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Bel Ami

Papá Noel

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Album Review

Of the many Congolese guitarists, there are three that form a triumvirate: Nico, Franco, and Papa Noel. This excellent sample of his work is taken from the 1984 Bon Samaritain and the 1994 Haute Tension. The first musical influence on the young Noel were Cuban sones. At about the same time during his early youth, the first Congolese rumbas were recorded. He taught himself how to play guitar and made his first record at the age of 16. In the early '60s, he accepted an invitation to play from Grand Kalle Kabasele to join his Orchestra African Jazz replacing Dr. Nico, one of the greatest Congolese guitarists of all time. In the late '70s, Franco asked him to join his Tout Puissant O.K. Jazz. He complemented Franco's more aggressive attack with a lighter, fleeter touch. While with this band, he left in 1984 and assembled a group of musicians, two of whom were from T.P.O.K. Jazz and a horn section from the Congolese army. The result was Bon Samaritain, one of the best selling Congolese records of the year and a classic of Congolese rumba. The selections from the 1994 Haute Tension reprise the ambience of the Golden Era of Congolese rumba, contrasting dramatically with the frenetic soukous of the 1990s that seem to be so many guitar exercises in repetition. Papa Noel was featured on Sam Mangwana's highly acclaimed Galo Negro album of 1998. An album of authentic sensuous swaying rhythms, honey-laced vocals, and magical fingers on guitar frets. Highly recommended.

Biography

Genre: Africa

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the most important members of Franco's legendary OK Jazz band, guitarist Papa Noel's quick-fingered virtuosity and light, airy touch made him a major figure in the music of Zaire (later the Democratic Republic of Congo). Born Noel Nedule circa 1941, Papa Noel grew up in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo (the country adjacent to what became Zaire), and learned to play the guitar by copying the Afro-Cuban-derived rumba music that was becoming popular in the region. In 1957, at the age of...
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Bel Ami, Papá Noel
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