School of Music


Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology (MA)


Katherine Morehouse


Bolivian Music, Bolivian Worship, Ethnodoxology, Music in La Paz, Christian Music in Bolivia


Ethnomusicology | Liturgy and Worship | Music


When the members of a church in La Paz participated in a songwriting and arranging workshop, along with corresponding research into perspectives on local music used in worship, the results were mixed. An analysis of the songs used in the church’s worship shows a predominance of imported, predominantly Western or Western-styled songs. Similarly, observations of worship events in the church do not incorporate any local rhythms or instruments, even though there are musicians in the church who are skilled in Bolivian styles of music. While there is an interest by musicians and leadership in the church for locally written worship songs, many members in the church relate local styles of Bolivian music to activities and lifestyles that are considered “sinful.” Some also see imported worship music as more worshipful, because it does not have the social lifestyle and indigenous associations. The songwriting and arranging workshop, which took place over several days, demonstrated a few things. First, it showed that there is little to no interest in arranging existing worship songs in local Bolivian styles of music, or with local instruments. Second, there needed to be more thorough and lengthy instruction for the entire congregation on the theology of worship and how it can be applied to cultural music expressions, without the association of the music being considered “sinful.” Finally, the participants in the songwriting workshop needed to be instructed on the characteristics own local music styles, as well as time to explore those styles in their worship songwriting. Even though one of the songs written was in the tinku rhythm and was performed using local instruments, such as the charango and zampoña, a combination of the workshop results, surveys, and interviews suggest that the issue of incorporating local music styles into this church in La Paz is complex and requires continued research and conversations with local church members. An analysis of worship observations, a survey, interviews, and the results of the songwriting workshops indicates that while some leaders and congregation members have a desire to see local music incorporated into their church worship, there is also a hesitancy by others to do so because Bolivian music is perceived to be less worshipful than imported worship songs. Ultimately, this project demonstrates a need for further encouragement and equipping for locally composed songs in Bolivia, as a demonstration of God’s love not only for the world in general, but specifically for Bolivians.