BLACK HISTORY MONTH FEATURED VIDEO 3 (Feb 21): Missa Luba, Congolese Mass Setting From 1965 for the Old Mass
This week’s featured video is little bit off from what I have showcased so far this month, but it is (1) something I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about for a long time (if I haven’t already), (2) still related to Black history in general, and (3) totally worth it. So, let’s mix things up a little bit.
It’s a collection of settings to the old (Extraordinary) form of the Mass originally performed and recorded in 1958 and released as a record in the mid-1960s all in a traditional Congolese rhythm and style while being still in Latin. And it has a great story behind it which I will link at the bottom. The short version is this from wikipedia:
“It was composed by Father Guido Haazen, a Franciscan friar from Belgium, and originally performed and recorded in 1958 by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin (King Baudoin’s Troubadours), a choir of adults and children from the Congolese town of Kamina in Katanga Province. Father Guido Haazen O.F.M. . . . became director of Kamina Central School in what was then the Belgian Congo in September 1953. Within weeks he established an ensemble consisting of a male choir – about forty-five boys aged nine to fourteen and fifteen adults – and percussion . . . In  Haazen and the Baluba people of Kasai and Katanga began developing the Missa Luba from collective improvisations on traditional song forms.” They later traveled and performed across Europe.
The whole project is both a collection of traditional Congolese folk songs on one side and the Congolese-style Mass settings on the other. I cannot stress how much these are worth a listen to. The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei are all done, and they manage to fit the vibe and flow of the old Latin Mass well in their more smoother, softer points, but not just the old Mass but Roman liturgy in general which is, on the whole when compared to Eastern liturgies, more softer and subdued; so, these could work for the Ordinary Form as well. Some of these settings do this better than others, and I would tweak some things here and there, but they all do well. The music for the Mass was not written down, and so there are a lot of good natural improvisations.
The wonderful thing about these settings is that Missa Luba is great example of what liturgical inculturation is and consists of, and, even better, it finds a way to do inculturation in the Roman rite in a way respectful of the specific character and nature of its liturgy, And this is the OLD Mass! This setting was done for the Old Mass! Discussions of inculturation in this extant only became prominent after Vatican II with the New Mass which is more open to such innovation than the older form. I want to do a review and discussion of Missa Luba and inculturation at large (which carries its own set of issues, and I’m not a too big fan of it but still open to ways it could be done well), especially when relating both to attempts at Black Church inculturation. But this is for another day. Please, do check out each of these! The link provided should all have them in a playlist, but they are not hard to find once you see one of them.
The Kyrie and Sanctus are especially good.
Above image is a screen shot from the video. Fair use.
The story behind Missa Luba: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missa_Luba