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Missa Luba: An old friend rediscovered

April 22, 2017

Record Store Day 2017 and what should I come across in my local Oxfam bin but a copy of an album I have not heard since the early 1970s — “Missa Luba”, sung by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin.

7630659The singers’ name should give you a hint about this one. Baudouin was king of Belgium in 1958 when this music was first produced and when what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo was a Belgian colony. The music is a Christian mass sung in Congolese style.

The “hit” from this piece of musical joy was “Sanctus”, a Bantu-inspired farewell song that was used in Lindsey Anderson’s magnificent 1968 movie of youth rebellion “If…”. That alone made it cool for my generation. But Wikipedia reminds me of other claims to fame:

The Gloria featured in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)….  The Clash refer to the recording in the lyrics of “Car Jamming” on their 1982 album Combat Rock… The cover of the Troubadours’ album appears briefly in the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange (1971) as Malcolm McDowell’s character, Alex, strolls through a record shop.

Pasolini, If, The Clash,  Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange — say no more.

Listening to it today, I suppose there are some issues for the politically correct. It was put together by a colonial priest, Father Guido Haazen, whose job was presumably to preach Christianity to Africans under European rule. But it is a celebration, nonetheless, of Congolese culture and in an age when World Music is embraced in every bit of its seemingly infinite glory, why not?

The music itself — and this album was produced in 1963 after Congolese independence – is uplifting. It is a series of African folk styles, including rhythmic dance music, accompanied by log drums but following the general course of the Catholic mass.  Have  a taste:


From → Music, Music Film, Vinyl

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