Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Veronica Codesal

Ialma

Verónica Codesal was born on September 16, 1977 in Uccle, Belgium. She is a vocalist and pandeireta (Galician tambourine) player. Verónica grew up in Belgium in a Spanish immigrant family from Galicia. Although she’s explored a wide range of musical styles, her passion is Galician roots music.

In addition to being a member of the band Urban Trad, Veronica is also founder of the group Ialma. She also took part in Muziek Lod’s project La Maison des Petltes Musiques Cachees (led by Dick van der Harst), in the Zefira Toma project, Celtic band Camaxe and the In Kadrirs project La Paloma Negra.

She’s currently a member of Ialma.

Discography:

Palabras darei, with Ialma (Zoku, 2000)
Marmuladas, with Ialma (Zoku, 2002)
Nova Era, with Ialma (Kerua, 2006)
Simbiose, with Ialma (FOL Musica, 2011)
Camiño de Bruxelas a Santiago, with Ialma (Home Records, 2016)

Share

Interview with World Fusion Band Solana And Video Premiere

Solana is a world music fusion band originally founded in Valencia, Spain in 2012. Solana combines rhythmically complex and harmonically rich music inspired by folk traditions from around the world.

Solana’s sound is guided by flutes, violin, accordion and Spanish guitar, and takes influence from diverse celebrated artists like Tigran Hamasyan, Kíla, Paco de Lucía and Dhafer Youssef.

Band members include Tamsin Elliott on flute, whistles, accordion; Rowen Elliott on violin, effects; Elio Arauz de Marcos on drums, percussion, vocals; Henry Edmonds on electric and acoustic bass; and JP Wolfgang on Spanish guitar.

Solana’s Tamsin Elliott

Solana has a new video titled “Odd Elegy / Allegedly Odd.” Flute player Tamsin Elliott provides details about the video: “It includes a cover of Dhafer Youssef’s Odd Elegy and a string of my own tunes collectively called “Allegedly Odd”, which I composed in response to Youssef’s piece. The arrangement is by the collective brain of Solana. It feels like quite an achievement to finish this video after a year of quite serious health issues which turned my world upside down.”

Q – The band is currently based in the UK but it was started in Valencia, Spain. How did you guys come into contact with each other?

Siblings Tamsin and Rowan Elliott have played music together from a young age. In 2012 they both coincidentally moved to Valencia and reconnected musically, playing in small bars and social centers. They were joined by original guitarist Alex Dickinson and Valencian percussionist Elio Arauz de Marcos.

Solana rapidly gained a following in the city due to the appetite for Celtic and Eastern European folk music there. In the intervening years the band’s sound and line-up have evolved to the present five-piece.

Solana

Q – What’s the background of the musicians in Solana?

Tamsin (flutes/accordion) and Rowan (violin) Elliott were brought up on a diet of world, folk and reggae and spent family holidays at festivals such as WOMAD. This exposure to a large variety of music from around the world, as well as the Celtic sessions in the local pub, has influenced their music-making to this day.

Elio Arauz de Marcos learned percussion from the age of eleven and played various styles from reggae and ska to Latin and traditional Valencian bands. After a few years of mainly playing guitar he rediscovered his passion for drums through the music of Solana. He also fronts rumba, Latin, afrobeat project The Globo Collective on guitar and vocals.

Solana’s Elio Arauz de Marcos

After years of playing guitar, JP Wolfgang discovered and fell in love with the Flamenco tradition and moved to Madrid to study with El Entri in the famous Caño Roto Madrid.

Solana’s Rowen Elliott and JP Wolfgang

Henry Edmonds’ background in jazz and post rock has brought a gnarly edge to Solana’s sound. He enjoys the challenge of fusing different world grooves with more progressive arrangements, and the opportunity to play both upright and electric bass.

Solana

Q – You released an album in 2017. How was that experience and what exposure did you get?

Camino (2017) was recorded over four days -and four sleepless nights- at Henwood studios near London. This is our first album of wholly original compositions and it was with this recording that we began to find our own unique sound. We were lucky to count on the expertise and patience of our childhood friend and all-round musical genius Tom Excell who engineered and co-produced the album.

We received great reviews, with the album being described as “thoroughly invigorating” by Songlines, “A fervent and fertile form of world fusion” by Shire Folk, and our favorite from Folk Radio UK saying that “They make my spice shelf look boring… an accomplished and colorful album”.

