to the fact that Antoine Nedule Monswet was born on Christmas
Day 1940, he became popularly known as Papa Noel. He was born
in the city of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and the music he
grew up with was Cuban sones that he heard on a phonograph that
his mother had. As we shall see, Papa Noel is currently keeping
the Congolese-Cuban vibes very much in the fore of his music.
Around 1948 the first Congolese musicians started making their
own recordings. His first guitar was a gift from his mother
to him when he was very young and he taught himself to play.
During his career he has had many accomplishments and collaborations
as composer, arranger, producer, guitarist and vocalist. He
has played guitar and sung in many different bands, always giving
very refined and highly polished performance. Firstly in 1957
he was approached by 2 former members of Franco's OK Jazz to
join them in their new group, Rock-a-Mambo. Papa Noel stayed
with this band when it relocated across the river to Brazzaville
in 1960 and was called Orchestre Bantou. Three years later he
left and joined Orchestre African Jazz and in 1968 formed his
own band, Orchestre Bamboula. In 1978 Franco asked Noel to play
in OK Jazz and he remained with that band until Franco died
in 1989. During his time with OK Jazz he went with a few other
musicians to make a recording of his own in Brazzaville, Bon
Samaritain, making Franco very angry. In 1992 Papa Noel
was amongst several veterans from OK Jazz who made a CD Bakitani,
then in 1994 he made another of his own, Haute Tension.
the occasion of his 60th birthday Papa
Noel put together tracks
from his 1984 and 1994 albums for a new
CD, Bel Ami. He
joined Sam Mangwana for the CD Galo Negro released in
1998, composing, singing and playing guitar. He is part of the
very successful rumba band Kékélé.
Papa Noel's recent memorable live performances
include joining Mose Fan Fan at
WOMAD 1999 and young Cuban Adan Pedroso in 2000 (there is a
CD of their live performance available, entitled Mosala Makasi).
He's keeping his Cuban connections very strong by playing with
tres player Papi Oviedo and they released a CD, Bana Congo,
in 2002. This CD was nominated for a MOBO 2002 award in the
category of Best World Music Act! Papa Noel was on stage with
the Cuban musicians at WOMAD Reading in 2002 (see photo above),
joined by Congolese backing vocalists Nana and Baniel. Papa
Noel toured in summer 2004.