church, key in hand, wanting to go home.

From the beginning it was all about the liberation of South-Africa. But seeing all these happy Swedes dancing away to the music I realized this was liberation music for the North as well. And that gave new fuel to the furnace. Until I finally realized, by the time Mandela strode out of jail, fist in the air, that no, this song was primarily neither for them nor us, it was for me… I had sung for my own liberation all the time, without knowing it. And the joy of the miraculous liberation of South-Africa became one with a joy of the liberation of self...

There are lots of recordings of "Freedom is coming" on Youtube. Of all kinds, and I like most of them. But I got a bit disturbed when there was a persistent version occurring with a jerky soprano rhythm in the first phrase, until I discovered - with a blush - that they are actually singing the way I notated it... I have however made amends in the notation above...
Well, I guess it goes to show what I always said; don't take the scores to literary, listen rather to the recording or better still, to your heart. And obviously most choirs and songgroups have done that.
Here's a group that definitely has done that, and I like it:

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