Alumna founds the fusion band Muningu

Amber Swenson Junker ’05
Amber Swenson Junker ’05

Amber Swenson Junker ’05 thought that moving to the Republic of Congo in 2012 with husband Barry in the Foreign Service might delay a musical theater career. Junker, a theater and vocal music education major at Cornell, had worked five years as a professional actor in Minneapolis, held a master’s degree in musical theater from the Boston Conservatory, and was making progress in the tough New York scene.

Instead, after becoming part of the diplomatic community in Brazzaville, she finds herself adding a new chapter: Founder/performer in Muningu, a fusion band with four Congolese musicians and herself. Their music is a mix of heritages and Junker sings in English, French, Lari, Lingala, and is adding Swahili. The musicians communicate among themselves in French.

“It’s been an incredible experience and a challenging one,” Junker says. “I think that we have learned a lot from each other and ultimately we have become better artists.”

Muningu (“melody” in Lari) released its first album, “Sans Frontières,” and is producing a second. It performs as a luxury hotel house band, has appeared on African TV, and is adding concert dates. In addition, UNESCO just proclaimed Brazzaville a “city of music,” which the band hopes to parlay into a wider reach by applying to music festivals across Africa and in other parts of the world.

Junker also works part-time for the U.S. Embassy, spends a day per week at the American International School of Brazzaville teaching music and theatre, and teaches a weekly music class at an orphanage.

She and Barry already know the next posting: London. There, Junker hopes to rejoin her theatrical roots and stay connected to the band.