Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Atlántica

Atlántica

Atlántica was formed in 1988, months after Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass met in France, at the Saint Chartier International Traditional Music Festival. After that, they worked in the field of traditional music, first as a duo and later as a quartet with percussionist Miguel Cobo and accordionist and keyboard player Ramón Bueno.

The band’s versatility was one of their principal assets. The sheer variety and quantity of the instruments Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass played in their concerts was remarkable, because both musicians share a multi-instrumental approach and a knowledge of the music of Celtic roots from many countries.

Their first album, called simply Atlántica, appeared in 1996. While working together as a duo, Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass also found time to be members of Luétiga, a group devoted to research, arrangement and interpretation of Cantabrian folk music (Cantabria is a region in the north of Spain located between Asturias and the Spanish Basque Country).

With Luétiga, Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass recorded three albums: La Ultima Cajiga (1992), Nel el Vieju (1994) and Cernula (1996). They also took part in the Misa Popular Cántabra, a folk mass composed by Nobel Samano, which was performed by Luétiga with two choirs and a group of dancers.

In 1998 Marcos Bárcena and Kate Gass decided to leave Luétiga to follow their own musical direction and put all their energies into their own projects, mainly recording the second Atlántica album, Transitus and arranging a live repertoire as a quartet, combining Celtic pieces from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and North America with music from Cantabria, Galicia and Asturias

Atlántica also performed concerts with conferences about Cantabrian folk music for senior citizens and high school students, they animated ceilidhs with the aid of two callers, and participated, together with the Markab Theatre Company, in La Leyenda de los Besos, a musical play based on a short story by Manuel Llano.

The band had a show for kids called Atlántica con el Medio Ambiente, where they combined music with dances, games and stories about the environment. During the 1990s Atlántica was present in most folk festivals in Cantabria and the band played in many other places throughout Spain, as well as in Portugal and Wales.

Atlántica’s performances in more than sixty schools in Cantabria gave it extensive experience with kids.

Transitus includes dance tunes and songs from Cantabria and other Celtic regions, together with their own compositions in traditional style. By Transitus they meant to define a meeting point between the musical traditions of different places sharing common roots. It is a musical journey where they try to give their own vision of Celtic music, a global vision born out of their own experiences and contacts with this world. Transitus means a transit both through space, since they took the listener to the music of different countries, and through time, reflecting several periods, with a nod to the Iron Age men and a wish for the survival of traditional roots and the union of the nations.

The group disbanded in January of 2006. Ramón, Miguel and Jorge stayed together and formed another band named Garma.

Kate rested from music for 2 years for various reasons including the stress of working in a men’s world and being a single mother with 2 adolescents, and a sick mother. Marcos went on a spiritual adventure for a year and a half from which he returned in 2007 and later released an album of his own compositions, titled Marcos Barcena.

In May 2007 Kate took up her musical career again, this time as a solo artist working on a project called “Solistas Internacionales” with Paco Diez (Spain), Wafir (Sudan), Magali(Peru), Yoshie (Japan) and Laurent (France).

Discography:

Atlántica (Several Records, 1996)
Transitus (Resistencia, 1998)
La luz del iviernu Lugas (El Tripulante, 2000)
Lugas (El Tripulante, 2001)
En directo (RTVE Música, 2002)
Desde esta orilla (RTVE Música, 2004)

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Celtic Connections 2019 Opens January 17

Acclaimed music festival Celtic Connections begins this Thursday, January 17, 2019. The eclectic Celtic and world music event will feature around 100 young musicians from across Scotland and Showcase Scotland partner-country Galicia (Spain) taking to the stage of the Main Auditorium at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, together with some of the utmost well-respected Scottish musicians to have emerged since the festival first began in 1994.

folk orchestra SonDeSeu

Syne of the Times will star young musical talent from the 45 Fèisean (Scottish Gaelic Arts Youth Tuition Festivals) now held annually around Scotland, the Orcadian youth music project Hadhirgaan and Galician folk orchestra SonDeSeu. Artists including Julie Fowlis, Duncan Chisholm, Lauren MacColl, Michael McGoldrick, Donald Shaw, Aidan O’Rourke, Brighde Chaimbeul and recently crowned Trad Awards ‘Folk band of the Year’ Daimh will be among a set of other special guests performing as part of the Celtic Connections Opening Concert for 2019. This very special show will celebrate the passing on of the tradition through generations.  

