Niwel Tsumbu is a virtuosic Congolese-born, Ireland-based guitarist. He has created a unique and exhilarating style drawing on influences as diverse as jazz, classical, rock, folk and rumba. At times Tsumbu’s music is a deep emotional well, drawing joy and sadness from universal human waters. At other times it’s a high-tech vehicle flashing with excitement across nations, continents, and the cosmos. Having steadily developed his international profile over the past decade, Tsumbu has earned praise from All About Jazz for his ‘exquisite and almost seamless’ global fusion. He has recorded with artists like Nigel Kennedy and Steve Cooney and performed with Sinead O’Connor, Buena Vista Social Club and Baaba Maal. In 2021, Tsumbu’s global reach was cemented with his guitar work on the Grammy Award-winning album They’re Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi.
Tsumbu sings in his native Lingala as well as French and English. His songs can have a political focus, as in ‘Africa, Eh!’ from Song of the Nations, which addresses the hypocritical profiling of migrants based on their skin color; can cast its eye on the larger universe, as in ‘Halley’s Comet’; or can showcase complex polyphony and finger-picking, as in ‘Tears of Joy’ from The Art of the Duo. It’s hard to argue with the Journal of Music’s view of Tsumbu’s art as ‘a musical river flowing whose sources range from classical to Central Africa and way beyond.’
Appropriately for our globally networked world, Tsumbu’s music ties together many different strands, signals and interconnections. It is a holistic vision celebrating everything that unites us: futures and pasts, complexity and simplicity, nations and creeds, art and life, sorrow and joy.
“Niwel Tsumbu trades in good vibrations” – The Irish Times