FolkWorld Live Review 7/99:
The very first concert of Afro Celts Sound System's first tour through Germany took place in Cologne. The venue was packed, many music lovers found their way to the concert this evening. Among them were folk fans, world music lovers, techno freaks and open minded people. Before the band started to play, there was an atmosphere full of excitement; everybody expected something really special to come, experiencing the music trends of tomorrow...
The Afro Celts managed to catch the attention of the audience right from the first moment on. It was the start of an evening that many in the audiance will not forget.
Although programming plays a big role in the Afro Celt music, it is very much a live band that will soon get everybody in the audience dancing. The programming provides the right beat as a base for the music.
After some tunes there was a problem with the programming, but they got it sorted out soon and could move on to some high energy music.
On this tour the Afro Celts were James McNally on keyboards, whistle and bodhran, guitarist / programmer / keyboards player Simon Emmerson, Gaelic singer Iarla O'Lionáird, Moussa Sissoko from Guinea (talking drums, djembe), N'Faly Koyate from Nigeria (kora, balafon), Johnny Kalsi (dhol drums, tablas), the uilleann piper Emer Mayock and the sound engineer Martin Russel
Emer Mayock,the young traditional piper from southern Ireland, sometimes looked a bit lost sitting between all these hard working men making loud music. Still, her contribution to the music was huge and superb - the uillean piping blended excitingly with the clubby beats and gave an emotional feeling to the unpersonal beats.
The very percussive sound of the band is not just created by programming, but also very much by the instruments of the different cultures: the bodhran from Ireland and the talking drum, djembe, dhol drum and tabblas. The overall sound still lives from the live experence.
The Afro Celts have as diverse musical backgrounds as their instruments are diverse. It is fascinating that musicians with such different background can create an exciting and harmonic collective sound, carrying many influences of trad and also of modern music.
The modern music market plays also a central role in their live performance; in some songs and tunes the band moved more towards a techno band with a clubby feeling and light effects. Other moments left flutes, uillean pipes or even solo Sean Nos singing in the centre. For the audience it seemed to have been the right balance between all.
At the climax of the concert, two of the percussionist left the stage and drumming inmidst the audiance: Johnny Kalsi with a dhol drum and Moussa Sissokho with a talking drum. The sheering audience welcomed them wildly; the whole venue was jumping up and down.
The band had to do some encores before they could leave the stage; and the audience cried for more for a long time afterwards. In the end there was an atmosphere in the audience where everybody would talk about this special evening they had experienced.
Further infos available at: Afro Celts Sound System homepage
Photo Credit: All photos by The Mollis
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