From Birmingham, England, singer Pato Banton is one of the modern stars of reggae. In a career that included a spiritual sabbatical, he returned to the stage with renewed commitment in 2005.
Patrick Murray was born in London in 1961, and moved to Birmingham when he was 8 years old. Pato’s stepfather (Lester Daley) was a DJ recently arrived from Jamaica and the house in which they lived became the weekend night hotspot for the local community.
Banton’s distinctive vocal approach first caught public attention through his work with the English Beat, including his 1982 duet with Ranking Roger, “Pato and Roger a Go Talk.” He made a guest appearance on UB40’s 1985 album, “Baggariddim.” The next year he released his own album produced by Mad Professor: “Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton.” He later had a hit with his version of the Police’s “Spirits in the Material World,” and collaborated with Steel Pulse’s Justin Hinds on “Wize Up!” in 1990.
Pato Banton says, “From ‘Never Give In’ to ‘Life Is A Miracle’ my main goal has always been to spread truth, beauty and goodness through reggae music. I have been blessed with the gift of Revelation, seen and been a part of many miracles, but nothing compares to the beautiful personalities I’ve met along the way. As I approach the final chapter of my musical journey on Planet Earth (Urantia), my only desire is to serve Divinity through humanity. And to all my brothers and sisters who are striving to achieve their goals in this age of materiality, my message is… Stay Positive & Never Give In!”
Brian Finnegan is a renowned tin whistle and flute player from Armagh, Ireland. He is one of the most technically inventive and imaginative of flute and whistle players to have emerged from Ireland in recent years. Brian’s well-recognized abilities in traditional Irish music are often blended with folk music from other traditions.
He was a founder member of Upstairs in a Tent. He later formed the hugely popular, ground-breaking Celtic band Flook. Flook recorded three highly acclaimed studio albums, Flatfish, Rubai and Haven. Their album Rubai was voted Folk Album of the Year and Brian was voted Male Musician of the Year by LiveIreland.com and the Irish American News. Collecting awards and a huge fan base wherever they toured, Flook were crowned BBC Band Of The Year 2006. They disbanded in 2008.
Brian Finnegan traveled and toured through India and Eastern Europe. This experience had a deep and profound effect on his talent as a composer, hinted at early on with the release of his first CD,‘When The Party’s Over’ in 1993. In 2008 he was commissioned by The Sage Centre in Newcastle Upon Tyne to compose a piece for the opening of ‘The Eighth Bridge’, a major art installation across the river Tyne.
He has toured and recorded with many artists including Cara Dillon, Kate Rusby, and Russian group Aquarium. Celtic Connections 28 premiered his northern big band, The Singing Tree; thirteen performers, musicians, singers, poets and dancers, all from the northern counties of Ireland.
In 2010 he toured the West Coast of the United States and Ireland with guitarist William Coulter. Brian and William met at the Boxwood flute camp in Nova Scotia during the summer of 2008, where both were teaching. A concert was in the works and the musicians enjoyed playing together so much they talked about the possibility of touring as a duo.
Brian’s album, ‘The Ravishing Genius Of Bones’ was released in March 2010 and coincided with the formation of his quartet called Kan. The band included guitarist Ian Stephenson and drummer Jim Goodwin and fiddler Aidan O’Rourke.
Afro Celt Sound System are widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and pioneering groups to emerge from the increasingly eclectic cross-cultural experimentations at the cutting edge of “world music” in the 1990s.
After much soul-searching and reorganization following the sudden tragic death of keyboardist Joe Bruce, the group re-emerged with a dynamic and emotionally charged album that wed the delicacy of their acoustic instruments – harp, kora, bodhran, jembe, uilleann pipes, talking drum – with the multidimensional, layered production of Simon Emmerson and Martin Russell.
The band’s characteristic Celtic-West African fusion, inherently joyful and high-energy, was offset by a discernible bittersweet quality, darker and more melancholic than the first album’s effusive spirit expressively underscored by the performances of guest musicians Nigel Eaton on hurdy gurdy, Michael McGoldrick and Ronan Browne on uilleann pipes, Youth on bass, Dhol Foundation’s Johnny Kaisi on dhol drums & tabla, and Sinead O’Connor on vocals.
The album represents the transformation of a project – conceived at Real World’s 1996 Recording Week – into a cohesive band with a distinctive sound and style. It is the record they all wanted to make, reflecting the unique playing skills and personalities of the diverse core members – Simon Emmerson (guitars, programming, keyboards), N’Faly Kouyate (vocals, kora, bala), Iarla O Lionáird (vocals), James McNally (keyboard, whistle, bodhran, accordion), Myrdhin (Celtic harp), Martin Russell (keyboard, programming, engineering), and Moussa Sissokho (talking drum, jembe).
James McNally said “Our style of writing and playing music does not pretend to adhere to any particular traditional style except our own. Together we write Afro Celt music: music rooted in the past that’s reaching into the future – that’s it. The collaboration of the various musicians within the band was effortless, heartfelt, and very harmonious. My faith in the others was constantly rewarded with stunning contributions and performances. It’s like we can almost read each others’ mindset’s uncanny, transporting, and deeply magical.”
Afro Celts are firmly rooted in some of the oldest musical traditions on earth, yet colliding head on with cutting-edge electronica. Iarla is among the foremost performers of West Ireland’s ancient unaccompanied sean nos vocal style. Myrdhin plays an ancestral Breton harp, and both N’Faly and Moussa are venerated jalis from West Africa’s esteemed bardic schools of master musicianship. Conversely, Simon comes from the context of experimental dance music, and James’ background was with the Pogues and the Irish hardcore hip-hop group Marxman. From these far ends of the musical spectrum comes the entity that stormed the stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival, played to a full-on dance crowd at Tribal Gathering, and played to a widely enthusiastic crowd of 20.000+ MTV rockers at Holland’s Lowlands Festival.
Simon Emmerson said “It’s very difficult to get across… that what we’re doing is rooted in my neighborhood in East London. Our studio is based in the same building as Fat Man Sound System – one of London’s oldest Club Dog are also there my neighbor runs Jah Youth Sounds. Zion Train live up the road, as does Adrian Sherwood’s On U Sound System. Within a two-mile radius of my house there’s been Talvin Singh’s club, the first drum &bass sessions, the Whirl-Y-Gig, and countless other similar clubs. This is my musical environment.”
Afro Celt Sound System returned in 2010 with Capture, a career-spanning double CD, released by Real World. Selected from the collective’s five acclaimed studio albums, the 25 tracks are divided into songs (Verse) and instrumentals (Chorus). The songs were re-mastered to lend the sound a new warmth and allow the dynamics to emerge as originally intended.
Capture includes Afro Celt Sound System’s collaborations with Sinead O’Connor, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Dorothee Munyaneza and others. It also includes pieces featured on soundtracks including Gangs of New York and Hotel Rwanda.
In 2016, a version of Afro Celt Sound System led by Simon Emmerson released an album titled The Source. This was a controversial move since the remaining founders of Afro Celt Sound System, James McNally and Martin Russell, expressed in a press release that this was not the real Afro Celt Sound System.
The Source included Simon Emmerson on guitars, cittern, bass programming, electronica; Griogair on vocals, rap, highland pipes, whistles, electric guitar; Johnny Kalsi on dhol drums, percussion, beats and programming; N’Faly Kouyaté on kora, balafon, percussion, calabash and kirin; Mass on keyboards, beats and
electronica; Moussa Sissokho on talking drum, jembe and calabash. Jamie Reid handled artwork and visuals. Guests included members of Scottish band Shooglenifty.