- Rev Fr Dr Joseph Namukangula, celebrated his golden jubilee recently
- Fr Namukangula is ranked alongside Fr James Kabuye, interdiocesan music committee chairperson and the late Joseph Kyagambiddwa, the African traditional musicologist.
ANNIVERSARY. Many call him the ‘sound of music’ and those he has mentored see him as a living legacy. Rev Fr Dr Joseph Namukangula, celebrated his golden jubilee recently and he talked to Christopher Kisekka.
St Augustine said; He who sings, prays twice! How could this be fulfilled without song composers? “Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem...” Rev Fr Dr Joseph Namukangula broke into a Latin song, loosely translated, “I surrender to you my Lord take all my freedom, all my memory, I’m truly yours”. The congregation silently followed the beautiful melody. That song and many others reflect Fr Namukangula’s contribution towards the Catholic Church music as he celebrated his sacerdotal golden jubilee recently.
Fr Namukangula is ranked alongside Fr James Kabuye, interdiocesan music committee chairperson and the late Joseph Kyagambiddwa, the African traditional musicologist who was in charge of the choir at the Uganda Martyrs canonisation at St Peter’s Basilica. Omugati gwo bulamu and Beteremu gwe na mukisa were his first compositions to be accepted in church liturgy and he has since composed more than 800 songs.
Born 80 years ago in Narozari Village, Buwungu- Masaka District, he grew up in a supportive family.
“My childhood dream was to become a priest,” he recalls, “and I thank the Lord who let me celebrate my now 50-year-old vocation.”
According to Msgr Joseph Kasule, his childhood friend who delivered a homily at the celebrations, Namukangula was passionate about music. “He grew up in a music environment because his father was a good xylophone player.” During the celebrations at Kitoma, Masaka District, Msgr Kasule told the congregation to emulate Fr Namukangula’s humility and passion.
At Narozari Primary School, Namukangula says one of his teachers, Lovino Kaggwa who was skilled at playing the harmonium,(a keyboard instrument) instructed by the White Fathers inspired him to develop his talent.
Namukangula, then 11, always composed songs for feast days or school functions, after, his parents took him to Bukalasa Minor Seminary.
“Although I wanted to join St Henry’s College, Kitovu, I gladly received my admission letter to Bukalasa because my childhood dream (priesthood) was beginning to see light of day,” he says. One of the teachers identified his music talent and he joined the Bukalasa brass band. He played the first cornet, the French horn, the accordion and the piano.
Henry Ssentongo, now retired bishop of Moroto, was their band leader. Namukangula was recruited in the seminary choir where they read music sheets and in Senior Two he became the mass organist and a choir leader, the following year.
On enrolling into Katigondo Major Seminary in 1961, Namukangula loved philosophy and theory but also remained active in music. This is where he got exposure to European, Palestrina, Mozart and Gregorian music.
“I had to study hard and do pastoral work with loyalty,” Namukangula recalls. After successfully completing his tasks, he was ordained priest by Bishop Adrian Ddungu at Kimannya Parish during the commemoration of Uganda Martyrs on November 10, 1967. “I was the most excited and could not wait to start my work,” he vividly recalls.
In the 50 years, Fr Namukangula has served only in Kitovu Cathedral (1968-73/1985) and Makondo parish (1973-75) where he served as a parish priest. While at Kitovu, Bishop Ddungu instructed him to put emphasis on singing and establishing a strong choir. This to Namukangula seemed like a walk in the park.
“He did the job diligently, establishing St Cecilia Choir which is still vibrant,” Mgsr Kasule says adding that the bishop even donated a plot for the construction of a music school which also still continues with its work of producing musicians as it was intended.
Fr Namukangula mastered the principle of ‘pray and work’. He planted a large banana plantation and several potato gardens which acted as income generating projects for both the choir and the parish and all his produce could be bought off by St Henry’s College, Kitovu.
He also formed several football teams in different sub parishes which made him famous and a darling to the youths. In 1973, he was transferred to Makondo Parish where he embarked on a project to construct a new parish church.
Studying music and teaching
However, just before roofing the new church, the bishop offered him a scholarship to University Catholic Church Music and Music Pedagogy in Regensburg, Germany for church music studies. Fr Namukangula was the first black African to be admitted to the college in the 600 years of existence. He admits to have faced some challenges. “The food and weather were strange. And, I had to learn German which seemed difficult but with my Latin background, I soon mastered German,” he recounts.
He made friends who equipped him with a variety of music instruments such as organs, violins, and guitars.
In 1985, he returned from German and he was appointed curate to Kitovu Cathedral parish. The bishop (Ddungu) assign him to be the church music director in Masaka Diocese and he also served as apart time teacher at Bukalasa Minor Seminary.
“Young seminarians loved him so much and the bishop appointed him a full time teacher in the same year, a job he has dedicatedly done to date,” Msgr Kasule narrates.
Fr Namukangula is still in charge of music from Senior One to Six but in the 80s and 90s he taught Latin and Luganda. He was also in charge of the seminary choir and band. To him the 50 years have been by the grace of God. “The Lord has been good to me all this time and I’m proud to praise him,” he notes adding that it all takes humility and the will to serve.
What others say
“As a teacher at Bukalasa he has continued to send (to Makerere University) some of the best music students we have ever had in the history of the department,” Prof Tamusuza. department of music and performing arts Makerere University,
“Fr Namukangula is a living legend and music perfectionist. ensures that everybody in the choir sings you sing the right note,” Gorret Namulema, singer in St Cecilia Choir.
“First of all, congratulations Fr Namukangula for keeping the light shining for the last 50 years.
I was chased from the seminary but we remained friends, he is caring and a true friend. I am glad that his songs have inspired many souls,” Dr Francis Kitaka, CEO MTK, his old boy.