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The Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir was founded in 1950 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s Ambassador Artist for Peace, Mr. Julien Jouga (1931-2001). Having an earnest pride for his country and its culture, Mr. Jouga was not only a commandant in the Senegalese Army and a coach of the National Basketball Team of Senegal, but a fervent musician dedicated to the development of Catholic Choral singing of the diverse repertoire from the styles of Gregorian chant to polyphony inspired by the indigenous harmonic forms of Senegalese music. He was a true visionary in the development and preservation of the Senegalese Culture.
For those who have had the chance to see Julien Jouga leading the Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir from Dakar, it was impossible to forget the intensity of those focused on him, focused on his face in front of which his long hands and delicate fingers transmitted rhythm and voluptuousness to the singing. Julien Jouga and his Choir are but one. Touched by the same grace.
Created now more than forty-four years ago, the Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir is now lead by its Music Director, Mr. Ambroise N'Diong, and is composed of the Cathedral’s chorale, that of St. Joseph’s of Medina, who each Sunday, in the heart of Dakar’s most working-class neighborhood, interprets Gospel/Negro Spirituals, traditional African Songs, and the magnificent masses that Julien Jouga composed in his country’s four national languages: Ouolof, Diola, Sérère and Portugese Creole. The voices – to which drums, guitar and kora are occasionally added – rise in a local polyphony invented by Mr. Jouga, testifying at the same time not only to his mastery of language, but to his profound knowledge of his country’s rhythms and music traditions.
It is to this extent that he arranged and harmonized songs taken from the folklore and tradition of Senegal, truly signifying the pieces of the everyday people of Senegal. An ecumenical partisan, Mr. Jouga interpreted and combined both the Catholic liturgy and the indigenous Muslim songs of Senegal to create an extraordinary harmony between the two cultures that comprise the nation of Senegal. The Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir therefore represents the humanity and the fraternity that exists within the Capital City, Dakar, and throughout the country of Senegal.
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