The Missa Luba is a setting of the Latin Mass sung in styles traditional to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was arranged 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. (Order of Friars Minor) (b. 27 September 1921, d. 20 August 2004) took up his position as 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 1957 he received royal consent to name the ensemble Les Troubadours du Roi Bauduoin in honour of the Belgian king Baudouin I. In the same year Haazen and the Baluba people of Kasai and Katanga began developing the Missa Luba from collective improvisations on traditional song forms. It was first performed at the Catholic mission of St. Bravo in Kamina on 23 March 1958. The next day, the ensemble left for a tour of Europe, performing the Mass and Congolese folk music in Belgium (where they gave concerts at the World's Fair in Brussels), the Netherlands, and Germany (where they sang with the Vienna Boys Choir). The celebrated recording of the Missa Luba by the Troubadours and soloist Joachim Ngoi, a teacher at Kamina Central School, was made at this time.
The music for the Mass was not written down. Father Haazen responded to demands from choirs wanting to perform the piece by publishing a transcription of the recorded version in 1964, with a new edition in 1969.
The Kyrie is in the style of a kasala, a Luba song of mourning. The Gloria is improvised in the Kiluba style characteristic of Katanga. The Credo, the longest section of the Mass, is based on five different folk songs linked by improvisations. The text of the Credo refers to the crucifixion of Christ and the vocal part in the Missa Luba is preceded by the customary announcement of death, first on the kyondo (log drum), then on the kikumvi (tom-tom). There follows a kilio (elegy) without percussion accompaniment, sung by the solo voice. The Sanctus and the Benedictus were inspired by a Bantu farewell song. The Hosannah is a rhythmic dance of Kasai, and the Agnus Dei is a typical Bena Luluwa song, such as might be heard around Kananga.
In popular culture
The Kyrie was used in the Mexican film Un alma pura (1965) and the MGM film The Singing Nun (1966). The Sanctus featured prominently in Lindsay Anderson's 1968 film If ... starring Malcolm McDowell, with which the Mass was for a time closely identified. It was also used in Never Let Me Go (2010), Lost and Delirious (2001), and the telemovie Deadly Voyage (1996), in which it accompanied the closing credits. 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.
The Missa Luba was the most successful of many world music Masses created in the 1950s and 1960s. It eclipsed the earlier Messe des Savanes (1956) arranged by Abbé Robert Wedraogho in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and gave rise to several imitations, including the Misa Criolla (1964) arranged by Ariel Ramírez and the Misa Flamenca (1966) arranged by Ricardo Fernández de Latorre and José Torregrosa.
Philips released a ten-inch LP of the Missa Luba by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudoin in the Netherlands and other European markets in 1958. The track list was:
Side A: Congolese songs
- Dibwe Diambula Kabanda (Marriage Song) – 3:02
- Lutuku y a Bene Kanyoka (Emergence from Grief) – 2:48
- Ebu Bwale Kemai (Marriage Ballad) – 2:22
- Katumbo (Dance) – 1:42
- Seya Wa Mama Ndalamba (Marital Celebration) – 2:21
- Banana (Soldiers' Song) – 2:01
- Twai Tshinaminai (Work Song) – 1:01
Side B: Missa Luba
- Kyrie – 2:03
- Gloria – 2:39
- Credo – 4:06
- Sanctus – 1:36
- Benedictus – 0:52
- Agnus Dei – 1:52
This program was retained for reissues throughout the early 1960s, including the first U.S. release (1965), and has also been carried over into the digital reissues of more recent times (CD and download) – except that the Missa Luba now sometimes precedes the songs.
Philips capitalised on the exposure the music received in If ... by releasing the Sanctus and Benedictus as a single, which spent eleven weeks in the British charts, peaking at No. 28 in March 1969.
Some twelve-inch LP versions of the album issued later in the 1960s contained additional material from the 1958 sessions, including:
- Ave Maria (Jacques Arcadelt) – 2:30
- Mbali Kule (Gloria in Excelsis Deo) – 2:44
- O Jesu Christe (Jacquet de Berchem) – 3:57
Children's songs from the Baluba
- Kamiole – 1:10
- Katende – 1:04
- Kamuyambi – 1:22
- Daina – 1:08
More Congolese songs
- Kamimbi (Kiluba) – 1:42
- Maningi Daba (Kiswahili) – 1:75
- Mikomba (Tshiluba) – 2:02
- Salibona (Kiswahili) – 2:42
- Kansembe (Kiluba)
- Tambwe Dishinda (Tshiluba) – 1:32
No single issue has brought all of this material together. The most complete version is The Original Missa Luba and Songs from the Congo released by Universal in 1999, which contains an expanded program of twenty-two Congolese songs and the Missa Luba, but omits several of the previously released songs and the other three sacred pieces.
The Troubadours' recording of the Missa Luba has also been reissued in various couplings with the Misa Criolla, Misa Flamenca, and Messe des Savanes performed by other artists.
There are later recordings of the Mass by the Muungano National Choir of Nairobi (Philips, 1990) and the Washington Choral Arts Society (Naxos, 2006).
- Marc Ashley Foster, "Guido Haazen Passes Away", Choralnet, 23 August 2004. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Doris Anna McDaniel, "An Analysis of the Missa Luba", M.A. Thesis, University of Rochester, 8 January 1973. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Marc Ashley Foster, "Missa Luba: A New Edition and Conductor’s Analysis", Doctor of Music Arts Thesis, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2005, pp. 1 and 11. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Ray van Steen, "The Missa Luba", sleeve notes to the 1963 reissue (Philips, PCC-206). Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Guido Haazen, arranger, Missa Luba: As Recorded on Philips Records PCC-206/PCC-606 (Brussels: MRC Music, 1964). Guido Haazen, arranger, Missa Luba (New York: Lawson-Gould Music Publishers, 1969).
- Marc Ashley Foster, "Missa Luba: A New Edition and Conductor’s Analysis", Doctor of Music Arts Thesis, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2005, ch. 3. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- The Fernández de Latorre-Torregrosa Misa Flamenca is not to be confused with the two later works of the same name by Paco Peña (1991) and Curro and Carlos Piñana (2006).
- Les Troubadours Du Roi Baudouin: Missa Luba, Discogs. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Official Charts Company Archive. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Troubadors of King Baudouin / Troubadours du Roi Baudouin: The Original Missa Luba and Songs from the Congo, All Music. Retrieved 28 March 2013.