the voice that dares not sing its name

when i was a child in germany, everyone was singing, all the time. you sang while doing the dishes, at church, with others just for fun, everywhere. waiting at the bus stop, i’d while away the time singing.

paraguay wasn’t much different. my singing repertoire was enhanced by beautiful songs in the native language, accompanied by the paraguayan harp, a small, robust version of the celtic harp. with paraguay right beside argentina, i also fell in love with the milongas, tangos and chacareras of the argentinian pampa, sung by amazing artists like atahualpa yupanqui and mercedes sosa.

in chile, my life was enriched by learning songs like gracias a la vida by violeta parra and many others, all of them passionate singer-songwriters, artists and political activists.

and then i came to canada.

for the first time in my life, i was introduced to the idea of singing in the shower. apparently, that was the only place one was allowed to sing unless one was joni mitchell or luciano pavarotti.

someone sings in the car or hums while puttering around and i hear, “keep it down!”

i was and still am shocked at that. one of the songs i grew up with says, “in a house with song, the devil finds no foothold.”

we all have a voice. we can all make sounds: loud sounds, quiet ones, hissy ones, hummy ones, we can pitch our voice high, “peep”, we can go low, “growl”. our voices can do all that.

ergo, we can all sing.

what a way to stifle a life by saying, “no, you’re not allowed to sing. i don’t like your voice. you’re out of tune. you don’t sound like anne murray.”

when that happens, it’s not just our singing voice that is silenced (and that’s bad enough). our other voice, the “this-is-who-i-am-and-i-rejoice-in-it” voice, hears the message as well and starts doubting itself. maybe i shouldn’t say this? maybe i shouldn’t say that?

the voice that dares not sing its name is the same voice that still needs to heed marianne williamson’s famous call:

our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
it is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
we ask ourselves, who am i to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
actually, who are you not to be?
you are a child of god.
your playing small does not serve the world.
there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
we are all meant to shine, as children do.
we were born to make manifest the glory of god that is within us.
it’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

(image by kristina mayyy)


  1. Isabella,

    I’d say that the spontaneous expressive nature of latin american cultures is what most sets us apart from north America and Europe.

    Singing is such a therapeutic activity… I can’t believe it’s stigmatized so much in some parts of the world.

    Vitor – The Fractal Forest’s last blog post..More Colors

  2. I sang a lot as a child, specially with Cri cri songs, I played I was a singer and danced with my voice and my music untill I realized I sing out of tune, when singing became a serious issue at school, I stop singing.
    I don’t sing much now, but singing is always a resourse when I want to express my hapiness or when I feel blue and need to cheer up.

  3. thanks, @alexander. yes! a joyful noise! makes me think of the wonderful noise of children playing …

    yes, @vitor, that is one of the things i really miss about latin america. the value of music and poetry is seen so much more clearly there.

    @nayeli, now you have me curious: what are cri cri songs?

  4. @nayeli, thanks for emailing me about cri-cri. it turns out cri-cri is an important mexican children’s music composer and performer. lovely lyrics and music. unfortunately i couldn’t find the actual cri-cri music (cri-cri is a cricket) but enjoyed the one about the frog. very tango-ish. here’s a link for any of you who are interested:

  5. I am surprised too that you can’t really express yourself singing in public in some countries.
    That’s like suppressing your right of expression.

  6. hi solar lights (do you have a name?)

    i guess it’s not so much the country, it’s more the culture. and of course you can sing, it’s just frowned upon more often than i think is healthy.

  7. I never realized how beautiful spontaneous singing is until I met my wife. She had 15 years of classical voice training, and though she doesnt sing professionally, her singing never fails to bring me joy.

  8. I grew up with folk music, sing songs happend all the time… we sang our country song every morning at camp we sang to sunrise and sundown. It was the 60’s everyone had a song to sing… and the tune was
    If you want to sing out sing out… and if you want to be free be free…

    So many people say.. my voice sucks… I try to show them it doesn’t but years of being afraid or told to be quiet has stifled them….

    lets bring back the sing song…
    lets sing a round 🙂
    we all have a voice to add to the symphony
    .-= LunaJune´s last blog ..Accepting Love =-.

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