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Papa Noel

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Papa Noel (whose stage name comes from the fact he was born Antoine Nedule Monswet on Christmas day 1940) is a veteran of the golden age of Congolese music.

In the 1940s and 50s Congolese rumba, until then performed traditionally on lokole log drum and sanza thumb piano was modernised by a group of pioneers. They transformed it by playing it on electric guitar, Latin congas and brass instruments. There was certain influence from commercial Cuban music - including rumba, son and cha-cha-cha - circulating at the time, as well as the absorption of sounds from regional and folk musics brought by rural migrants to the country’s cities.

Rumba’s musical structure shifted due to the creative impulse of Joseph Kabasele ‘le Gran Kalle’ and members of his band African Jazz. Others involved in this re-birth were Mwamba Déchaud, Tino Barroza and Nicolas Kassanda aka Dr Nico. The first success of this new period came in 1948 with Marie Louise, by guitarist Antoine ‘Wendo’ Kalosoyi. Other groups contributed to the increase in popularity including in 1956 the legendary Franco Luambo Makiadi’s OK Jazz, les Bantous de la Capitale in 1958 and later Tabu Pascal Ley’s African Fiesta in 1963. Through their inventiveness and the very lively local scene rumba became the Congolese musical trademark, the first Pan-African dance sound.

Papa Noel played guitar with several groups from that era notably Rock a Mambo (with two members of Franco’s OK Jazz), les Bantous de la Capitale, Kabasele’s Orchestre African Jazz and then Franco’s OK Jazz.

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