Freshman talent is the talk of Canyon Worship
Third in a series
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Desk
For a guy who insists he don’t like to talk, Baraka Shekanena certainly has a lot to say.
About his faith in God.
About the Worship Arts program at Grand Canyon University.
And on how he quickly found his place there even if he found it overwhelming at times.
Shekanena plays it down, but he brought a lot of musical talent with him from Wyoming, Michigan — so much so that his song, “Burdens to Bear,” was chosen for the Canyon Worship 2022 album even though he was only a freshman.
“Man, he’s just one of those mega-talented individuals,” said Dr Randall Downsthe worship arts coordinator.
But Shekanena prefers to talk about the talent that surrounds her.
“I’m really impressed by how much students knew before being taught by professors and teachers,” he said.
One of these students is Colter Bonaroti. Shekanena heard him play the piano in the recording studio one day and, on a whim, sat down and played right next to him.
A friendship was born.
“It was crazy,” Shekanena said. “Music is language, so once you understand that language, it builds community.”
And yet, despite his crazy talent, he refuses to let himself go to the head. He prefers to admire his elders in the Worship Arts community, including the producers of Canyon Worship, Geoff Hunker and David Willy.
“This whole experience is way too much for a freshman just to come here and think he’s a big thing,” he said. “I have no reputation, really. But with the help of juniors and seniors like Colter and Geoff and Dave, it gives me that confidence and gives me the ability to say that even though I’m young and I have little or no experience in this area, I still have a place to say what I’m going to say and a place to do what I want to do.
Shekanena’s talent runs in the family. His mother and grandmother are both singers, and all but one of his five siblings have musical inclinations. He also says Mom is a “prayer warrior, always singing about God,” so it’s easy to see how he ended up writing and performing worship music.
Finding your way to GCU isn’t a mystery either.
“I really liked the program they had for Worship Arts, and it’s really hot here too,” he said. “I really like the weather here.”
He found the inspiration for “Burdens to Bear” during a trip to South Korea with gospel singers from his high school. A friend was speaking of Christ’s declaration that his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30), and Shekanena took it to heart.
“Whatever problem you have in life, it won’t be bigger than God,” he said. “God will always be there to carry any burden you have, and He will give you beauty for your ashes and your joy for mourning.”
Note the eloquence of Shekanena. Recording studio manager Eric Johnson certainly saw it right away when the freshman started using the studio’s rehearsal rooms.
“When you hear his music and hear this song, you hear this incredible spirit and incredible talent,” Johnson said. “But when you meet him in person, he’s just humble and shy. He doesn’t talk about himself. But I also have this strong sense of character in the sense that he knows who he is – he knows who he is in Christ. .
Says Downs, “I love that the song reminds us that we’re not meant to go through life’s burdens alone. Through much of the album, I think you see a theme that an abundant life happens here and the Lord walks with us and carries our burdens for us His yoke is easy.
This belief helped Shekanena feel relieved as a rookie. He appreciates what God has instilled in him.
“All my life I’ve been told, ‘You’ve got talent,'” he said. “It’s not like I should receive this, but I understand why I’m here.”
And that’s why he’s on Canyon Worship 2022.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
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