The Usambara Mountains’ Lushoto Choir: “Abundantly”

Posted on 
February 10, 2022
11:54 pm

Fate is a major theme in The Moja Saga –– there is a chain of events that occur because of every decision or situation. This is true even in the early production stages of the project, before the character of Moja was even born. We see the theme of fate very clearly in the story of the Lushoto Choir, which we hear singing the song “Abundantly”, in Volume 1.

When producer Carl Gustafson decided to begin the saga with a female African drummer, he did not realize how rare they were. He searched the internet for inspiration for this character and even asked his network of African drumming experts in several countries, but nobody knew one. Drumming is a traditionally male-dominated role in African tribes, with the women typically singing and dancing in the background. He was at a loss until he stumbled upon the journal of Ludwig Krapf, a Lutheran missionary in the Usambara Mountains of East Africa, who wrote about female drummers in the hilltop villages. So, he got a guide and went to the Usambaras. The first person he met, out of 600,000 people, was the choir director of the Lushoto Lutheran Church, founded by none other than Ludwig Krapf, the very person who drew him to the Usambaras in the first place.

Following this undeniable sign and realizing he was now working directly with the descendants of his main character Moja, Carl wrote a song for the Lushoto Choir to sing. He wanted them to represent what it would sound like in 1853 if a missionary had come in to try to teach them hymns. Moja’s song “Abundantly” tells us God intends for us to live abundantly, symbolizing the abundance of Africa that has repeatedly been taken from its native people. The song is now a favorite of the Usambara people. In the video below, you’ll hear the crowd cheer as the choir starts to sing it.

Since his visit, the Usambara people have kept in touch with Carl, sharing their appreciation for his work by planting trees in his name, sending him video messages, and continuing to sing his songs.

In the video below, one Usambara woman tells Carl in Swahili how much she loves the song, “Abundantly.”

The choir director in the clip below translated “Abundantly” into Swahili and directed the recording used in the saga. He thanks Carl and asks him to come back for a celebration so they can sing the song for him again.

With the money they were paid for their work on Moja, the Lushoto Choir made a down payment on a bus for the church. The photos and videos below show them blessing the bus and showing their gratitude.

Carl’s translator and guide in the Usambaras was Joseph Yousefi, whose name was used for the character of Moja’s husband. To thank him, Carl paid for his daughter’s tuition so she could continue her education.

A Mandinka woman named Fatim also caught Carl’s attention in the Usambaras. She was the original inspiration for Moja’s physical characteristics –– 6’1”, athletic build, and a gorgeous face with bold features.

Learning about the history, music, and culture of the Usambara Mountains was a pivotal point in the project’s research process. After just one day of church and music with the Lushoto Choir, Moja’s story had already begun to unfold in Carl’s mind.

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