It will be the first of over 300 events featuring more than 2,000 musicians from around the world, taking place in venues across Glasgow until Sunday, February 3rd.

The packed program features a host of concerts including one-off musical collaborations and special commissions alongside talks, workshops, film screenings, theater productions, ceilidhs, exhibitions, free events and late-night sessions.

In a program rich with Audio-Visual shows, highlights include the world premieres of Brave in Concert and The Bard’s Tale.

The immensely popular Disney movie Brave will be screened with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing the music from the film live, alongside solo performances from artists who appeared on the original soundtrack. The score was written by award winning Glasgow-born composer Patrick Doyle, who the festival will also be celebrating with a special one-off show to mark his 65th birthday.

Fiona Hunter

For the first time Gaelic culture and the gaming world collide with The Bard’s Tale. Featuring the uplifting voices of Kathleen MacInnes, Fiona Hunter, Eilidh Cormack, Kim Carnie and Mackenzie, Simple Minds bassist Ged Grimes, who has also composed all of the live music, will lead a stellar backing line-up of Gregor Philp, Ali Hutton, Innes White, Màiri Chaimbeul, Martin O’NeillEwen Henderson and Brian McAlpine. This show will be a virtual quest through 18th century Scotland incorporating synchronized video, gameplay, drama, and live music that was originally composed for the computer game The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep.

Experience a sonic encounter of voice, guitar, gamelan, percussion and strings in singer and composer Susheela Raman’s performance with contemporary Indonesian gamelan players, Ghost Gamelan.  Opening will be a creative new project by Tom Bancroft that focuses on the common ground between Scottish music, jazz, Indian music and electronica.  

Other world music highlights include Malian quartet Songhoy Blues and Fado star Mariza.

Sona Jobarteh at the Arts Center in Carrboro, 2018 – Photo by Angel Romero

Born into one of West Africa’s principal griot families, multi-talented Gambian/British artist Sona Jobarteh is the first woman of such lineage to attain virtuoso status on the kora, interrupting seven centuries of exclusively male tradition. Sona will play the Queen Margaret Union over the first weekend, with 2019 marking the first year the festival will be using the West End venue.

Also taking place in the Queen Margaret Union will be Baile air Bhoil. Following previous joint promotions by Glasgow University, Ceòl ’s Craic and An Lòchran, Gaelic club night Baile air Bhoil makes its Celtic Connections debut, headlined by two of Gaelic music’s most innovative acts. Now expanded to a five piece, including Josie Duncan’s transcendent vocals, Inyal craft boldly panoramic soundscapes, alternately epic and ethereal, fusing fiddles, uilleann pipes, whistle and guitar with synth, electronics and drums. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Griogair’s current project sees him fusing original spoken-word poetry with hiphop production, also incorporating jazz, soul and African sounds. Special guests include inspirational Jamaican singer Brina, Malian percussionist and kora player Kalifa Kone and Skye DJ/producer Jamie Shaka.

Music created at song writing workshops run by Glasgow’s Vox Liminis Distant Voices organization, which brought together Scottish musicians with people affected by criminal justice issues and featured on the 2018 album Not Known at This Address, will be performed live by co-writers Kris Drever, C Duncan, Emma Pollock, Admiral Fallow, Rachel Sermanni, Pronto Mama, Fiskur and Donna Maciocia. The Distant Voices project will also be explored in a talk and discussion.

Musicians from Celtic Connections 2019 international partner, Galicia, will perform a series of shows, and music industry delegates will attend Showcase Scotland, which provides a platform for Scottish musicians to develop their careers.

11,000 school children will learn about, enjoy and be inspired by Celtic music through a series of free morning concerts and workshops as part of the Celtic Connections Education Programme.

Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, said: “With each new Celtic Connections we look to bring together artists, ideas and unique collaborations that create powerful and moving work that can be enjoyed by audiences and musicians alike. Each year we present a selection of the best music and musicians you can see anywhere in the world and through all this we remain true to our Celtic roots – roots that began with a journey of discovery by a nation that is always searching.  Celtic Connections will also once again be at its heart a celebration – a coming together of people from across the world to enjoy live music and, as always, it is that I am most looking forward to.”   

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life, stated: “It’s time to banish the winter blues as we get set to embark on the incredible musical journey that is Celtic Connections. As a UNESCO City of Music Glasgow is the place to be for lovers of live music. This brilliant festival brings the best of our home grown talent and artists from across the world to stages across the city, with world leading musicianship and inspiration and shows that capture the unique spirit of Celtic Connections – a festival that unites artists and styles and cultures to create something truly new, truly special. We hope very much you can join us at Celtic Connections 2019.”

