Tabache are Claire Mann from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Aidan O'Rourke from Oban, and although they are just 19 and 22, they have already been compared in German and Scottish folk magazines with the early period of Irish super stars Altan. So what's all the buzz about?
Tabache's playing is outstanding indeed; Claire's flute and whistle playing and fiddling harmonise with Aidan's fiddling. Claire also has a beautiful light voice, and they sound like having played together for many a year. Bob Walton said in the Folk Roots, "Both are extremely talented young musicians with tremendous technique and feel for the music", while Pete Heywood concluded in the Living Tradition, "I am sure Tabache have it in them to produce an album that will become a classic (...) For some bands this takes a long time, with Tabache I have high hopes that the wait will be much shorter."
The two youths are nice, likeable and very modest - so they have not told us about their music awards: Aidan has won two National Prices on the fiddle at the age of 14 and has been finalist in the most prestigious open competition in Scotland, the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championships, in 1989, 1991 and 1992. Claire has won the All-Ireland Flute Championships in 1993 and 1994, made 2nd place in the All-Ireland Whistle and was four times finalist in the Fleadh Cheoils. And who knows what other awards they have not told us about....
Aidan comes from Scotland, Claire from England, but Tabache are playing also lots of Irish music - do they have an Irish background? "My family roots are in Donegal", says Aidan. "I was brought up in Scotland listening to Irish music. Even though I was playing Scottish style, I was playing and listening to more Irish tunes. When Tabache started, the whole band was just Irish." He admits that now he likes Scottish tunes better than Irish, and he is trying to focus Tabache's music more on Scottish music. Claire has not an Irish background at all; but there was a big Irish scene in Newcastle, and she became involved in an Irish organisation there. She learned traditional music mainly by listening to tapes and playing in sessions.
Claire started on the fiddle in school when she was ten - with classical music. She went to a class for traditional music, started playing the whistle at 10 and then at 12 the flute. She has no traditional background, although her father is (besides being a Jazz drummer) a really good dancer who is mad on Irish set dances and a violin maker - Claire's fiddle is one of him. Aidan's father plays a lot of guitar, banjo and mandolin, and he showed Aidan at the age of 9 how to hold the fiddle and how to start playing it. A fiddle teacher lived just along the road from his family in Oban, and this old man from Aberdeen gave Aidan his first fiddle lessons for five or six years. He also has had a classical teacher and was taught by a highland piper who also played fiddle.
Aidan remembers how he first met Claire, "I just played solo fiddle, Claire was playing solo, but we shared the same guitarist. We had a few tunes together in sessions, and decided that went well, let's give it a go." That was three years ago, and a year later they already published their first CD on the Scottish Lochshore label, called 'Are you willing' and getting very positive press reaction. Tabache has three outstanding guitarists at hand, and one of them always accompanies them on CD as well as in live.
They were compared by the folk press to early Altan - how do they feel about being compared with the most successful traditional Irish band? "The first tape of traditional music I have had was Altan", says Claire. "I learned great tunes and sing all the songs. I have certainly been influenced by them from the beginning." Aidan adds, "I think because Frankie and Mairéad played together just fiddle and flute - I mean it's easy enough to compare. It's a good thing that people have compared us to them, obviously we respect what Altan is doing, we really like their playing." He points out that they have never really tried to sound like Altan.
Last summer Aidan has finished university in Glasgow, and Claire has moved up to Edinburgh earlier last year after having finished college. Besides their duo work, Aidan is also touring sometimes with the hot traditional Scottish band Deaf Shepherd, and Claire plays in Tim O'Learys new band Arúin.
We are sure that a bright future awaits these young musicians.
All photos of Tabache by The Mollis
Latest published CD: Are You Willing? on KRL/Lochshore
For further information and booking, try out:
Tabache's homepage, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read also - from last issue - a feature on the band they are often compared with - Altan from Ireland.
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