At the Shore of the World


Trad. candomblé song texts, and Rabindranath Tagore

The “seed” of this work is a chant I composed while I was a Fellow at Instituto Sacatar, an artist residency in Bahia, Brazil (2009). I was there in part to observe music and festivities surrounding the large annual Festival de Iemanjá on February 2. I also explored the mythology and music of the African sourced spirituality, candomblé with its pantheon of Afro Brazilian gods and goddesses, called orixás. Yemanjá (Yoruba spelling) is the orixá of “the waters.“All life is dependent on water and so Yemanjá is also considered the Mother of Life. Two short condomblé song texts (one in the original Yoruba language, the other translated into Portuguese) honoring Yemanjá are combined with a lovely poem by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore that, in this work, serves as the voice of Yemanjá. And so this is a love song of sorts between the world (people) and the waters (Yemanjá). For some time now, I have been of the belief the human race is coming to a “threshold”— a point of no return, in regards to our relationship to our planet. My hope is that this work will be sung to bring awareness to our dependence on our Mother Earth and on her suffering.  Commissioned by Dr. Phillip Stockton and the Mississippi University for Women Chamber Singers in memory of Leslie Farrell Threadgill. 

See/hear live performance recording below. (youtube) 


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Licensed PDF
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At the Shore of the World

lyrics adapted / constructed by Joan Szymko from:

Traditional candomblé song texts, and
Rabindranath Tagore  (1861-1941)

A wà ààbò a yó Yemanjá    (trad. candomblé song text)

Iemanjá do rio somos seus filhos   (trad. candomblé song text)

My heart beats her waves
at the shore of the world
and writes upon it her
signature in tears with the
words “I love thee.”



A wà ààbò a yó Yemanjá  (Yoruba)
Yemanjá, protect us and fill us with contentment

Iemanjá do rio somos seus filhos   (Portuguese)
Yemanja of the river/waters, we are your children 


Licensed PDF

Rowan University Concert Choir 3-3-2018 "At the Shore of the World"