Solana – Camino

Q – Are you working on a new album?

Yes, we have lots of new material and are really exited to get it on record. Tamsin is currently waiting for a major operation to sort out ongoing health problems, so touring is on hold until we have a date, but in the mean time lots of work is happening on new compositions and arrangements! Expect the next album to demonstrate a rich sonic tapestry, sometimes playful and often poignant, anchored by a deep respect for traditions. We’re looking forward to sharing something new and bold that goes beyond classic folk conventions.

Share

SugaTree, Celtic Crossover from Australia

SugaTree – This Time

SugaTree – This Time (Two Tails, 2017)

Australian band SugaTree combines Celtic music, folk rock, bluegrass and pop on This Time. The songs have pop hooks, great vocals harmonies with nicely crafted arrangements. The Celtic aspect appears in the form of penny whistle and fiddle. The mandolin adds a strong bluegrass flavor.

The trio includes Natalie Parker on vocals and penny whistle; Ryan Pentland on vocals, guitar, harmonica and kick drum; and producer and multi-instrumentalist Yanni Dellaportas on vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, and bass.

Buy This Time

Share

Introduction to Celtic Music

Irish band The Chieftains, one of the most popular Celtic music acts

It’s difficult to know what the music of the ancient Celts sounded like. Historical and archaeological data indicates that the Celts used bronze horns, flutes and bells.

What we know as Celtic music today is in reality the traditional music developed relatively recently in several western European Atlantic regions that may have been inhabited by Celtic peoples about 2,000 years ago.

Current Celtic music is characterized by the use of various forms of bagpipes (likely introduced by the Romans), harps, fiddles, flutes and whistles, accordion and concertina, and frame drums. In the 1970s, Irish musicians pioneered the use of additional instruments such as the Greek bouzouki, the Spanish guitar, the American banjo and the Italian mandolin, and adapted them to Irish traditional music.

Recent Celtic music history

The great Celtic music upsurge took place in the 1970s thanks to various influential artists from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain) and Wales.

Ireland

The Bothy Band

Irish groups such as The Chieftains, The Bothy Band, Plantxy, Clannad and The Dubliners attracted worldwide attention with their innovative, beautifully-crafted arrangements of Irish folk music that were later adopted by colleagues in other Celtic countries and regions, as well as other folk music traditions.

Although many of the best known acts from the 1960s and 1970s disbanded, The Chieftains and Clannad carried on to develop highly successful long careers.

Altan in 2010

A new wave of first class artists continued to popularize Irish traditional and contemporary folk music: Enya, Altan, Kila, Dervish, Lunasa, Andy Irvine, Davy Spillane, Frankie Gavin, John Doyle, Karan Casey, Kila, Liam O’Flynn, Matt Molloy, Micheal Ó Domhnaill, Moya Brennan (Máire Brennan), Mick Moloney, Moving Cloud, Niall Vallely, Niamh Parsons, Oisin Mac Diarmada, Paddy Keenan, Reeltime, Sharon Shannon, Susan McKeown, Téada, and The Gloaming.

Books about Irish traditional music: Focus: Irish Traditional Music (Focus on World Music Series) by Sean Williams, Routledge (2009); Companion to Irish Traditional Music by Fintan Vallely, Cork University Press (2011); O’Brien Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music (Pocket History series) by Gearoid O hAllmhurain, The O’Brien Press (2004); A Short History of Irish Traditional Music by Gearoid O hAllmhurain, The O’Brien Press (2017).

Scotland

Silly Wizard in 1983

Seminal Scottish acts Silly Wizard, Battlefield Band, Tannahill Weavers, Boys of the Lough and Ossian played outstanding contemporary Scottish folk music and created a school of followers.

The next generations of first rate Scottish artists included Alasdair Fraser, Aly Bain, Blazin’ Fiddles, Bodega, Boys of the Lough, Breabach, Burach, Capercaillie, Wolfstone, Catherine-Ann MacPhee, Catriona MacDonald, Lau, Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty and Treacherous Orchestra.

Brittany

Alan Stivell

Breton musician Alan Stivell introduced the Celtic harp to large audiences. Two innovative bands, Diaouled ar Menez and Gwendal, also from Brittany, toured Europe extensively for two decades with its blend of Celtic music, jazz and rock.

