All 100+ musicians of the Kimbanguist Orchestra gather frequently for rehearsals around 6:30-8:30pm. Yet, when we asked, "Are you rehearsing tonight? Where are you rehearsing? What time will you start rehearsal?" No one ever seemed to give us a straight answer. We couldn't tell if they didn't know, or if they didn't know how to say it in English. We had to wait and find out.
Around 5:30, more musicians began to arrive. And then, we learned that rehearsal was being moved to a different location down the street. I'm not sure if it had something to do with the lights going off, or if they had managed to rent a bigger space, but the musicians packed their instruments and we all walked over to a slightly larger building. Still, no one gave us a straight answer as to when rehearsal was starting, or who was going to show up.
Soon, it was 6:30pm, and rehearsal began, although there were still only 20 people there. Many of the musicians we had worked with previously were not there. My heart sank, as I began to wonder if the musicians didn't actually take orchestra as seriously as I had hoped.
As time went by, more and more musicians began to join the rehearsal. People would come in quietly, sneaking into a seat in the back of their section, quickly finding their place in the music. By 8PM, there was a full Symphonic Orchestra before my eyes, playing Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique. I began to relax again, noticing how concentrated everyone was. I thought back to what I learned in the past few days, about the lack of jobs, the transportation system, and the countless other hurdles they faced on a daily basis. Could it be that these musicians are extremely dedicated, but that in DRC, you can't measure that by counting the number of musicians that show up on time to a rehearsal like in New York? Could this also possibly explain why not many people showed up for lessons at 10am every morning?
Seth, the orchestra manager, signaled for the orchestra to take a break, and then asked if he could introduce us to the entire orchestra. Kaori explained who we were and why we were there, and Seth translated. I wanted to add thank you in Lingala to the end of her speech but couldn't remember how to say it, and quickly looked over to the back of the room to find my flute students. To my surprise, they were mouthing back a different word to me. It's that word again from yesterday! (see Chitunga!!)
Kaori and I looked at each other, and yelled as loud as we could, "CHITUNGAA!!" The orchestra roared in delight, and although I still didn't know quite what this word meant, I decided it was a word I was going to keep using with my new friends!