Posted by: mdmusingsie | May 28, 2010

An evening with Liam O’Maonlaí and Niwel Tsumbu

Now to the original purpose for undertaking this particular journey.  Having taken an interest in the music of Liam O’Maonlaí after seeing him perform at Celtic Colours in Nova Scotia last year, I was pleased to discover this concert at the Riverbank Arts Centre.  It’s an intimate venue of approximately 200 seats and from what I could tell was pretty well sold out.

I was not familiar with Niwel Tsumbu, but had read on the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí site where I found the concert, that he was a native of the Congo, now living in Ireland.   His music contains what I can best describe as abstract rhythms with African as well as flamenco style guitar riffs. It’s a combination of modern and ancient including compositions in his native tongue.  He was accompanied by a percussionist as well as a bassist. 

It was readily apparent why Liam and Niwel were kindred music spirits – they both pour their music forth from the center of their heart. 

When you go to a concert and watch the musicians, you may see those who are good at what they do, have fun performing their acts, and provide an all around entertaining experience.  However there are other truly gifted individuals, like Liam and Niwel, who seem to embody the music, transforming a deep rooted passion into song.

In Ireland, Liam is best known as the front man for the Hothouse Flowers, but is a gifted artist in his own right.  With an amazingly wide vocal range he also plays a multitude of instruments.  As a composer, he creates the equivalent of a modern symphony when he combines these myriad instruments along with his own fore and background vocals.  Naturally this fusion can only be experienced on the CDs, but he is capable of bringing the same enthusiasm on stage with a single instrument (at a time) and his incredible voice.

Liam explained that Amhráin na Feidireachta was his first composition in Irish, which I found somewhat unusual given his ardor for the language.  There is something special about the Celtic tongue which is what drew me to the music in the first place and has prompted me to study the difficult language.  If you get a chance to listen to Siobhan Ní Dhuibhir or Amhráin na Feidireachta, both on his new CD To be Touched try closing your eyes while you listen – there is a certain passion pouring forth, almost as if he is channeling the ancients – a sentiment I expressed to him when he graciously signed my CD.   That’s not to say his other compositions are less worthy, just that there is a hidden magic in the language that, for me, speaks to the very core of my being.

I’m obviously not the only one who couldn’t seem to get enough of the music.  At one point Liam requested that someone let him know when it has half 10, then asked the current time, to which several of us replied 9, although it was well past.  It was after 11 when we did finally have to bid the artists slán (or hopefully only slán go fóill), after a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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