Additional essential Breton musicians include Dan Ar Bras, Barzaz, Bleizi Ruz, Alain Genty, Gwerz, Kornog, Soig Siberil, Skolvan, Jean-Michel Veillon, Andrea Ar Gouilh, Anne Auffret, Yann-Fañch Kemener, and Nolwenn Korbell.

Galicia

Early lineup of Milladoiro

In Galicia, singer and harp player Emilio Cao, the now legendary group Milladoiro, Doa, piper celebrity Carlos Núñez and the influential Traditional Music of the Municipal School of Arts and Trades of Vigo (currently known as the Municipal School of Traditional and Folk Music of Vigo) initiated the remarkable Galician Celtic music wave.

Carlos Núñez in 2017

In the 1980s, a significant new act was formed, Luar na Lubre. This group has become one of the leading ensembles in the the Galician folk music scene.

In the 1990s and afterwards, additional key bands and soloists appeared, including Matto Congrio, Fía na Roca, Berroguetto, Na Lua, Leilia, piper and flutist Xosé Manuel Budiño, Mercedes Peón, pipers Susana Seivane and Cristina Pato, Rosa Cedrón and the spectacular Son de Seu folk orchestra.

Wales

A revival of traditional folk music and a renewed interest in the use of its native Gaelic language took place in Wales in the 1970’s. With the help of local media and record companies like Sain, artists who represented the Welsh tradition and language finally got exposure.

Robin Huw Bowen

One of the essential musicians in Wales is Robin Huw Bowen, a master of the triple harp. He researched the music and methods of the old Welsh harpers by studying their old manuscripts. He has performed widely throughout the world, as a soloist and also as a member of the Welsh folk groups Mabsant and Cusan Tân.

Siân James

The best known Gaelic-language singer is Siân James. Aside from her solo career, James also performed with dub reggae and rock bands.

On the traditional folk scene, Calennig’s lively dance music attracts attention. The band, formed in 1978, was led by Pat Smith and Mick Tems. Their material includes Welsh, Galician and Breton tunes. The 2019 lineup featured founder Pat Smith on concertina, Ned Clamp on guitar, Jem Randles on bass guitar, and virtuoso fiddler Iolo Jones.

Other Welsh folk highlights include singer Julie Murphy, Heather Jones and Hin Deg. An exciting group in the contemporary folk style is Carreg Lafar, formed in 1993.

Jamie Smith’s Mabon in 2017

One of the finest Celtic roots acts was Jamie Smith’s Mabon, led by accordion maestro Jamie Smith. The group disbanded in 2019.

Inter-Celtic Festivals

Thanks to the proliferation of Inter-Celtic festivals since the 1970s, musicians from Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Galicia, Asturias, the USA, Canada and other locations, have exchanged tunes, musical instruments and participated in mutual recordings.

Celtic Connections, Old-Fruitmarket – Photo by Gaelle Beri

Some of the top Celtic music festivals include Celtic Colours (Cape Breton, Canada), Celtic Connections (Scotland, UK), Festival Interceltique de Lorient (Brittany, France), Ortigueira Festival of Celtic World (Galicia, Spain), Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival (Ireland) and William Kennedy Piping Festival (Northern Ireland, UK).

Cwlwm Celtaidd in Wales celebrates the music from Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Wales.

Celtic Music Today

The major European centers of Celtic music today are Ireland, Scotland, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain), Asturias (Spain) and Wales (UK). Other smaller regions with a strong Celtic music heritage are: Cornwall (UK), Northumbria (UK), Tras-os-Montes (Portugal) and the Isle of Man (UK).

Outside Europe, the music from the Irish, Scottish and Galician diaspora has found a comfortable home in eastern Canada, the United States of America, and to a lesser extent Argentina and Australia.

Canadian Celtic and world music star, Loreena McKennitt

The Celtic music artists recovered the hurdy gurdy in Brittany and Galicia, the Celtic harp in Brittany and Scotland, and a newfound respect for the bagpipe, including the uilleann pipe, Highland pipe, border pipe, Scottish smallpipe, gaita gallega, gaita asturiana, gaita de fole and binioù.

