Traditionally, the job of an ethnomusicologist has been to study and observe indigenous music styles in the same way an anthropologist studies and observes indigenous cultures. Lutheran Bible Translators has taken a new approach to ethnomusicology and is using it to further Scripture use initiatives.
Many national Christians use Western hymns and worship songs in their church services, mistakenly believing that their own music styles and instruments are inappropriate for worship. The ethnomusicology specialist helps nationals to set translated Scripture to their own familiar music. This requires learning about music systems and sparking the creativity of local musicians. LBT has had an ethnomusicologist since 2001. Song workshops have been held among many people groups in countries such as Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Botswana, and Namibia. Hundreds of Scripture songs have been composed and recorded. The workshops attract local church musicians, as well as people who are non-Christians who also take part and are moved by the Scripture messages they hear in their own language and music. Just as reading or hearing God's Word in a language other than your own can be confusing, so too can singing or listening to music in an unfamiliar language and style fail to inspire. When people express themselves in their own way, in their own language, they sing with joy, worshipping God with a joyful noise.