Rhythmic sounds of guitars and an upbeat drum tempo began as the Salvation Choir started singing a Congolese gospel song, dancing to the beat.
Jeune Premier Silambien, the choir master, and other members of the Salvation Choir group are all refugees from Tanzania, Africa but originated in Congo. Jeune and his family fled Congo due to ongoing violence in the country and migrated to Tanzania.
Jeune said there were many reasons to move to the United States. For one, there was a lot of war, he said. Jeune and his family moved to Florida in 2015 and three years later moved to Kansas City, Mo., due to surging rent prices.
“When we came here, we met a lot of people from a lot of different countries,” Jeune said. “So, we decided to make an original group, which became the Salvation Choir.”
All the members in the choir are from Tanzania, Africa so they all spoke Swahili. The choir, Jeune said, provided a community for refugees from Tanzania in Kansas City.
Jeune, his sister Tina and other family members used to perform in African villages. Jeune said since they all had previous experience singing, he thought they could create a group in Kansas City within the Northeast community.
Along with singing traditional gospel music, Jeune said the group has ventured to perform rock and Rumba, a Congolese style of dance that originated in the Congo basin in the early 20th century and is derived from “son cubano,” music with a Cuban sound.
Since moving to Missouri in 2018 and starting the Salvation Choir group at their church, Messiah Lutheran Church, they have traveled to perform in cities all around the Midwest. For example, just last week they traveled to Rockford, Ill., to do a show. Jeune also said the group has done shows in Overland Park, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“We started in church because our pastors needed a choir,” Tina said. “We’ve started performing in places other than church, which has made me and other choir members more confident in singing.”
Tina said the group continuously posts videos online in hopes of one day getting discovered, but also to gain more exposure. Not only that, but they need more singers for a more harmonized sound and support from the community in Kansas City.
The Salvation Choir wants to travel to places outside the Midwest for a bigger audience.
“All it takes is for us to believe in ourselves,” Jeune said. “If we believe ourselves that we can do something, we can do it.”
Tina said the group has a goal to have at least 100 members, however, she said it has been hard to get people to stay and only get a new member every few months.
“We’ve had members leave the band or area because of marriage and people moving to other states and cities,” Tina said. “We’ve lost a lot of people in our band and only get one new member every few months.”
Along with new members, the group needs more instruments. Tina said they also need musicians who can play a variety of instruments.
“Music brings communities together,” Tina said. “It brings people closer to Christ and changes how people think about Christianity. We love to sing and we love our band but we just need more people to join us.”