Niwel Tsumbu: Song of the Nations
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Niwel Tsumbu
Song of the Nations
Offbeat Records

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then still known as Zaire) in 1982, Niwel Tsumbu learned guitar early, studying both local music and jazz before emigrating to Ireland in 2004. His immersion into the Irish music scene is evident in this interesting new work, Song of the Nations, where rich Lingala roots merge with jazz, classical and popular music in an acoustic tour de force of rhythm, melody and tight, terse vocals.

His superb, percussive guitar style is always at the fore here, punctuating each song with energy and fluidity, always skirting a half dozen genres and ultimately imitating none. He invokes Django Reinhardt and George Benson; he plays with flamenco, rock and rumba simultaneously. He can run a speedy melodic flurry of notes that ends in a scraping percussion solo of plucks and scratches on the strings.

This would all make for a great solo guitar and singer recording, but it is in the arrangements of violins, clarinet, bass and percussion that this recording truly comes to life, in neo-classical elegance, raw bluesy explosions and jazzy confusion that allow him to use his voice and guitar in unique ways to bring the songs to full fruition. This is a fully thought out, expansive work, full of surprises and pleasures. - CF

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