The Lumko Music Department and Cultural Heritage

Dave Dargie


Until the 1960s music in the African language Catholic churches in southern Africa was confined to European (or European style) tunes set to African language texts. The music used suited neither the languages of the people nor their spiritual and emotional needs. Some church leaders, such as Archbishop Hurley of Durban, wished to see a change for the better. Certain missionaries tried to do something about it, in particular Oswald Hirmer and Fritz Lobinger, Bavarian missionaries working in the Xhosa area. The author had done music studies, and in his work in Zwelitsha parish, near King Williams Town, had used some of the music resulting from the work of Hirmer and Lobinger. The two missionaries gave him the chance to start a project for creating new church music in African styles by working with local church members in different areas. This went so well that the author was taken onto the staff of Lumko Pastoral Institute, with Hirmer and Lobinger. Over the period 1979 to 1989 the author was able to promote and record new church music in many languages in South Africa and its neighbours, plus a great deal of the traditional music of the region. In 1996 Anselm Prior, then director of Lumko, returned all the field recording originals to the author, giving him the opportunity to put together a significant contribution to the preserved music heritage of Southern Africa, including African traditional music and church music. The article is a report on the project and its results.


Church music; Lumko Pastoral Institute; African traditional music; field recording; training composers; preserving music heritage

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