Inspiring: Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra, a Jewel in Central Africa

Monday Apr 9, 2012 – by

If you caught 60 Minutes Sunday night, you were in for a treat. At the end of the show, the broadcast profiled the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the only symphony in Central Africa and the only all-black orchestra in the world.

Led by Armand Diangienda, the orchestra’s founder and conductor, the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste is made up of over 200 musicians that come from all over Kinshasa. Despite wars, abject poverty, and crisis after crisis, the orchestra has provided a refuge for its musicians for the last 15 years.

Diangienda credits his grandfather, Simon Kimbangu–a prominent martyr in the Congo for his fight against Belgian colonists–for inspiring him to start an orchestra, and despite having to share instruments and run the group out of his house, Diangienda has managed to plant the seeds that have inspired scores of people.

A few years ago, German filmmakers made Kinshasa Symphony, a film about the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste sharing the symphony’s story with a European audience, and now 60 Minutes has shared their story with those of us in the U.S.

Seeing the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste enjoy music so much that many of their members walk for miles and overcome immense odds just to do what they love should inspire us all to pursue our dreams.

Who is Armand Diangienda?


Impeccable in his blue jacket at night, Armand Diangienda (affectionately known as the Congolese Papa Armand) leads his band with passion as he flew the planes of Congolese society Aviation (SCIBE Airlift). Indeed, Father Armand was born January 12, 1964 has never been in a music school. Self-taught, he studied music theory to control the composition of classical music.

He successfully completed his commercial pilot studies (qualified for instrument flight in the jargon of aviation) in Belgium and the United States.

His love for music stems from his childhood. At age five he was playing the piano. Today it affects almost all the instruments of classical and modern music. During his spare time he likes to scratch the guitar if it’s not the flight simulator installed in his living room.

In July 2002, the musicians put him unanimously to the rank of Director of Music, when he was not strong notions of conducting. This new feature will enhance its research and it will dial in November 2003 his first symphony “Breath of truth” that has had great success with the Congolese public and will be played July 8, 2005 under his baton in place of the Agora Orchestra of the National School of Music and Dance of Evry (Ile de France) at the end of the course of conducting organized by the Community Centre in Evry Essonne.

Three years later, in 2007, Armand composed his second symphony in A Minor. Jealous of the originality of his compositions, he ensures that each retains a cultural African sap. This is more than evident in the head of the Church hymns Kimbanguist he successfully expresses in classical music. Some of these songs have titles such as Congolese languages: Kwa Yeno, Ebombelo, Yisu Vo, O Muana Nzambi and others in French, including: The Beloved Son …
Since he assumes his new role, the band, knows a great evolution and emergence in the middle of the Congolese classical music, African and Western. Each year since 2004, music teachers visit the orchestra for the development of its musicians. And as a result, the musicians of the orchestra have no complex to read and interpret any classical work that comes before them. A positive!

In fifteen years, he managed the formidable challenge of creating the first symphony orchestra of the black continent and virtually unaided means.

Grandson of Simon Kimbangu, founder of Kimbanguism, the third religion of Congo. As such, it enjoys a high reputation. That’s because his grandfather had taught him that everything had to build on the work to get by, be dignified and responsible, Armand had the idea to embark on this adventure with only luggage a good knowledge of the piano. It was from a young age. Today, the dream became reality.

Armand has ambition: “I would like to introduce musicians to the outside world. It will not be an amateur orchestra, but a professional orchestra.” It recognizes the need still a lot of repetition if not working for amélirer performance of his orchestra. That’s why it travels regularly to Europe to train and especially forge strong relationships with major ensembles in the matière.L objective that had taken Papa Armand show that in his country ravaged by war civil, in which unemployment and corruption are commonplace, Africans could learn and pass the wildest paris. “The SBO” says it “gives people the orchestra’s another image of themselves, the image of serious people and able to move forward. Each has its place here. Everyone contribute. That’s the advantage of a symphony orchestra. ”




The Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra is the only symphony orchestra in Central Africa and the only all-black orchestra in the world.  Watch its volunteer musicians and vocalists perform Handel’s “Messiah.”