Artist Profiles: Mouth Music

Mouth Music (Martin Swan and Talitha MacKenzie) – Photo by Gavin Evans

Through perceptive experimentation and with undeniable confidence, Mouth Music combined the ancient puirt-a-beul vocal tradition of Gaelic Scotland with the powerful rhythms of Africa and cutting edge electronica. Puirt-a-beul is the vocalization of instrumental music.

The Edinburgh-based group’s haunting and sensual compositions seamlessly combined vocals and acoustic instrumentation with synths and samples.

On Mouth’s Music debut album, fiddler Martin Swan and vocalist Talitha MacKenzie developed their distinctive mix of “mouth music.” Swan and MacKenzie based Mouth Music on traditional Gaelic source materials much of which MacKenzie first discovered when she traveled to Edinburgh to study Scottish and Gaelic culture in depth. “There’s something about ancient Gaelic songs that’s different….straight from the heart and very intense,” said MacKenzie.

Jackie Joyce replaced Talitha MacKenzie in 1994.

Mouth Music’s third release, 1995’s Shorelife, which reached #1 on Billboard’s World Music Chart, was powered by the ever-evolving musical vision of founder Martin Swan and the passionate voice of Jackie Joyce.

Although Mouth Music sound delved deeply into sounds with dance floor pleasing beats, Seafaring Man returned the group to a more primal state with passionate vocals. Seafaring Man vocalists included Michaela Rowan and Gaelic singers Ishbel McCaskill and Martin Furey.

Mouth Music disbanded in 2005.


Mouth Music (Triple Earth/Rykodisc, 1990)
Blue Door Green Sea, EP (1992)
Mo-Di (Triple Earth/Rykodisc, 1993)
Move On, EP (1994)
Shorelife (Triple Earth/Rykodisc,, 1995)
Seafaring Man (Meta 4/Nettwerk, 2001)
The Scrape (Skitteesh, 2003)
The Order of Things (Skitteesh, 2005)

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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