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Music arrives like the light in the morning

May 12, 2010

Niwel Tsumbu

The greatest guitar player Donal’s ever heard (no pressure) kicked off Fresh Air Vol. II last night with a warm and brilliant show. Niwel chatted to Donal about his musical journey from the church in Congo to the shores of Cork playing live on air along the way.

A brilliant storyteller, Niwel chatted about his starting point with music in his local church in Kinshasa when he was aged 15 or 16 years old.  He started playing there after he was given his first acoustic guitar and he quickly worked out that a tune which used lyrics from the Bible gathered the most reaction, and the most donations! The Church was also one of the only places in town with an electric guitar that he could try out.

He painted a wonderful picture of a place with music all around wherever you go. Removed from the restrictions of the irish weather the bars are all outdoors, as are all the gigs and practice sessions, so as a young musician you can eavesdrop on a band rehearsal and learn as you go. Bars open from 6am and so the music starts with the dawn and continues long after sundown.

Niwel talked about how Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery was a huge influence on him early on, along with the- mostly Rhumba based-music of the Congo . Salif Keita was well known, but he explained how, for the most part, Congelese music is the influencing sound on the rest of African music, rather than the other way around, with Congelese musician Francois Luambo Makiadi being generally regarded as the founder of the Congolese guitar sound.

He opened with a beautiful track of his own called She Dance Alone (from Songs of the Nations) and followed that by a rhumba based piece written by Niwel for recent irish movie Happy Ever Afters.  He followed this with Ainsi Va La Vie (also from Song of the Nations) and finally Africa Eh!

You can listen back to Niwel’s Fresh Air session here>

Niwel plays Africa Day in Dublin this Sunday 16th May on the main stage.  Song of Nations is available on iTunes. The Playlist of other tracks played by Donal on the night is here>

Donal plays live with Niwel in Galway on June 11th, and they are paired again for the  Body and Soul Gathering in June in an echo of their stunning Body and Soul set last year.

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