ABOUT Niwel Tsumbu
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 exciteent across nations, continents, and the cosmos.
Growing up in Kinshasa, Tsumbu was first exposed to traditional Congolese music at church. At the same time, he was absorbing Western classical composers like Beethoven and Vivaldi over the radio. At the age of sixteen, he took up the guitar and quickly distinguished himself with a prodigious ability to play traditional Soukous and Rumba styles. His teacher Crispin Ngoy introduced him to jazz. At the age of seventeen, against his family's wishes, he secretly enrolled at a music college for a year, and Tsumbu's passion for music, despite not owning a guitar at the time, saw him walk for hours each day to listen and play.
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 guitarwork on the Grammy Award-winning album They're Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi.
The keystones of Tsumbu's music are his sophisticated sense of rhythm, his virtuosic guitar playing, and his thrilling improvisations. Whether playing rumba or jazz, plucked nylon or amplified electric, Tsumbu's intricate guitar work always invites re-listening. Tsumbu is accordingly in high demand as an African guitar teacher for the World Music Method, and his popular Instagram reels videos garner up to hundreds of thousands of views.
Tsumbu has become a prominent figure in the Irish arts, regularly appearing on national TV and radio, and with his most recent project, Pontún with the legendary Steve Cooney and other musicians, Tsumbu plays venues like the National Stadium. From his base in Ireland, Tsumbu regularly tours abroad in China, Spain, France, Lithuania, Catalunya, Germany and elsewhere.