Celtic music today has crossed over into the pop mainstream, world music, rock and new age thanks to artists like AfroCelt Sound System (UK), Enya (Ireland), Altan (Ireland), Loreena McKennit (Canada), The Chieftains (Ireland), Capercaillie (Scotland), Ashley McIsaac (Canada), Solas (USA), Connie Dover (USA), Cherish the Ladies (USA), Shooglenifty (Scotland), the electronic bagpipe innovator Hevia (Asturias, Spain) and The Gloaming (Ireland). There is also the success of the Riverdance dance shows. Celtic Woman and the lighter, easy listening side of Celtic music has sold well in the new age market by way of numerous compilations, harp recordings and concept albums.

The 1995 hit Sleepy Maggie by fiddler Ashley MacIsaac :

Piracy, consolidation, streaming and other factors have led to the demise and consolidation of many of the great Celtic music record labels of the past.

Brief History of the Celts

Ancient Greek historians, like Herodotus (400 BC) and Hecataeus of Miletus (500 BC), wrote about the Keltoi, a group of Iron Age “barbarian” tribes with a common language and culture that inhabited vast territories of Europe. The Keltoi’s dominion stretched from Ireland and the western Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) in the west to Bohemia (Czech Republic), Bavaria (Germany) and Austria in the east.

Castro de Baroña Celtic settlement in Galicia, Spain – Photo courtesy of Turismo de Galicia

The Celts were a mixture of western Indo-European peoples who created vivid ornamental art and spoke a language described by the Romans as Celtic. Their social power structure included warlords and priests known as druids. They lived in hill towns made to defend populated areas from other warring Celtic tribes. With the arrival of the Roman Empire, Celtic civilization nearly disappeared. Most of western Europe, except Ireland, was Romanized.

Celtic History books:

The Ancient Celts by Barry Cunliffe, Oxford University Press (1997); The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain & Ireland by Alistair Moffat, Birlinn Ltd (2001); Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland by Bryan Sykes, W. W. Norton & Company (2006); Celts: The History and Legacy of One of the Oldest Cultures in Europe by Martin J. Dougherty, Amber Books (2015); The Celts: A History From Earliest Times to the Present by Bernhard Maier, Edinburgh University Press (2018); Los Celtas. Imaginario, mitos y literatura en España by Martín Almagro-Gorbea, Almazara (2018): Celts: A Captivating Guide to Ancient Celtic History and Mythology, Including Their Battles Against the Roman Republic in the Gallic Wars, CH Publications (2019).

Share

Artist Profiles: Enya

Enya in 2015 – Photo by Simon Fowler

Eithne Patricia Ní Bhraonáin, better known as Enya, was born on May 17, 1961 in County Donegal, Ireland. She was brought up speaking Gaeilge (Irish). Her name, Enya is a transliteration of the Gaeilge pronunciation of Eithne. “Because of that, my alphabet pronunciation is different to that of someone who speaks English as a first language,” she explains. “I enjoy the sounds of language, it’s great to be able to sing in a very old language like Gaeilge but still be able to get the message across through the melody and performance.”

Enya studied classical music at Milford College. Her intention was to be involved in music but she didn’t know what direction she would take. After she left college, she was invited by sound engineer and producer Nicky Ryan and his partner, visual artist and lyricist Roma Ryan, who were then managing the group Clannad, to join the group on a temporary basis.

“I had come from studying classical music at boarding school and was fiercely independent,” remembers Enya. “I wasn’t really involved as a member of the group. Nicky wanted me as keyboard player and as another vocal texture in the band which I agreed to. I talked a lot about music with Nicky and this is when he had the idea of the choir of one (multi-tracked vocals by the same singer that sounds like a celestial choir). He was so into experimenting with all types of music.”

This all led to the creative partnership of Nicky, Enya and Roma in 1982. The first project the trio worked on was a soundtrack for David Puttnam’s 1984 film The Frog Prince. Two years later, Enya provided the entire soundtrack to the BBC television documentary series The Celts. “Initially they wanted one composer for each episode but then we put forward March Of The Celts – they came back saying we want to you to write all of them,” says Enya. “It was a big risk factor on their side, because I was just someone who had studied music – there was no guarantee what kind of music I was going to write.”

Enya in the 1980s

With songs performed both in English and Gaeilge, Enya produced a set of enchanting, ethereal pieces that would later be collected on her eponymous debut album, released in 1987.

