Nkumu Isaac Katalay was born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo where he spent one half of his life before moving to New York City in1996. Music became Isaac’s path to navigate the world. Music has become Isaac’s corner stone, which holds fragments of his identity together.
Music is Nkumu’’s passion. The study of musical notes or beats, especially their movements, patterns, and how they are parallel to human cultures, remains his lifelong fascination. To Nkumu, “musical notes or beats are pieces of cultures residing within the realm of sound, and the ensemble of their interactions makes music.” Similar to notes, human cultures are fragments of historical formation, which gather under a specific civilization, and like notes, cultures are continuously seeking for alternative manifestations. So, artistically, he discovered one tool after the other. Nkumu’s musical concept was cultivated via the “Mbonda” or “Ngoma” (drum) and movements (dance).
The cultural and social dynamics that exist in New York City and Kinshasa helped his quest for translating his idea of sound and movements. Both places are very diverse and rich in culture. These two cities introduced Isaac to the world, and they also poured in him a deep appreciation of humanity. While he mainly represents Congolese music and culture, his style is a hybrid of various genres reflecting global culture. Through dance, movements, songs, folklores, drumming, games, devotions, music, and more importantly, through sound, he is able to tap into the dialectic space of humanity. In turn this dialect enables him to express the three forms of human struggles, which he refers to as justice: the cultural justice, the social justice and global justice.
Nkumu created a musical style he calls, RumbiaFunk or RumbiaF. Rumba Funk is a combination of african aesthetics, music and thought processes which exemplify how Congo influences every music style throughout the African Diaspora. RumbiaF consist of gospel, funk, Afro Cuban, traditional Congolese and contemporary. Rumba Funk is influenced by Fela Kuti, and the Afro Beat movement, only difference it's via a Congolese prospective.
Before his new journey, Isaac had the opportunity to accomplish tremendous things as a young artist. He got to perform at renowned art venues throughout the United States and has had the privilege to work with the best artists Congo sends out to the world. He performed alongside artists Richard Bona, Red Cardell, the afro groove collective, Kanda Bongo Man, Shiko Mawatu, Lokassa ya Mbongo and Nguma Lokito (Soukous Stars Band), Shimita El Diego, Wawali Bonane (Yoka Nzenze Band), Diblo Dibala, Samba Mapangala, Bouro Mpela, Eli Kihonia, Babyy “Black” Ndombe, Felix Wazekwa, King Kester Emeneya, Malage Delugendo, Mbuta Masamba, including Congolese gospel artists such as Reno Mvumbi, Olivie Kalabasi, Joel Mbuyi, Kashi Kashala and recently with Congo pop artist Fally Ipupa.
Nkumu has presented at the Apollo Theater, Manhattan Center, Prospect Park, Summer Stage, St. Nick’s Pub, the Schomburg Center for Black Research, Dickson’s place, and recently at The Explorers Club, Lincoln Center, and Afro Jam Music Conference in Harlem Mist. In addition to various prestigious Universities throughout the United States such as, Columbia University, John Jay College, Baruch College, Harvard University, Georgia Tech, University of Virginia, and University of Chicago.
His devotion to humanitarian causes sends him leaning towards various directions. While art remains his main instrument for positive outlets, he devotes a significant amount of his spare time to community leadership and development. He is currently, the technical director of a musical group in the Living Church of God’s Divine provision under the leadership of Dr. Alex M. Levry. Isaac has served as president for the African Student Associations at John Jay College of criminal justice and for the past eight years, he retains a strong leadership involvement throughout CUNY Universities. Isaac also has strong interest in intellectual initiatives, which promote on going debates for the future of Africa as the center of human culture.
With relentless efforts, he seeks to combine art with community outreach. In 2011 founded CONTEMPTRA, a dance class and concept that combines contemporary and traditional dances from Congo. CONTEMPRA’S goal is to be used as a platform to unite communities around Congolese cultures through dances, movements, songs, drumming and aesthetics. This concept came into fruition with master dance instructor, Eto “Mabina” Tsana, founder of Mabina banafrica dance company. The class, was offered to CUNY College students and introduced to communities throughout New York City.
Nkumu’s mission is to introduce new communities to Congo’s rich culture, the embodiment of his vision lies within the name of his music band; The “Life Long Project” band. Life Long Project interprets his philosophy that “one lives until he or she dies” therefore life is a series projects for survival. To survive, one garnishes life with endless projects or activities. Nkumu’s mission is to explain and show via live performances the contribution of Congolese culture in world history. His style is a combination of Congolese gospel (church music) and secular music. This mix while controversial, Isaac believes it will spark the debates to unify the Democratic Republic of Congo and the much-needed supports the country needs from the Diaspora.
Nkumu is currently working on his upcoming album, “Paradox”, which will be released in the fall of 2016. He looks forward to sharing Congo’s lengthy musical influence on many genres throughout the world.
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