“Imagine if the sun could rise forever, imagine if the moon could shine forever.” Moustapha Noumbissi opened with these wondrous lyrics from his 2022 single, “Stumble”, setting the mood for the afternoon with the track’s moody and slow groove courtesy of his brilliant five-piece backing band.

Joining the Philly singer-songwriter for today’s concert were Keaton Thandi on drums, Manny Roach on bass, Samuel Nobles on keys, Ajibola Rivers on cello, and Alex Farr of Justmadnice on backup vocals, with Noumbissi himself holding down the rhythms on acoustic guitar. Each instrument lent itself perfectly to his genre-bending take on modern alternative R&B, with Farr’s subtle vocal harmonies creating an ethereal choir over which Noumbissi’s soaring vocals took center stage. Noumbissi offered a disclaimer before going into the unreleased track “Operator,” saying “I have a lot of sad songs, I’ve carried a lot of sadness in my heart for a long time, playing music is part passion and part hobby, it’s very therapeutic.” While his intimate lyricism and tender-yet-strong voice played a large role in the emotion of each track, it was Rivers’ simple cello melodies that plucked at the audience’s heartstrings. On both “Operator” and the introspective “I See You,” the cello doubled down on the somber tone, reinforcing melancholic heartache with each pull of the bow.

Other highlights from the set included “Layla,” a song Noumbissi joked was about his very first crush and which he performed fully acoustic, and a cover of the Henri Dikongue song “C’est La Vie,” which brought a welcome change of pace to the set with upbeat African rhythms and a grooving jam that had the crowd swaying back and forth to the beat. Noumbissi not only sang the song in French (Cameroon’s most common language) but encouraged the crowd to echo the chorus, filling World Cafe Live’s Lounge with a boisterous call and response as he explained the meaning of “C’est La Vie” as “that’s life.”

Set closer and WXPN favorite “Gold” highlighted everything there is to love about Moustapha Noumbissi: from the subtle guitar licks, shakers, and warm pads that elevate the songs, to the beautiful dynamics of the guitar, cello, and vocals as waves of instruments crash in and out of intensity, letting the strings and softer vocal moments shine through. “Gold” ended with a tremendous jam as Noumbissi thanked everyone for their support, lovingly exclaiming “For everyone who’s name I missed, next time I see you you’re getting a hug.” Thankfully, fans won’t have to wait long, as Moustapha Noumbissi plays XPoNential Music Festival this September; tickets are available here; listen to the performance in full below.

Moustapha Noumbissi Free at Noon - 07.07.2023
Moustapha Noumbissi
Free at Noon
  • Stumble
  • Good Life
  • Layla
  • Heaven
  • Operator
  • I See You
  • C'est La Vie
  • Gold