While her debut album failed to hit the popularity charts, it attracted Warner Brothers’ chairman, Rob Dickins, who quickly signed Enya, much to the surprise of his colleagues who had little faith that Enya’s ethereal music would sell in a marketplace dominated by pop acts such as Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley. But Dickins said “Sometimes the company is there to make money, and sometimes it’s there to make music.”

Enya made her WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) debut in 1988 with the acclaimed album Watermark. “We and the record company were completely taken aback by the reaction to Watermark,” admits Enya. “How could you tell? There wasn’t any music like that out there in the late-Eighties.” Watermark would go on to sell in excess of 11 million copies, earn Enya two Brit Award nominations and delivered a UK number one single with Orinoco Flow. “Orinoco Flow” was a hit in every country in which it was released.

Treating Enya as very much a personal project, Dickins respected Enya’s desire for creative independence. “It was a condition of the signing that we would be creatively independent and for that reason we have never felt that we couldn’t do something and be different for the right reasons; because the music dictated it,” says Enya. “The only real pressure we get is when [Warner] ask if there will be an album out this year or not.”.

In 1991, Enya released the 12 million selling album Shepherd Moons which made its debut at the peak of the UK album chart and stayed on the US charts for 199 consecutive weeks. Shepherd Moons won Enya her first Grammy for Best New Age Album.

Four years later, in 1995, The Memory Of Trees earned another Grammy and had 9 million sales and her first No.1 record in Australia, Spain and Sweden.

A highly successful ‘Best Of’ collection titled “Paint The Sky With Stars” followed in 1997, featuring Top 20 hits such as ‘Orinoco Flow,’ ‘Caribbean Blue,’ ‘Book Of Days’ and ‘Anywhere Is’.

A Day Without Rain came out in 2000. Enya said, “The title refers to the mood on a particularly peaceful day on which there was no rain. We do get a lot of rain in Ireland in all seasons! We had had a run of days where it had done nothing but rain. Then one day the sun came out. It was then that I wrote the title track, so what else could I call it?

It took Enya and her colleagues 5 years to make A Day Without Rain. “As I do all the vocals and harmonies, and we do not sample, this obviously takes up a considerable amount of time,” she explained. “Also, as everything you hear on the album is played by me, that too becomes a very long process. Therefore, we are inclined to take much longer in the studio than other people.”

In 2001, film director Peter Jackson requested that Enya contribute two songs to the soundtrack of Lord Of The Rings – The Fellowship Of The Ring. The result was ‘May It Be” and “Aniron … (I Desire).” Enya, Nicky and Roma were all nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for ‘May It Be’.

Enya’s sixth album was “Amarantine” (2005), recorded in Ireland. In addition to one song in Japanese, Enya sings three songs written in a customised language invented by Roma. Amarantine, released in 2005, was more classically shaded and less obviously pop influenced in its textures than its predecessors. It contained a number of songs with lyrics in Loxian, a language created by Roma Ryan, which she has written about in the book Water Shows The Hidden Heart.

And Winter Came was released in 2008. The album’s twelve songs are an atmospheric and enchanting evocation of the changing landscape of winter and the cheer that Christmas brings. Once again the album was recorded in their own studio and is the result of the longstanding creative triade that was formed back in 1982 with producer/arranger Nicky Ryan and lyricist Roma Ryan. Although “And Winter Came” was planned as a Christmas project, the album began to take shape a wider seasonal theme soon became evident. “I always wanted to do a Christmas album, but as we began recording I didn’t feel it was right to impose a Christmas theme on certain songs,” explains Enya.

Enya’s seventh studio album also contains two traditional Christmas songs, ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ and a new version of ‘Silent Night’ (Oíche Chiuín), a song Enya sang in Gaeilge that proved hugely popular over the years. “It was exciting to re-live Silent Night because I sung that twenty years ago,” enthused Enya. “It is re-released every year in America and it was so nice to go back and do something different with it.” The new version of Oíche Chiuín (Chorale) incorporates the “choir of one.”

“Dark Sky Island’ was released in 2015. “This album has a theme of journeys,” stated Enya. “Journeys to the island; through the length of a lifetime; through history, through emotions; and journeys across great oceans. So although it’s not a ‘themed’ album, as such, we nevertheless have an underlying connection between songs.”

