(Photo art courtesy of Rogers & Cowan)
Q&A: Davide Mutendji (Elevation RHYTHM)
By Sarah Komisky
“Our hope is to give people a reason to want to get to know God deeper, and that our lyrics and melodies help youth see that God is not boring or predictable.”
– Davide Mutendji of Elevation RHYTHM
Pop, EDM, hip hop, and worship? This may seem like an oxymoron to some, but to Elevation RHYTHM, it’s just an expression of their faith. Today, amongst youth in the church, worship has become one of the most popular genres of music. While bands like Bethel Music Kids and Hillsong Young & Free have found new ways to reach out to young people, Elevation RHYTHM, a band branched out of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, is reinventing the genre. Keeping a pulse on youth culture, the artists made up of Elevation Youth ministry are creating high energy and engaging music that projects their faith. This month, Elevation RHYTHM’s Davide Mutendji sat down with Marked Ministry to talk about new music, impacting this generation and sharing God’s love with others. Here is what he had to say.
Sarah: Your new single, “Better With You,” has a reflection vibe. Talk about the song and what it means in terms of decluttering life.
Davide: When I think about decluttering, I think about making the right things (relationships, responsibilities, decisions etc.) a priority. Sometimes, the reason why our lives feel like there’s a lot going on is because we started prioritizing everything and that leaves us feeling like we are drowning in the busyness of life and need clarity. The song “Better With You” helps to remind us that if we make our relationship with Jesus our number one priority, then He is able to help give us wisdom to align our lives in accordance with His will and order. But, if we try to do it all in our own strength, it starts to feel like we are carrying more than we can handle. I love the line in the verse that says…“Never knew it could be different, then I ran into you” because it’s a cool picture that shows us our lives are not meant to feel untidy and chaotic. Jesus came to give us life and freedom. I think step one to that is realizing that we do not have to do life on our own.
Sarah: Looking at Elevation RHYTHM, how do you think this band reflects culture, yet, reflects Christ?
Davide: We are definitely influenced by culture with the way we dress and the apps we use, and even the style and the slang we use in our music because we always want to stay relevant – especially with youth and young adults. But, I think the way that we reflect Christ within our culture is by not letting the culture define what Christ has called us to do. We always say we use culture to point people to Christ and not the other way around. Our hope is that our music will help develop youth to influence culture in a godly way.
Sarah: How do you hope your music impacts this generation as young artists creating for young people?
Davide: RHYTHM hopes to be role models for living a lifestyle of worship. I think there are many misconceptions and stereotypes for young people as to what “worship” needs to look like and sound like. Our hope is to give people a reason to want to get to know God deeper, and that our lyrics and melodies help youth see that God is not boring or predictable. That hitting the “whoa” can be an expression of praise and worship, because God doesn’t just see an action – He also sees our intentions.
Sarah: Musically, what were some of the influences for the new single?
Davide: Honestly, we listen to a ton of different artists and have a shared Spotify playlist with artists that inspire us. For this record, we drew inspiration from the likes of Andy Mineo, Post Malone, Justin Bieber, and Hillsong Y&F.
Sarah: There are so many youth/young adults worship bands out there right now. Worship is definitely the genre that is topping the Christian music charts currently. In light of that, what does Elevation RHYTHM want to bring to the table?
Davide: Honestly, we are just trying to give the youth of our church melodies and lyrics that help them fall deeper in love with Jesus. That’s the heart of what we do and that is the purpose we are called to serve. Everything else is an added bonus.
Sarah: I was able to catch Rhythm Night 2020 on YouTube which was AMAZING! Talk about the experience and response.
Davide: RHYTHM Nights are monthly nights of worship for all of our teenagers at Elevation Church. The goal of these nights are to help teach a culture of worship in a crazy environment. The experience is full of energy. A lot of jumping up and down but also filled with beautiful moments of worship and reflection. It can sometimes be difficult because you are always starting the night with trying to help instill a sense of freedom (because they all care about how they are seen), but it is always incredible to see how youth who started the night with their hands in their pockets have their hands raised in worship. It takes a little time, but it’s always worth it.
Davide: Pastor Steven said this phrase in one of his sermons in the series, “Are you going to chase clout or embrace calling?” I think that’s really the heart of who we are trying to be as a worship team, to not get lost in the chase of what everyone else thinks is cool. I mentioned it a little before, but we are always fighting to make sure our motives stay pure. That we don’t let culture be the driver behind the decisions we make, the songs we write, or the way we lead worship. Our calling is to serve God through worship, not build ourselves up to be worshipped.
Sarah: Elevation RHYTHM is also a huge reflection of community. What I love is that it is so diverse! Talk about how important it is to cultivate a space, especially with youth/young adults, where everyone belongs.
Davide: Everyone wants to be a part of something. Growing up, the places and people I was around the most was because I felt accepted and free enough to be me. So, we try to cultivate the same atmosphere in our music and the way we lead worship. We have a variety of people on stage, some of us (me) are crazier than others on stage because we hope that showing how willing we are to be free in front of everyone will help others in the room be as free as they can be.
Find out more about Elevation RHYTHM by visiting elevationworship.com/elevation-rhythm.