The Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra
The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste or Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra , is the only symphony orchestra in Central Africa. It was founded in the mid-1990s by Armande Diangienda - a musician and grandson of the Congolese Religious leader Simon Kimbangu. At the time Armande was a professional airline pilot, who also played in a small church band. Then, the plane he usually flew crashed while he was on holiday, and soon afterwards he took up his father’s mission to bring music to a much larger group of people.
In the beginning a small handful of would be musicians, made long arduous daily journeys to rehearsals that lasted seven hours, Monday to Friday. They waited patiently to take turns on the few available instruments - and gradually taught themselves to play.
Twenty years later, their sheer dedication has paid off. This year, 100 orchestra and choir members travelled from The Democratic Republic of Congo, for a concert tour of the UK. Instrumentalists, who still work as carpenters, biologists, dressmakers and electricians at home in Kinshasa, sat down next to professionals from top British orchestras, to rehearse and perform on the grandest concert stages in London, Manchester and Bristol.
Nicki Paxman met Armande Diangienda and members of the KSO in between rehearsals, and just as they came off stage after their concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Picture: The Symphony Orchestra of the Kimbanguis, Credit: Lionel Healing/Stringer