Atlantic Waves 02mar10: Folk made in the UK

The Destroyers are a 15-headed conflagration of instrumentalists, vocalists and composers, specialising in turbo-folk mélanges of Gypsy, Balkan, Klesmer and beat poetry. They put on a riotous uplifting show, and get audiences really going– jumping around and that sort of thing.

Prego have been playing their vibrant take on European Roots music for quite a few years. They are a six-piece line up featuring Accordeon or Pipes, Fiddle, Saxes, Guitars, Congas and Bass. The have got subtle rhythms blended with the melodic tastes of Europe under-pinned by a very unique UK drive.

Spiro is an acoustic-folk four-piece band for people who can’t abide acoustic-folk four-pieces, and those who can. Guitar, mandolin, violin and accordion – if that’s enough for you, then enjoy your trad-folk ghetto. Intense and minimal, they roll out complex arrangements with such ease that you feel your heart lift a few inches above its normal resting place. This is folk music that would appeal to people who, on the whole, hate the very idea of folk music.

A UK based Alt-Americana quartet, with soaring vocals, infectious rhythms and blasts of slide guitar and banjo. Plying tales of lost love, revenge and rural homicide, The Cedars manage to straddle the divide between the dancehalls of the 20’s and 30’s and what’s going on in the scene right now.

The Scoville Units is a new celtic/bluegrass band featuring ex-members of Flook & Daily Planet. The combination of these internationally renowned Irish musicians and a more improvisational approach to traditional music proved a hit and took all involved into surprisingly uncharted musical territory.

Sheelanagig have been honing their eclectic blend of folk, jazz and world music since early 2005. The band have developed a devoted following with three album releases and a hectic touring schedule. The five members of Sheelanagig bring a wide range of musical backgrounds to the band’s unique sound, and are united by their commitment to energetic performance with the highest quality instrumental music.

Dogan Mehmet creates an Anglo-Turkish, Gypsy-Punk style mix of traditions and strong acoustic grooves. A diverse mixture of Southern English and Turkish folk songs, self-penned material and driven tunes from English Morris as well as Cypriot traditions give Dogan his own captivating sound. His talent and confidence belie his young age and he makes a storm wherever he goes with his effervescent personality and huge enthusiasm for life and for his music.

Accordionist Phil Cunningham and Shetland fiddler Aly Bain have recorded several fine albums together exploring the richness and variety of Scotland’s traditional tune heritage.

Monster Ceilidh Band is a Newcastle-based ceilidh band fusing the traditional with the modern. Beginning as a humble ceilidh band, they used their collected knowledge of different styles and genres to form new ways of playing traditional and contemporary music. Drawing on a wealth of combined knowledge they excite, uplift and entertain masterfully. Elegant traditional playing versus raucous rave-like rhythms reveals arrangements to ignite the dance floor.

Chris Wood plays fiddle, viola and guitar, and sings. He is an ardent enthusiast for traditional English dance music (with a background in English church music), including Morris and other rituals and ceremonies, but his repertoire also includes much French folk music and traditional Québécois material. One of his first recordings was playing bass and percussion on “Jack’s Alive” (1980) the first album by the Oysterband (at that time called the Oyster Ceilidh Band).

Mawkin:Causley is a collaborative effort made up of Jim Causley (folk singer, songwriter and musician from East Devon) and Mawkin (Essex instrumental quartet).

Over a 27-year career, Chumbawamba plays music ranging from anarcho-punk, pop-influenced dance music, a cappella/choral music and world music to acoustic folk music. They have taken influence from anarchist politics and exhibit an irreverent attitude toward authority, touching on issues such as domestic violence, religion, racism, fascism, war, homosexuality, information technology, pop culture, pornography, resistance, working class rights, and consumerism.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang (TMTCH) are a British rock band whose mixture of folk and punk is not dissimilar to that of The Pogues (in fact founder member Shanne Bradley was an original female punk artist and founder of Shane MacGowan’s first band, The Nipple Erectors).


