Niwel is the fifth child of a family of six, born in 1982 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire). Growing up in Kinshasa he was a shy boy and devoted himself to school, until one day his brother Coco Ngoma brought a guitar home which he used when he played with a local band.A week later Niwel's cousin Papy Makaya who taught him his first piece on the guitar was amazed with the sixteen year old's ability to learn and play his homeland music- Soukous and Rhumba.
Three months later his schoolbag was under his bed and the guitar took its place: instead of studying he stayed up all night playing the guitar; went to school with one copybook and no pen, humming melodies and thinking of the fingering on the guitar.
NIwel's mother Georgina was crying and blaming Coco for Niwel losing path, as she thought her clever son would become an engineer or lawyer. And that's when the guitar was banned from the house. However this did not stop the seventeen year old, but opened up doors for him to go out and meet other musicians and play with them.
Niwel still did not own a guitar so he borrowed his friend's and had to climb over the back wall and sneak it into his house. He would then lock himself into his room and play for the day.
He was then introduced to Crispin Ngoy: a very talented musician who passionately taught Niwel jazz. This became a way of discovering many other types of music.
Niwel's love and passion for different kinds of music and instruments increased more and more, and so at the age of seventeen he secretly enrolled himself into a music college for a year. Niwel wanted to play the saxophone but the school only had one which was broken - this however did not stop him.
Niwel still did not have his own guitar, and after walking an hour to school, he would then walk an hour and a half to watch his friend Dju rehearsing with a jazz band, then walk two hours home, drop his schoolbag, walk another thirty minutes to borrow a guitar, and then walk a further forty minutes to Crispin's house for a jam. On school holidays he would get up in the mornings and be in Crispin's house for nine and play until the night.
Niwel moved to Ireland in 2004 where he quickly made friends with the Irish music scene. He began playing with many local bands and formed the groups Sumu, Jazzmu and Motema.
He has played on many stages- from diversity, cultural awareness and charity gigs- to both the Cork and Bray Jazz Festivals, the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire 2005, and the Spiegeltent for the last two years in Cork.
Niwel has supported the likes of Kila, The Wailers, Horace Andy from Massive Attack, and Cameroon virtuoso bass player Richard Bona as part of the Bulmers World Music Festival in Cork.
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