Alan Morrison, Head of Music, Creative Scotland expressed: “Since its launch in 1994, Celtic Connections has pushed back the boundaries of Scottish culture while never losing sight of the traditions at its core. In 2019, that’s as true of the young musicians filling the opening night stage for Syne Of The Times as it is of the videogame technology behind The Bard’s Tale concert. This is a finger-on-the-pulse festival where respect for Scotland’s heritage is woven through the program and artists are encouraged to collaborate and experiment, taking that heritage to the next level. Once again it’s time to throw our doors wide open so that musicians from near and far can come in and brighten our winter nights.”

To see the full program for Celtic Connections 2019 and buy tickets visit: www.celticconnections.com

Headline photo: Folk band of the Year Daimh

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Artist Profiles: Calasaig


Calasaig – Photo by Alan Wylie


Since the group’s formation in the late 1990s, Calasaig secured an admirable reputation in the world of traditional music through their numerous performances and recordings. Their albums, Until Then, Making For The Shore and Near & Far have brought the band critical acclaim and have ensured their continued inclusion in the top ten of several traditional music album charts in Europe and the US, as well as on radio play lists around the world.

Their 4th album, Merchants’ City, was recorded in Phase One studios in Toronto and at The Foundry in Glasgow. It was released in North America on REL Records in August of 2003 and was released in the UK and Europe by Lazy Mist Records in February of 2004.

The band: Keith Johnston – cittern, guitar, vocals; Celine Donoghue – fiddle, tenor banjo, mandola, vocals; Andy Webster – guitar, bouzouki, vocals; Keith Easdale – Highland pipes, small pipes, mandocello, whistle, flute, mouth organ, vocals; Kirsten Easdale – vocals, viola, bodhran

Discography:

Until Then (Bellcraig Records, 1998)
Making For the Shore (Lazy Mist Records, 2000)
Near & Far (Lazy Mist Records, 2002)
Merchant’s City (Lazy Mist Records, 2003)

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Excalibur Honors the Ladies


Alan Simon – Excalibur – The Ladies of the Lak

Alan Simon – Excalibur – The Ladies of the Lake (Babaika Productions/Cherry Red, 2018)

The Ladies of the Lake is an anthology of songs featured in the highly successful Excalibur series by French composer Alan Simon.

The album includes the female artists that appeared in various Excalibur recordings, some of the biggest names in the Celtic and England folk music scene: Moya Brennan (Ireland), Maddy Prior (England), Karan Casey (Ireland), Kohann (Brittany, France), Siobhan Owen (Australia), Jacqui McShee (England), Nikki Matheson (Canada), and Maite Itoiz (Spain); as well as iconic English progressive rock vocalist, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air).

The Excalibur albums combine symphonic, Celtic, pop and rock influences. Rather than traditional folk music, The Ladies of the Lake focuses on songs that have a wider commercial appeal, between pop and light classical with Celtic music touches.

The Ladies of the Lake presents a superb group of highly expressive women with distinctive vocal skills.

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Lustrous and Fresh Areas of High Traffic

Damien O’Kane – Areas of High Traffic (Pure Records, 2015)

Often the first impressions that come to mind when handed a Celtic CD are of ethereal throated songstresses full of sorrow and longing for lost loves or traditional rowdy romps that seem to run quick and fast as if chased by the light, so cozying up to a newfangled take on the Irish Celtic traditions is a true delight.

Putting a new voice to those traditions is vocalist and musician Damien O’Kane. Those in the know might recognize him from such recordings Avenging and Bright, Banjophony with Ron Block, The Mystery Inch with David Kosky and Summer Hill.

Corralling a collection of mostly traditional songs on Areas of High Traffic, Mr. O’Kane has clearly and decisively put his own stamp on the music, fashioning a sound that’s fresh and easy.
It’s plain from the opening tracks of “‘Til Next Market Day,” that the music matters. There’s not a delicate fairy voice, a brash drinking song or an angry Celtic rocker in sight on this recording, instead there’s electric guitars, keyboards, piano, synthesizers wrapped up with Mr. O’Kane’s vocals and his own guitar and banjo work.

