Toward a model for the evaluation of the cultural strength of various musics
Application of the model
The Ubangi defines an area in the northwest corner of Zaire. Within its boundaries, there are approximately 25 language groups. They range in population from between five to ten thousand to nearly one million (Fultz and Morgan 1986). This study will focus exclusively on church musics in the two major Protestant denominations, Communaute Evangelique de l'Ubangi Mongala (CEUM) and Communaute Evangelique du Christ en Ubangi (CECU).
The combination of former Belgian rule and strong missionary influence has shaped the music of the church in the Ubangi. Protestant missionaries have been in the Ubangi since the 1930s and introduced many hymns translated into the LWC, Lingala.
Though the lack of readily available electricity, telephone lines, and TV in the Ubangi limits large-scale distribution of music by electronic media, new songs are disseminated. The major medium of dissemination is through personal contact between musicians. Choir leaders will travel and learn the songs of other choirs, and then teach the new songs to their choir. Also, professional recordings of Christian music from Kinshasa and informal recordings of local choirs are shared within the region. Common schools for the education of pastors in the CECU and CEUM also act as means of spreading music in the Ubangi.
Much of the spread of church music has been concomitant with the spread of Lingala as a LWC in the Ubangi. A majority of the tribal groups are adopting Lingala as a LWC and are using it for business and intertribal communication as well as in the church. In some areas, it is supplanting local languages even in local communal life.
There are essentially four types of music used in services of the Protestant churches in the Ubangi: choral, animation, book, and traditional. The first three fall into the category of contemporary or modern African music (that is, containing elements of both Western and traditional African music; see Aning 1973:21; Martin 1988). The last is the category of traditional music, that is, music which is "associated with traditional African institutions of the precolonial era" (Aning 1973:16)
Choirs are a common part of the life of the church. It is not uncommon to find several choirs in both large and small churches. The songs are usually composed by musicians in Kinshasa (the capital of Zaire, hundreds of miles from the Ubangi), or by composers in the Ubangi. There have been choir competitions which required the singing of original pieces. The songs are shared through direct teaching, or through tapes that are made periodically. There is a strong influence of Kinshasa jazz, and the music is based on Western tonality and modality, often with four part harmony. Rhythms are often complex. The lyrics are primarily in Lingala.
These songs are sung primarily during the taking of an offering. The congregation is led by a director and the choir. The songs are usually accompanied by some form of dancing and are meant to raise the emotional involvement of the congregation. They originate within Zaire, mostly from Kinshasa and Ubangi composers. As in the choral songs, there is a strong influence of Kinshasa jazz. They also are usually in Lingala.
These are songs which the congregation sings together under the leadership of someone who is usually not a choir director. There are several books which have compiled songs from many sources, most of which are translations of German, British, Flemish, or American hymns into Lingala. The melodies have been modified but are recognizable as originating in the West.
Songs composed in the traditional music systems of cultures within the Ubangi are sometimes heard in churches. Songs composed in the traditional music systems differ markedly in musical form from the other types of songs. They are sung during specific life cycle events, such as at times of death and periods of heavy work. The content of these songs is often a narrative.