By Grace Kapatuka
His songs are currently enjoying the airwaves on local radios. Watching him on music videos as well as his live performances, one would be convinced that he is a complete musician. But you meet him, you will be surprised to tell you that he is not a musician but a preacher. That’s Fr Jean- Marie Noel Munketalingi.
Fr Jean-Marie, a Catholic priest under Comboni Missionaries, has so far produced four albums. He is founder and team leader for the famous Metanoir Choir of Lirangwe Parish from the Archdiocese of Blantyre.
Fr Jean-Marie comes from Ngoso in the Idiofa Diocese of Kwilu in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During his primary school days, he never knew he would become a priest until he went to a Minor Seminary. What was evident in him was passion for music.
“I joined the University of Kinshasa in 1998 where I studied Civil Law for three years before meeting Comboni Missionaries in 2000 in Kinshasa. After that meeting, I had decided to stop my University education and started my journey to priesthood which took me another three years studying philosophy,” says Jean-Marie.
In 2010 he was sent to Lirangwe Parish in Malawi as a student for missionary service where he served for three years. He was later ordained deacon in January 2012 at Lirangwe and was ordained priest in DRC the same year. He served as priest in Lirangwe for four years from 2012 to 2016 before going to Rome for a Master’s Degree course in philosophy.
Currently Fr Jean-Marie is at Inter Congregation Institute (ICI) in Balaka as a Lecturer of Philosophy and formator of future priests.
His passion for music started way back as a kid. “But as you know in the Minor Seminary we learn music, this contributed much to the desire that I already had and therefore became a member of a choir and that’s when I started loving music,” he says.
During his priesthood formation, Fr Jean-Marie became interested in composing songs and playing musical instruments. This made him take music as a pastoral tool for evangelization.
“I am not a musician as people put it. The music I do is a pastoral activity as a priest of the Comboni Missionary. It’s just that I have the talent, a gift from God that I use pastorally to contribute to my pastoral work,” says Jean-Marie.
At Lirangwe Parish he was responsible for the youth. That was when Metanoir was born to share knowledge and skills with the youth. The idea, he says, was not to make Metanoir a singing group, but to bring young people together in order to help them.
“I noticed a spirit of poverty, laziness and childishness in the young people and that prompted me to start Metanoir. It means a radical change convention. The idea was to help our youth deal with these challenges,” says Fr Jean-Marie.
Through Metanoir, several activities like sports, drama, vocations and singing among others were being undertaken by the young people.
“We saw that many people were attracted by the singing and joined the choir. But singing was not the only activity that we were doing. Some of the songs were composed by me and others were adapted from Congolese or Kishwali songs,” he says.
While in Rome, Fr Jean-Marie underwent a diploma course in music. But found it difficult to apply the new knowledge in the choir since he is no longer in direct pastoral activity.
Most of the songs are pastoral in nature whose aim is to awaken the young people to be conscious and take part in the evangelization. Fr Jean-Marie says he will always make sure to divide his time to music and lecturing.
Since he is now more into lecturing where it is impossible to turn the class into a choir, Fr Jean-Marie is establishing a band called Ephata Africa meaning Open Up Africa. He hopes to use the group to reach out to many people through evengelisation to people in Malawi and Zambia through the singing.
“We are still putting structures to see how it works; and I hope it will work. We have already started and have recorded an album titled Ndaperekedwa Nsembe which was launched in January this year,” says Fr Jean-Marie, adding that most of the songs were composed during the time he was studying in Italy and were recorded when he arrived in Malawi.