Joined by percussionist Cormac Byrne, electric guitarist Steven Iveson and keyboardist, pianist and synth master Anthony Davis, Mr. O’Kane takes the traditional past folksy into a sophisticated brand of folk that takes subtle dips into rock and jazz with aplomb.

Shimmering guitar and banjo lines provided by guest musician Ron Block remake traditional song “The Blacksmith” a standout track, just as the underlying rock sensibilities take “The Maid of Seventeen” beyond the expected.

And the goods just get better with the sweeping strains of “The Close of an Irish Day” or the dreamy moody sway of “The Banks of the Bann,” with additional vocals of Mr. O’Kane’s wife Kate Rusby.
Listeners get a dose of the inner musical workings of Mr. O’Kane by way of instrumentals “The Goddaughter Part 1” and “Interlude for Mama.”

The simply loveliness of “I Am A Youth” and “Erin’s Lovely Home” are as potent as they are soothing to the Irish soul. Areas of High Traffic closes out with a savvy version of “The Green Fields of America.”

Sleek and fresh, Areas of High Traffic is spectacularly rich and promises to break all the Celtic musical traditions it keeps.

Buy Areas of High Traffic in Europe

Buy Areas of High Traffic in the rest of the world

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The Return of Pioneering Welsh Folk Band Ar Log

Saith – VII (Sain Records, 2018)

Ar Log is Wales’ most veteran professional folk group. Saith VII is Ar log’s first album in 22 years. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, in 2017, the ensemble went on an international tour. One year later Ar log recorded Saith VII.

Saith – VII features beautifully-crafted new arrangements of traditional Welsh folk tunes and songs.

The current lineup includes Dave Burns pn lead vocals, guitar, and mandolin; Geraint Cynan on piano, organ, harmonium, keyboards and backing vocals; Geraint Glynne Davies on lead vocals and guitar; Iolo Jones on fiddle; Graham Pritchard on fiddle, mandolin and vocals; Dafydd Roberts on triple harp, flute, whistles and backing vocals; and Gwyndaf Roberts on knee harp, clarsach and backing vocals.

Ar Log’s discography includes Ar Log (1978), Ar Log II (1980), Ar Log III (1981), Yma O Hyd (1983), Meillionen (1983), Pedwar (1984),
Ar Log V (1988), Ar log VI (1996).

Saith – VII is an album of exceptionally expressive, timeless Welsh folk Songs.

Buy Saith – VII in Europe

Buy Saith – VII in the rest of the world

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Artist Profiles: Ar Log

Ar Log

Ar Log was formed initially to represent Wales at a Celtic Festival in Lorient, Brittany, in August 1976, and they were encouraged by The Dubliners to continue performing as a group after the festival. The founders were Dave Burns on guitar; Dafydd Roberts on triple harp and flute; Gwyndaf Roberts on knee harp and bass; and Iolo Jones (fiddle).

The ensemble eventually grew in size and had different lineups throughout the years.

Ar Log has toured throughout the British Isles, continental Europe, and North and South America promoting Welsh music and songs.

Discography:

Ar Log (Dingle’s Records, 1978)
Ar Log II (Dingle’s Records, 1980)
Ar Log III (Dingle’s Records, 1981)
Yma O Hyd, with Dafydd Iwan (Sain, 1983)
Meillionen (Dingle’s Records, 1983)
Pedwar (Recordiau Ar Log, 1984)
Ar Log V (Sain, 1988)
Ar log VI (Sain, 1996)
Saith – VII (Sain, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Hollie Smith

Hollie Smith

Singer-songwriter Hollie Smith is a leading vocalist in the New Zealand music scene. She has collaborated with Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Don McGlashan, One Million Dollars, Anika Moa and Boh Runga.

Hollie Smith has a deep, rich and soulful singing style. Hollie’s wide range of musical influences combine elements of soul, jazz, reggae, Celtic and R&B.

Discography:

Light From a Distant Shore (Etherean, 1999)
Long Player (Soundsmith, 2007)
Humour and the Misfortune of Others (Soundsmith, 2010)
Band of Brothers Vol. 1 (Soundsmith, 2011)
Peace of Mind (Civic, 2013)
Water or Gold (Soundsmith, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Shantalla

Shantalla

Shantalla is a Belgium-based band formed by several Irish musicians and one Scot. The band was created in 1995 by two members of an Irish band called Sean Talamh (Gaelic for ‘old ground’ or ‘old country’, meaning Ireland). Kieran Fahy and Michael Horgan teamed up with Gerry Murray and Joe Hennon (guitar) and decided to use a name that was easier to pronounce in English so they used Shantalla. They were later joined by Scottish singer Helen Flaherty.

