Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Agence France Press: 'DR. Congo orchestra brings Mozart to heart of Africa'

[AFP | Musicians of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra (OSK) perform Handel's Messiah in Kinshasa.]

This is not the first time AfriClassical has written about a classical musician from the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. On Nov. 15, 2007 we posted “Georges Octors (b. 1923), Congolese Violinist & Conductor in Belgium.”

Feb 20, 2010
“KINSHASA (AFP) — In Kinshasa, home of the swaying Congolese rumba, 200 people at a local church have succeeded in creating a concert hall orchestra to bring Handel, Beethoven and Mozart to the heart of Africa. They are a motley mix of dressmakers and shopkeepers, pupils and students, hairdressers and civil servants, all part of an orchestra which tackles great works from Western classical tradition. In their black suits and satin gowns, they have been playing to increasing acclaim since they were formed 16 years ago.

"'In Africa and even in the world, you'll never see an orchestra like ours, consisting entirely of blacks,' proclaimed Armand Diangienda, musical director of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra (OSK) which he helped found in 1994. 'It's an orchestra of amateurs,' he added, 'but it's not just any orchestra that can play Beethoven and Mozart.' Diangienda, 46, is a grandson of Simon Kimbangu, founder of the Kimbanguist church, which claims about 10 million followers in the Democratic Republic of Congo's population of 60 million.

“The church may be controversial -- its beliefs are based on Simon Kimbangu, who is seen as a black prophet -- but its orchestra has won widespread backing from all kinds who go to concerts or attend Sunday services when it plays. Still, the musicians' public consists mainly of white people and they also attract foreign conductors, some of whom have made the trip to the shores of the Congo river to lead them in concert. Antoine Malungane, 46, a nurse by training and a double bass player in the orchestra since its creation, fondly remembers the 2001 visit of US conductor Michael Morgan, musical director of the Oakland [East Bay Symphony].”

“A documentary film entitled 'Kinshasa Symphony,' made in the capital in the summer and autumn of 2009 by German directors Claus Winsmann and Martin Baer, is showing at the current Berlin Film Festival. The film shows the daily lives of some of the 185 instrumental players and the 110 chorists, including rehearsals and how they manage to reconcile their passion with their professional activities.” © 2010 AFP

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