Dark Sky Island refers to the island of Sark, one of the Channel Islands,” explained Roma. “It was the first island to be designated as a dark sky area. The community decided collectively to adjust their way of living in order to accommodate clear, unspoiled night-views of the heavens. There are no cars on the island and all of the lighting is designed so that it doesn’t interfere with the observation of the stars. So many stars can be seen that it can be difficult to pick out familiar constellations.”

Discography:

Enya (BBC, 1987), re-released as The Celts (WEA/Reprise, 1992)
Watermark (WEA/Geffen, 1988)
Shepherd Moons (WEA/Reprise, 19921
The Memory of Trees (WEA/Reprise, 1995)
A Day Without Rain (WEA/Reprise, 2000)
Amarantine (Warner Bros./Reprise, 2005)
And Winter Came… (Warner Bros./Reprise, 2008)
Dark Sky Island (Warner Bros./Reprise, 2015)

Share

Treacherous Orchestra, Brawny Superband

Good festival bands convert listeners into fans. Some even inspire amateur musicians in the audience to quit their day jobs and go on tour. Probably, Treacherous Orchestra inspires young Scottish men to wear black vests and get tattoos, but also, this brawny superband fathered my World Fusion playlist.

…Not exclusively, of course. Daniel Steinberg (Hillbillies From Mars) turned me on to Treacherous Orchestra, so he can also be blamed for my latest addiction. This was back in the days (close to a year ago) when some grumpy Redditor described world music as ear-candy for restless housewives, and I thought to myself “Great! If other housewives listen to my favorite music, I would love to meet them!” But, of course, I understood the grump’s complaint, and I also realized that he had never listened to my playlist. Then one old school guitarist, who did listen, remarked with disgust, “How can you even call this music? It’s just a bunch of ideas.”

Fortunately, today’s general populace is starting to understand what world fusion is/isn’t (compared with New Age and the older genre called world music). New artists emerging every week are building momentum with their genre-bending twists on traditional ethnic music. Still you’ll notice good old Treacherous Orchestra hovering at the top of my playlist. That’s not only because they were my First Love. It’s because in my humble opinion: 1. Their music is stupendous, and 2. Their track “Numbers” magnificently announces, “Here’s what I believe world fusion is, or maybe ought to be.” Wikipedia seems to concur, because its latest definition embraces everything on my playlist: World Fusion playlist.

Treacherous Orchestra

Now, if you’re seeking a fancy micro-analysis of Treacherous Orchestra’s melodic hooks and mathematical phrasing, you’ll need to consult a Certified Music Major. I’ve got just enough book knowledge to be dangerous. I can only differentiate 6/8 from 3/4 by humming, and I hate talking out my rear end. So my evaluations are purely based on intuition. The way it happened with Treacherous Orchestra was like this: I had an epiphany. Within seconds of hearing Numbers, I felt whisked out of my chair to a place that wasn’t Scotland (the band’s homeland) or even outer space, but rather, a place surpassing all spoken language.

Some ethnic fusion is really just a mishmash, like potstickers and tacos in the same buffet with quiche; Likewise, some world music has all the pizzaz of mild Mexican chili; But not Treacherous Orchestra. Their music seduced me like spicy watermelon gazpacho (exotic, intense and deeply satisfying). My cheeks flushed. Give me another round of whatever that is!

Treacherous Orchestra – Grind

In a frenzy of excitement, I asked Daniel Steinberg for more recommendations, and surfed Spotify, until I found myself creating a playlist like no other. This giant world fusion collection will always be a work-in-progress, continually broadening one cohesive journey, like a series of themed-rooms linked together by curious passages. Curating the playlist feels like creating a global Concept Album.     

So, for the likes of you, I’m about to start publishing spotlight reviews. They will feature some bands already on the playlist, plus many new discoveries. If you enjoy what you hear, please come again!

If you are going to visit the playlist now, please don’t hit Shuffle Play (the arrow), or you will just hear chaos rather than a journey. Start at the top, but then notice as you go down that there are many good places to begin your next journey.

