Niwel Tsumbu


Music Alliance Pact: June 2015

music alliance pact

Here’s June’s splurge of free-to-download bounty, another heap of international releases certain to give you a new gem or two from some unheralded corner of the globe. Of course, I’m only responsible for my own little niche: Ireland. If you want to know about this month’s choice, Niwel Tsumbu and his new act RiZA, you only need to skip down to the next post, which is a full interview with the Congolese native on just what makes him and African music in Ireland in general tick. Grab the taster first, though, as the man’s pure class…

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 20-track compilation through Dropbox here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
RiZA feat. Niwel TsumbuKabembe
As an Irish-based guitarist with Congolese roots, Niwel Tsumbu is a superbly original artist drawing on a stunning array of influences. Kabembe blends central African rhythms and lingala language lyrics with an emotive tale of the day Tsumbu found out his daughter is not his biological relation. RiZA, Tsumbu’s newest outlet, feature the best Irish-African music has to offer and already look set to make waves.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Ciudadano TotoEsta Canción
Last month Argentina’s independent music scene mourned the sudden death of Adrián Nievas, aka Ciudadano Toto, lead singer of electro-pop group Adicta. An all-time favorite of Zonaindie, Adicta was perhaps one of the most underrated bands of the last decade, so if you never listened to them you deserve to (all their albums are one click away). This month’s MAP song is a home-recorded cover version of Cuban legend Silvio Rodríguez that he used to open his recent solo concerts. Sophomore album Flores, Brillos y Arcoiris was released just a couple of months ago). RIP.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
BicentennialSleeper Train
Hailing from Marrickville, a suburb in Sydney’s warehouse district, Bicentennial (Jess Cooper) writes and produces dark but delicate soundscapes layered underneath reverberated chant-like vocals. She cites backpacking around the globe as a major inspiration to her music, which is easy to see in this track’s title with any remaining inspiration coming from her white pet parrot Jai-Chai, whom she claims is never far from her shoulder.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
CíceroIsabel (Carta De Um Pai Aflito)
This song is from Cícero’s third album, A Praia, released a few months ago. Its lyrics are about a father regretting the loss of his daughter, who left home to experience life. The album has elements of traditional indie-rock and Brazilian popular music, usually referred to as MPB.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
Mallory ScottLevitate
Mallory Scott’s electro-pop creeps into the deep crevices of the night, but in his latest track Levitate the beats also seep deep into your soul and the melodies into your consciousness.

State of the Nation: Niwel Tsumbu

State of the Nation banner

It’s a sign of Niwel Tsumbu‘s talent that as an absolute outsider to the Irish music scene a few years ago, he’s found himself on stage with an absolute who’s who of our city’s music right now. The Congolese born guitarist has fingers in a lot of pies. His latest project RiZA is his third that I’ve been particularly taken with (on top of his solo work and his guitar contributions as part of Donal Dineen’s Parish), and explores seriously personal themes (the first single about his kid turning out not to be genetically his) in gorgeous Central African language Lingala.

I caught up with Niwel to learn about promoting African music in the Irish market, the background to his new project and his numerous other explorations…

Tell me about the idea behind RiZA. It’s a phenomenal line up; how are you all going to work together and fuse your styles? 

RiZA is based on Risa, a fictional planet located about 88.2 light-years from earth, known for its beauty and relaxing tropical atmosphere. It is a world commonly sought by interstellar vacationers and starship crews on shore leave.Anybody into Star Trek would know this.

After I released my last record “all vibration”  in 2011, I went into a whole different journey of operas, theatre and performing with bands like Republic of loose, New Triangle, D.F.F ,The Multiverse, Donal Dineen’s Parish, Crash Ensemble, Treelan and Anarko Flamenco in Spain. I could not focus on my music that much. I was also  part of the Cork Opera house production of  Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Roger Doyle’s “Burned” opera and also the Abbey Theatre’s fantastic Risen People-a rendition of  James Plunkett’s best selling novel Strumpet City.

So, I went for a long period without playing my own form of music and I started missing it. Strangely  enough I really missed singing, as with all these projects I was just playing the guitar. Last year I was having  really tough time and that’s when I decided to use sound to create an environment just like RiZA here on earth and viola  the concept of RiZA- A place of beauty and relaxing atmosphere. As you may have noticed I changed the “S” to “Z”

I am really happy with it,It is a line up of super stars in their own right. Eamonn Cagney is my long time collaborator, we have done so much together that it is nearly telepathic between the two of us at this stage. Paddy Groenland plays in many bands around town such as Ensemble Eriu, Manden Express and others and I am enjoying paying with him. I really like his touch. He then introduced me to Ema and Sally who are sisters and when they sing together- we used to call it “murder”.

I wrote all the music for this album but I am already looking forward to our second  one as I want  everyone involved to contribute with their composition for this one.

How easy do you find it to ‘sell’ African musical styles in Dublin? I’ve certainly seem some impressive live reactions. Does the language barrier prove an issue?

I don’t think it is that difficult if you know how to sell it.  There is a dedicated audience of “world Music” who would be used to listening to  music with other languages. In Ireland I notice when people talk about “African music” they mean West African music, more precisely Malian or Senegalese music. I asked a promoter friend of mine once, why do you mostly bring west African stuff here Africa is big?

Her answer was it is easier to sell. As soon as you  mention a griot from Timbuktu  or something the tickets fly out of the door.So,that is the angle…