In Season Six of the Afropop Closeup podcast, we met Ireland-based Congolese guitarist and singer/composer Niwel Tsumbu. The subject then was Learning Congolese Guitar.
But as we discovered at the time, Tsumbu's talents extend well beyond classic Congolese pop. This month, he releases a single and video of his arrangement of the traditional song "Kazenzenze."
"Nobody really knows the origin of 'Kanzenzenze," says Tsumbu. "The version I am singing is in Tshiluba, one of the many Congolese languages. It is believed to be an ancient song about 10 fingers and 10 toes."
"Kanzenzenze" evokes youthful days spent playing with friends, and it explores how childhood memories can comfort us throughout our adult lives. "It’s a song we’d sing as kids while playing a game. You sit close to each other in line, pointing at your feet, singing while counting your feet with your fingers. Whoever the last note ends on, he or she is out."
This version is a product of Tsumbu's isolation during the pandemic lockdown, a time when he came to appreciate the intimacy and power of making music on one's own.