Of course you will hear Numbers first. Prepare yourself by imagining the cream of Scotland: Nearly a dozen sensational folk musicians, mostly shrink-wrapped in black, with tattoos exposed, hairy from birth, reeking of pheromones (or maybe Old Spice), blowing, squeezing and beating every manner of finicky Celtic instrument as casually as jocks dribbling basketballs. These youngsters make their profession look easy. Yet nobody could mistake Treacherous Orchestra for a jam band. This big-rig clearly has an expert driver. So marvel at the band’s exquisite precision. Analyze how its melodic phrasing shifts mathematically, within a fixed time signature. Press Repeat, and then let yourself stop thinking…

Share

Glamorous recital from Canadian Singer and Harper Loreena McKennitt in San Sebastian

The “Lost Souls Tour”, an extensive tour of Europe, also ended up in Spain (Valencia, Murcia, Granada, Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and finally in San Sebastian). And, after Thessaloniki, Athens, Izmir, Ankara, Istanbul, Abenberg, Munich, Berlin, Freiburg, Mainz, Florence, Milan, Udine, Macerata, Rome, Molfettá, Cervere and Lyon, Canada’s Loreena Mckennitt will have completed one of her more clamorous and also “glamorous” European tours. Elegance is not only in fashion shows, but also in some theatrical scenes, such as the Victoria Eugenia venue.

Loreena has nearly forty years of professional activity, and it seems as if time had not passed through her, especially her music. And the voice, that incredible voice, is, next to her inseparable Celtic harp, hallmark of one of the most personal and unmistakable artists of the broad contemporary musical spectrum.

She doesn’t know about labels or upstart commitments: she started, and continues to do so, from an unequivocal musical and literary tradition anchored in Ireland and Shakespeare in equal parts, but she has managed to expand her borders until she reaches the sensual East, the torrid Morocco, the canonical Hellenic civilizations, and has even set its sights on the Spanish mysticism of the literary Golden Age and has sung to the asceticism taken from San Juan de la Cruz, just to mention a few ports in which she has landed.

Loreena McKennitt – Photo by Richard Haughton

Her current tour, based on the themes of her latest published CD, “Lost Souls“, is protected and supported by the rocking chair of a phenomenal instrumental quintet: Brian Hughes (guitars, bouzouki), Caroline Lavelle (cello, recorder, vocals), Dudley Phillips (electric bass), Robert Brian (drums, percussion) and the sensational violinist Hugh Mash, true virtuoso, builder and vehicle of the loudness displayed by the ensemble.

Loreena, on the other hand, launched, more than ever, her arsenal of exhibits and possibilities: not only the well-known and already cited harp (less used than in the past), but also, the very “folkie” accordion, the gliding synthesizers and, the wonder, her latest “discovery”, the piano, not so much with classical connotations as close to jazz “pathos”. Thus, the creator of “Santiago” and “Bonny Portmore” has approached an increasingly globalizing and, in any case, always creative sound.

Cast aside this time, some sounds frequently used in other times not too far away: the medieval hurdy gurdy and those deeply rooted in Celtic culture, the “uileann pipes”. Particularly, I miss those telluric gadgets, always supplanted in modernity by the versatile keyboards. Yes, a shame.

But, despite that, the provision of Loreena McKennitt live always elevates you near the seventh heaven. Prodigy of diction, elegance, lyrical intensity, expressive emotion, the voice and music of the incomparable artist (because there is no other that does what she does, although outstanding and personal approaches have emerged: in some passages, the Gaelic Enya In others, the Guipuzcoan Olatz Zugasti) is one of the most rewarding experiences that the ear, so often punished, can perceive of the listener conducive to receiving flashes of beauty without a story.

The repertoire did not miss the opportunity to approach some of her “great hits.” “Lady of Shalott”, based on a poem by Lord Tennyson, with its more than ten minutes of brilliant poetic display, was, without a doubt, a high point in the recital. Her Arabic, turquoise and Mediterranean melodies also made an appropriate act of presence. Gaelic references and Marrakesh-ish were not lacking, nor was the (and above all) the captivating, almost dreamlike, always bucolic world of Irish legends and essences. W.B. Yeats did not walk very far, but now the singer is very determined to recreate her own literary world, with songs from her harvest.

Musically, the proposal balanced between the admirable, renovated “folk” of the 21st century, and winks to almost hard rock and jazz, not improvised but very measured instrumental moment. Above all and all, a sublime voice, between soprano and the sharp outbursts of a texture unattainable by other vocalists. Only Joan Baez would be up to it in this regard. Or Nina Simone.

Share

The Lorient Festival Dedicates the 2019 Edition to the Music of Galicia

The new edition of the prestigious and established Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival (Brittany, France), directed since nearly a decade ago by journalist, cultural activist and producer Lisardo Lombardia (Asturias, Spain), will present a very attractive program, with special dedication to the music from Galicia (Spain), this year’s guest country. The festival takes place August 2-11 in Brittany.