The group’s first album was recorded in 1998 for the Belgian label Wild Boar Music and distributed in many countries by Green Linnet.

The band:

Kieran Fahy – fiddle. Kieran had classical training and is an All-Ireland slow air fiddle champion. He won the first O’Carolan competition in Keadue. Kieran has released two solo albums and toured the USA with Duck Baker.

Helen Flaherty – vocals and bodhrán. Helen has a background in singing Scottish and Irish songs. She recorded with Mairtin Tom Sheainin MacDhonncha on his Blath na hOige album.

Joe Hennon – guitar. Joe is rock a musician that converted to traditional Irish music. He leads the young music group Clann Lir

Michael Horgan – uilleann pipes, flute, whistles. Michael has played with La Lugh, Mary Bergin and several other artists. He is involved in the recording of soundtracks and sessions with successful Belgian artists.

Gerry Murray – accordion, bouzouki, mandolin and whistles. Gerry is a twice Slogadh All-Ireland Champion. Before he left Ireland in the 1980s, he was a prominent music teacher in the North Monaghan area.

Discography:

Shantalla (Green Linnet, 2000)
Seven Evenings Seven Mornings (Wild Boar, 2001)
Turas (Appel Rekords, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Iarla O Lionáird

Iarla O Lionáird

Born in 1964 as one of 12 children, O Lionaird grew up in west County Cork in Cúil Aodha, a remote, rural Gaeltacht area where Irish was the first language spoken by the people and emigration was as common as supper.

Because I grew up in the countryside, I can understand so strongly that the only things these men had ever really heard were birds and cows and horses. So, from a familiar world of country lanes and cottages and seasonal farm work – that’s the mindscape Noel’s and Martin’s music comes from, a world of birdsong, of gentleness-all of a sudden, these people were hearing monstrous machines, Hilti guns, buses. The mind wouldn’t have the apparatus to deal with that, it could be quite a crushing experience. That was the threshold we were trying to cross…”

I spend a vast proportion of my working time in London now, but until recently I knew nothing about the London-Irish community, apart from old fellas in Cull Aodha who’d worked their whole lives as laborers and their memories were very scattered. That workman’s life in London had, and indeed has, quite an invisibility to it. A never-ending supply of young men who are dead by their early 60s...’

Although many voices and accents and experiences are brought to bear on his solo CD, many percolate. From O Lionáird’s native Cúil Aodha where the local hinterland hosts many fine poets, storytellers, fiddlers and flute-players. 0 Lionáird’s own childhood experiences with the native choir in the Cúil Aodha church tangibly influence his music. Iarla was involved with the choir until his early 20s, when he left to study literature in University College, Dublin and worked for some years as a teacher. Increasingly, however, his sean nós (literally “old style”) crooning began to pop up on recordings such as on Shaun Davey’s symphony The Pilgrim and on the great accordion-player Tony McMahon’s album with Noel Hill, AISLINGI CHEOIL Indeed. It was McMahon who coaxed O Lionáird back into singing after a two-year “sabbatical.”

Nowadays, O Lionáird spends a considerable amount of his time with the big touring outfit Afro Celt Sound System. However O Lionáird also tours his own “multi-media” solo show, backed up by projected computer-generated imagery. “It’s basically a set of 17 songs, about half of them accompanied by backing tracks from Michael Brook, like ambient poems. It’s pretty intense, but it’s a fantastic workout for me.”

I’m extremely fortunate with my solo work, in that I can indulge myself and make the work more dreamy-and more hardcore at times. I don’t have to go down the paths that people other than Real World would try and carve out for me. I’d wither away without that opportunity.”

Discography:

The Seven Steps To Mercy (Real World Records, 1997)
I Could Read the Sky (Real World Records, 2000)
Invisible Fields (Real World Records, 2005)
Foxlight (Real World Records, 2011)

With The Afro Celt Sound System:

Volume 1: Sound Magic (Real World Records, 1996)
Volume 2: Release (Real World Records, 1999)
Volume 3: Further in Time (Real World Records, 2001)
Seed (Real World Records, 2003)
Pod (Remix album) (Real World Records, 2004)
Volume 5: Anatomic (Real World Records, 2005)
Capture: 1995-2010 (Real World Records, 2010)

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