Handsome Land

Song Notes

When my mother had a serious stroke about a year before she died, she began to speak in what is sometimes referred to as “word salad”; intelligible words thrown together and all mixed up in strange and unusual combinations—“just gibberish”, I was told. I flew back to North Carolina to visit her, notebook and pen in hand, writing down every phrase I could hear. One of the first I recorded was, “We must fall so we can build a more handsome land.” At the time I was studying with African teacher and shaman Malidoma Somé. In our ritual training, he showed us the importance of falling to the ground in our grief and longing to call on the help of the ancestors. This song came pouring out of such a cry for help; such a longing to live in a new way together in our human family. This song requires quite a bit of practice to learn all the parts, so isn’t really suitable for a quickly learned sing-along situation. However, if you have a choir and teach them all the parts, when you perform the song, you can ask the audience to join in on the last repetition of the “We must fall..” chorus. They will have heard it enough to follow along, and will enjoy singing with you at the end.



We must fall, we must fall, we must get down on our knees!

We must call, we must call, on our Ancestors, please

Oh hear our cries, hear our cries,

We need the tough of your helping hand

So we can rise, we can rise

And build a more handsome land!


Verse One:

Well, it’s a land where every hand is never raised to harm another,

And it’s a land of hand to hand between every sister and every brother.

It’s a land where every hand is praised not for what it takes but what it can give,

And it’s a land where every hand reaches out a sacred welcome to the differences that really let us live!

Don’t you know that..

(repeat chorus)


Verse Two:

It’s a land where every hand holds for every living thing a place.

It’s a land where every boy, girl, woman and man can see the holiness in every face!

(again repeat chorus)

So we must fall….etc.