Shiggaion!

B.B. King All Star Drummerpraise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
Psalm 150:5 (NIV)

When Wendy and I were on our cruise we had the pleasure of being entertained nightly by the B.B. King All-Stars, an amazing group of Memphis based musicians. One night late in the week the band gave the vocalists a break and played a jazz set. They jammed on one tune that continued to build and build in intensity as each musician took solo turns. Towards the end of the song as things reached a fevered pitch, the drummer took off on a frenzied drum solo. I’ve seen, known and played with many drummers in my life. I have never seen anything quite like we witnessed that night. Cymbals crashed, sticks splintered and shattered as he beat the drums, threw caution to the wind, and lost himself in wild abandon. By the end of the song, he’d broken the snare drum.

In the introductory liner notes of some of the psalms you’ll see the Hebrew word shiggaion. No one knows for certain what the ancient musical term means, but the transliteration hints at a word picture of someone reeling as if intoxicated. Scholars suggest that these psalms were raucous songs intended for people to worship with the same loud, ecstatic, wild abandon Wendy and I witnessed in the musicians and drummer.

Wise King Solomon wrote that there is a time for everything under the sun. Certainly, there is a time for thoughtful, respectful quiet worship music. One of the most important lessons I’ve taken from the psalms is that there is also a time for shiggaion.

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