July 9, 2009 – First African Choir in the Divine Presence

Thank you Latin America. Thank you Asia. Welcome Africa! That was July 9 at Prashanthi Nilayam. After a moving performance by the Brazilians and the Indonesians on the previous day, a group from Nigeria occupied the centre stage waiting for the arrival of the Lord. There was something else in the eastern end of Sai Kulwant Hall that awaited the Lord - a model of the Trimbakeshwar temple which is located at Nasik. In fact, at about 12:30 p.m., Swami had made a brief visit to the Sai Kulwant Hall and had seen the model from far. The model is part of the series of models to be made for the programmes leading up to the 85th birthday celebrations with the view of discovering the route to Bharatiya roots!

Shortly after 5:00 p.m., Swami arrived for darshan. Moving through the ladies side, He halted briefly in the centre of the hall. Seeing the 45 members of the Sai Africans Adults Choir, which consisted of the natives of Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, Swami moved to the gents’ side. He moved towards the 'model' temple and sat seeing it for a while. It looked magnificent with the lighting and Swami asked about it from the Maharashtra state co-ordinators.

Coming via the students' area to the centre, Swami seemed to be taking the guard of honour as He moved along the lines of the Africans. One woman held a letter and Swami, seeing it, seemed to be "moved" towards her as He accepted it! Just seeing them, Swami seemed so very happy. The Africans are a blessed people as theirs is the only place that Swami has visited out of India. And now, they had come to their Lord. The Primary school children seemed to be beneficiaries of Swami's joy as He had a look at all their cards and accepted their letters! And then coming onto the stage, Swami asked for the programme to begin at 5:30 p.m.

The stalwart from the African continent, Mr. Victor Krishna Kanu arrived on the wheel chair. He rose and moving to Swami offered a rose. Swami's face blossomed into a smile and He blessed the great yet humble soul, His Instrument in Africa, so lovingly with many a pat. Mr. Victor Krishna Kanu gave an introductory speech, mentioning the African history of struggle and the ever growing Sai Mission in Africa. He thanked many a hand that helped in making the choir a reality. Before the conclusion, he introduced, Bro. Okwudiri Nduka Imo, Chairman National Coordinating Committee, SSSSO, Nigeria and Sir Jude Nnam, the Conductor for the show, to Bhagawan (in the formal sense of course!) and to the capacity audience.

The group of forty five members was led by Sir Jude Nnam, the first young man to be knighted from the Roman Catholic Church. He was trained at the Trinity College of Music, London and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He had the rare distinction of directing the “Papal Choir” during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Nigeria in 1998 and was also the recipient of second prize, for the Choir from Nigeria, in the Music World Catholic Festival held in Rome. He has over 1000 musical master pieces to his credit.

Starting off their presentations with the Omkara, the troupe sang nine songs- three thanks giving songs from north, west and east Nigeria, in Hausa, Yoruba and lgbo languages respectively, two love offering songs from Congo and Ghana, primarily on Lord Jesus, a communion song from South Africa and a song on the Holy Spirit from Zaire. A variety of African instruments too were on musical display - the Bass Pot (udu), Wooden Gong (ekwr), Small Wooden Gong (okpokovo), Tambourine (Shaker), Talking Drum-Small (gangan) and the Big Drum (Igba).
The beauty of the performance was the involvement - both of the performers and of Swami! They swayed and moved their bodies to the rhythm and there were smiles galore on the Divine face! Interspersed were also two popular Sai bhajans, "Ananda Ram Ananda Shyam" and "Guru Baba Guru Baba".

Towards the end, Swami asked to be seated on the ladies side of the stage! This was done, much to the thrill of the African ladies who were singing the songs! After a short while, Swami moved to the interview room to probably personally select gifts of Love for these devotees who had pleased Him so much! As He came out of the interview room, the doctors from the Super Speciality Hospital surrounded Him and invited Him to the two-day international conference in Orthopaedics.

Swami seemed to agree to their wishes and moved to the stage. Sitting on the stage, Swami asked for the two colours of sarees -pink and white with green - that He had picked. It appeared as if He felt that both were good and was unable to choose as to which one to present! What did He do next? Something that was so cute and lovely! He held out both the sarees and asked Mrs. Kanu, "Which one is better?......this one?...or....this one?" Amidst the joy that was enveloping all, she moved to the stage and selected the white and green saree! Swami then gave the sarees to her to gift them to the women. For the men, Swami had white Safari pieces distributed by the students.

Swami then moved down the stage to Sir Jude and asked him whether he would accept a gift. He materialized a beautiful golden ring. Sir Jude held out his hands to receive the ring but Swami told him that He would put it on his finger. The ring slid in and was a perfect fit! He then told him, "One more song". Rare indeed are the times when the Lord asks for something. And whenever He asks also, we can be assured that it is for Love alone in one of its various forms.

When Swami asked so, the song that began was in English – “Great Navigator Oh! Sai Baba! Navigate us through this path of life." In answer to this, Swami navigated up and down the rows of the singing devotees! It was such a beautiful sight. As they completed it, He asked for one more! Wow! Everyone was thrilled and happy. Swami again moved through the lines of the singers.

Swami now asked for the photo frames with the digital clocks inbuilt to be brought. He showed how it works to Sir Jude and gifted it to him as he bent down with "thank you" on his lips. Swami told him, "Your mind keeps wandering here and there. Keep it in check." He seemed surprised and he again nodded, "Thank you." Then Swami began to distribute the frames to each and every one of them. He told some of them that batteries had to be put and then they would start working. He spoke a few sentences to many of them. Some He advised not to fight and to some others he gave guidance without even being told the problem! It was indeed a divine revelatory session.

Finishing the distribution on the gents’ side, Swami did the same on the ladies’ side too! Many of the ladies broke down in sheer joy! It is really strange with the Lord! When He neglects you, you cry. When He gives attention to you, you cry too! An old lady on the wheel chair was brought up to Him and He presented her too with a frame. She too was in tears. Completing the distribution, Swami posed with them for a wonderful group photo.

Everyone stretched out their hands to hold Swami. Swami called Sir Jude to be seated right in the front. Meanwhile, the photo of Swami presenting the ring to Sir Jude was given to Him and He gave it to Sir Jude with a smile! Swami then moved to the stage and blessed prasadam to be distributed. Receiving aarti and profusely blessing the troupe, Swami retired for the day.

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