A few years ago, él Records released Christmas In The Congo, a compilation of African Christmas tales, combining Congolese boys choir Les Troubadours du Roi Bauduoin’s 1963 album by that name and Eartha Kitt’s 1968 spoken word album, Folk Tales From The Tribes Of Africa. It was a fine collection of music that captured a unique and compelling sound from an unknown corner of the world. Missa Luba, released in 1958, was reissued in 1964 following the success of the Christmas album, and it is used here as a springboard for the latest él Records box set.
Missa Luba was the first Mass specifically composed in the Congo, the creation of Father Pere Guido Haazen, a Belgian friar who founded Les Troubadours du Roi Bauduoin as part of his mission. Blending the traditional Latin Mass in the language of the Congolese with nods to tribal music, Missa Luba is a journey in sound that is heavenly and hauntingly beautiful. Haazen envisioned an organization to rival the Vienna Boys Choir, and when he introduced the choir to the world with their debut album, it became one of the most successful World Music recordings of its era. Containing one side of traditional Congolese Music and the mass on another, listeners were introduced to a sound unlike anything they had ever heard. This compilation presents Missa Luba, the complete Christmas in the Congo, and songs from an extremely rare EP from the Netherlands, making this the most definitive collection of the studio recordings made by the original choir.
After World War II, cinema––especially British and European cinema––experienced a Renaissance of innovation and complexity. Not surprisingly, the unique and beautiful sounds of the choir would lead their recordings to be used in cinema, and their music soon began appearing in all sorts of film. Using the appearance of “Sanctus” in Lindsay Anderson’s innovative 1968 coming-of-age film If….as a jumping off point, the two additional discs in the Missa Luba box set examine the use of classical music in modern cinema over the past seven decades. Compositions from artists ranging from classical cornerstones such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven are compiled next to more modern composers such as Franz Liszt, Stravinsky, Wagner, and Gustav Holst. It’s a two and a half hour feast of musical delight, offering music that ranges from the instantly familiar to the lesser known but no less compelling.
Missa Luba is nearly four hours of beautiful, unique, and captivating music, highlighting just how important classical and world music has been in the scoring of modern cinema. It’s one of the most delightful various artists box sets él Records has released, and immersing yourself in its sounds is very Heaven.