Carlos Núñez

The extensive Galician representation will be led, of course, by Galician piper and flute player Carlos Núñez, a real popular legend not only for the Breton public, but throughout France, where his albums sell very well and where he’s a really popular person at all levels. The disciple of Paddy Moloney and the legendary Irish group, The Chieftains, has reached an enviable maturity, enthralling with his attractive visual and sound show to all possible audiences.

Milladoiro, on the other hand, is the most respected and prestigious band in the rich and varied panorama of the traditional sound of Galicia, a pantheon that also includes acts such as Luar Na Lubre, Cristina Pato, Susana Seivane, Múxicas, and a long etcetera. Milladoiro, with a resume of more than 20 albums and several soundtracks under their belt, is undoubtedly an example of quality, perseverance and loyalty to roots.

The new talent will be represented by Mercedes Peón, anthropologist, field researcher, composer, arranger and singer, with a stage show as current as groundbreaking, not far from the deliveries of Iceland’s Bjorg or Ireland’s Sinead O’Connor. A concert by Mercedes Peón never leaves anyone indifferent.

Aside from the “Galicia Special” of the FIL19 (Lorient Interceltic Festival), the programming of its ten variegated days also includes the performance of Balkan artist Goran Bregovic, who will be accompanied on such a sole occasion by none other than the Symphony Orchestra of Brittany.

In addition, veteran French folk rock band Soldat Louis, much loved among their countrymen, and Bagad Kemper Bagpipe and Percussion Band, representative of the hundreds of similar groups that swarm their country will be another point of interest. As well as the appearance of another veteran Hungarian group, Skolvan, of which we had no news for many years.

Fest noz at Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival

The Great Parade of the Celtic Countries, which gathers more than a hundred thousand people, between participants and spectators and is broadcast on television throughout the Hexagon [France], and the beloved daily sessions of dance and live music of the nightly “fest noz” are other inducements of this great event, that no good fan of the sounds and spirits of universal pan-Celtic music should miss in person at least once in a lifetime.

More at www.festival-interceltique.bzh

Share

Artist Profiles: Simon Thoumire

Simon Thoumire

Simon Thoumire was born July 11, 1970 in Edinburgh, Scotland. An acknowledged concertina virtuoso, Thoumire has dazzled audiences all over the world with his playing.

A winner of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Tradition Award in 1989, Simon has always been interested in exploring different genres of music, releasing many records over the years delving into folk, jazz, improvisation and composition.

Simon has also pursued interests in the industry side of traditional music forming Foot Stompin’ Records in 1997, Scottish Traditional Music Trust (2000) and Hands Up for Trad (2003). United Kingdom Europe

Discography:

Exhibit A, with Fergus MacKenzie ‎(Iona, 1995)
The Big Day In, with David Milligan ‎(Foot Stompin’ Records, 2001)
Brothers In Music ‎(DUNS, 2004)
Third Flight Home, with David Milligan ‎(Foot Stompin’ Records, 2007)

Share

Artist Profiles: Tony McManus

Tony McManus

Guitarist Tony McManus was born in 1965 in Paisley, Scotland. He is a leading figure in contemporary Celtic music. His style is influenced by the entire Celtic diaspora – Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Asturias, Cape Breton, Quebec – along with still further-ranging flavors, such as jazz and east European music.

His skills are also in constant demand by fellow musicians and he has featured on over 50 albums by other artists, including Kate Rusby, Alison Brown, William Jackson, Brian McNeill, Liz Doherty, Colin Reid and Catriona Macdonald, in addition to innumerable live guest appearances.

Other collaborations include his celebrated partnership with master Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser. In 2005, McManus released a CD with Breton fretless bass player, Alain Genty titled Singing Sands.

Discography:

Tony McManus (Greentrax, 1996)
Pourquoi Quebec (Greentrax, 1998)
Return to Kintail, with Alasdair Fraser (Culburnie, 1999)
Ceol More (Compass, 2002)
Singing Sands with Alain Genty (Compass, 2005)
The Maker’s Mark (Compass, 2008)
Mysterious Boundaries (Compass, 2013)
Round Trip, with Beppe Gambetta (Borealis, 2015)

Share