Atlantic Waves 03nov09: LIFEM 09

When I say this is a festival of exploratory music, I am not really referring to a genre. It is rather a proactive attitude about all kinds of music. My inspiration is the 15th- and 16th-century European explorers who would set out from the Continent and sail through the Atlantic to discover the rest of the world.

What I explore in music is something that is different, surprising and challenging, so it is essential that LIFEM should differ from other festivals. Curiosity is my main motive. There are so many interesting musical cultures out there, and like many other people, I have yet to encounter them all. That urges me to explore more, often bringing me surprises which I love to share.

This year’s LIFEM is again full of exciting and novel acts. It starts with two classically-influenced artists from Britain: singer-composer Jenni Roditi, whose genre-shifting voice and diverse music fuse different forms in a minimalistic trend, and Andrew Poppy, an eclectic artist whose music has been compared to Cabaret Voltaire and Philip Glass.

In terms of themes, we have a Japanese night that introduces a very modern kind of electronic music by Midori Hirano, Oorutaichi and DJ Scotch Egg. Likewise, the Brazilian night treats us with three acts by Coletivo Rádio Cipó, Daniel Peixoto and Da Cruz: modern Brazilian music that is not just traditional samba or bossa nova.

We also have a Chinese act, but forget the stereotyped associations of Chinese music with traditional Far Eastern tunes: Lonely China Day is a modern rock band, with a very different approach than most Anglo-American bands. Their concert is preceded by the Gaelic singer Lorcán Mac Mathúna’s inspiring rendition of Irish folk tunes, and Tri a Tolia, combining Turkish voice, Iraqi qanun and Belgian cello for a performance of sad, beautiful songs about love, loss and longing.

Another thematic night takes us to as far as the Arctic territories, pairing the acts of two Eskimo performers: Tanya Tagaq, the contemporary Inuit throat singer-composer from Nunavut – Canada, has collaborated with names such as Björk and Kronos Quartet; and Nive Nielsen is an Inuk singer-songwriter from Greenland, accompanying her songs with her ukulele.

I am equally enthusiastic about the night of Gypsy, Klezmer and Ceilidh. That is bound to be extremely rich and diverse as the music of Les Yeux Noirs (France); Cukunft (Poland) and Monster Ceilidh Band (UK) represent three old traditions of social dance and party music culture.

While having such a diverse programme to enjoy, it is also delightful to see Kings Place as the new home to LIFEM. Perfectly located next to King’s Cross – St Pancras, the new gateway to Europe, I think it is an ideal venue for such a festival as it embraces all types of musical genres and activities, an attitude which I very much appreciate.

In the meantime, keep an eye on for other exciting news…

89 Atlantic Waves 03nov09


Atlantic Waves 27oct09: LIFEM 09

The very first London International Festival of Exploratory Music (LIFEM) unites the myspace generation of musical explorers from the four corners of the globe.

Produced by Red Orange and presented in the perfect acoustics of Kings Place, LIFEM has truly exploited the incredible potential of the world-wide-web to seek the most exciting finds from the far East, the middle East, the Arctic Circle, south America and East and West Europe. LIFEM shows just what the internet can do for world music.

LIFEM has curated evenings which bring together a selection of artists from shared continents to reveal the commonality and differences between them.

The night of Gypsy, Klezmer and Ceilidh is bound to be extremely rich and diverse as the music of Les Yeux Noirs (France); Cukunft (Poland) and Monster Ceilidh Band (UK) represent three old traditions of social dance and party music culture. Kings Place’s Hall 2 presents dancefloor fillers from Brazil, where the well-loved rhythms of samba have mutated via musical technology to create exotic electronica. Daniel Peixoto brings it bang up to date with dirty, DIY electro pop with more than his slashed neon t-shirts in common with German electro-trash.

Alongside this whirlwind tour of global music, LIFEM also presents a free programme of award-winning short films making their UK debut.

88 Atlantic Waves 27oct09