Interview with Jamie Smith’s Mabon, Performers at 2014 Rainforest World Music Festival

Jamie Smith’s Mabon - Photo by
Jamie Smith’s Mabon – Photo by

Jamie Smith’s Mabon (JSM), an award winning, Welsh based band is of the UK’s finest original InterCeltic music performers, crossing borders to explore the forms and styles of the Celtic traditions.

The group combines traditional instruments and a modern rhythm section. In 2013, Jamie also won the competitive accordion competition at the iconic Festival Interceltique de Lorient. The pan-Celtic repertoire includes jigs, reels; mazurka, muiñeira; Welsh-language love-songs and contemporary Celtic matrial.

The line-up includes Jamie Smith on accordion, vocals; Oli Wilson-Dickson on Fiddle, vocals; Adam Rhodes on bouzouki, vocals; Matt Downer on basses, Vocals; Iolo Whelan on percussion, drums, and vocals.

Jamie Smith - Photo by Diego Pallu
Jamie Smith – Photo by Diego Pallu

Jamie Smith’s Mabon is set to perform on Saturday, June 21st , 2014 from 9.00 – 10.00 pm at the Tree Stage.

Can you give our readers a brief history on how the quintet was formed?

Mabon formed as an acoustic quartet way back in 1999, playing traditional Welsh and Celtic dance music. As the band developed, we added bass and started using drum kit, evolving into the line-up you see today: during the same period, Jamie’s original compositions gradually started replacing the traditional music we had originally played.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

We use the label “InterCeltic” when we talk about our music. For us that sums up the way we draw inspiration and influences from all the Celtic traditions and try to incorporate them into a contemporary sound.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

There are so many great players of Celtic music! Originally Shannon Shannon, Lunasa, Flook, Shooglenifty and others were big influences on our sound. At the moment we’re enjoying listening to The Olllam, Le Vent du Nord, some great Breton music – and in the tour van, we cover all kinds of listening across many genres!

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

Our first recording was an EP of the acoustic quartet – we don’t let anyone listen to that anymore! We’ve made five albums since – the latest is ‘Windblown‘ which features four Welsh- and English-language songs and six tracks of our instrumental Celtic repertoire.

Did WOMEX-Cardiff help to provide additional exposure to the band?

We’ve been attending Womex for years now, and played a showcase there as Mabon in Copenhagen 2010: it was a pleasure to welcome the conference to Cardiff. It’s an amazing platform for reaching the world music industry – that’s how we came to RWMF – and of course, you’re always guaranteed to see amazing acts at the showcases there!

Can you share some information about the program you’ll present at the Rainforest World Music Festival?

We’re very excited to be presenting some brand new material at the Rainforest World Music Festival, alongside material from ‘Windblown’. We’ve been working on music for our next album, which we hope to record later this year, so we will unveil a few epic numbers for you at the festival!

How’s the current traditional and roots music scene in Wales?

The roots scene in Wales is in a really interesting place at the moment. There’s definitely a surge in interest in traditional music, and a lot of new acts are appearing: but unlike Scotland and Ireland for example, there’s less awareness of it in the mainstream national culture, so it’ll be interesting to see if that develops too. It would be great if the fact that there is now some excellent roots music from Wales could lead to broader platforms and bigger audiences for it at home.

Festival highlights video montage:

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

We would love to collaborate with some of the fabulous female singers whose work we enjoy: Julie Fowlis and Karine Palwart are two incredibly talented singers from Scotland; Georgia Ruth is a fantastic young Welsh folk singer; oh and maybe we could ask Alison Krauss too for good measure!

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

The new album I mentioned will be our main creative focus for this year, so in between some fantastic festival gigs this summer and a UK tour in the autumn we will be composing, arranging and performing as much new material as we can. If you join our mailing list at, we’ll make sure we let you know when the album is finished – do stay in touch!


Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.


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