Press

AMJ and WOMAD schools project: Wiltshire Gazette and Herald

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

oriana womad 2014Malmesbury students give their all on WOMAD main stage

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:  Monday 28th July 2014  By Barry Leighton

You could see it in their faces – elation at having their music appreciated by so many people, pride at being part of an outstanding performance at a major festival and very likely relief that it all went so well.

Some 100 young musicians, singers and dancers from in and around Malmesbury opened this year’s WOMAD Festival with a spectacular, hour-long set of high energy roots reggae that had thousands of fans dancing ecstatically in a field.

Every year since the festival moved from Reading to Charlton Park, near the town, in 2007 music students from Malmesbury School and a cluster of surrounding village schools have collaborated with a group of world class musicians to open the event.

This year they linked up with a Bristol based reggae collective AMJ – John Hollis, Mark Spence and Andy Clarke – and after just a week or so of rehearsals had the unnerving task of performing what they had learnt in front of a huge crowd at the festival’s main, open air stage.

As the early evening sun beamed onto hordes of people swarming onto the grassy arena at 7pm on Thursday the ranks of singers and musicians, all wearing colourful T-shirts, struck-up a reggae beat that immediately had everyone dancing.

The AMJ collective provided a slick and solid reggae Afro framework within which the young musicians and singers expressed themselves while the dancers hardly stopped moving throughout.

“It was amazing, really amazing,” said breathless 11 year-old dancer Lily Gee-Smith, of Malmesbury primary school, minutes after stepping off-stage.

“I was slightly nervous at first but once we got started it was great.”

Fellow Malmesbury primary school pupil Sakura Clemo, 10, one of the singers, said: “It was really, really fun. A great experience. When you get on stage you don’t feel nervous any more – you just enjoy it.

“I could see my mum, my grandparents, and lots of people I knew in the crowd. Everyone seemed to be enjoying it. They were all dancing.”

Toby Journeaux, 17, normally plays classical and jazz saxophone but had to adapt his style to fit into a Jamaican groove for what was called The Road To Reggae project.

“I’d not experienced reggae at all until the rehearsals so it was all new to me,” he said.

“But I’ve learnt a lot and it went really well. We were improvising a lot, bouncing off each other. It was great fun.”

Another Malmesbury School student Lucy Kershaw, 16, one of the singers, said: “It was a really fantastic experience. They (AMJ) were great people to work with. They were really good teachers. Was I nervous? Not at all. AMJ made us all feel really confident.”

Malmesbury School music teacher Debbie Corscadden said: “It was brilliant. It went really, really well. The students pulled out all the stops.”

Around half the students on-stage were from Malmesbury School while another 50 were recruited for the session from five local primary schools – Malmesbury, Brinkworth Earl Danby, Minety, Lea & Garsdon and Crudwell.

Their performance set the template for the fo llowing three days which saw around 30,000 world music fans converge on the Earl of Suffolk’s back garden to experience approximately 100 artists/bands from virtually every corner of the planet.

http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/11370985.Malmesbury_students_give_their_all_on_WOMAD_main_stage/?ref=rss

Malmesbury students learn a new rhythm for WOMAD appearance

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Saturday 19th July 2014 By Barry Leighton

The spirit of Bob Marley has been alive, well and kicking up some unfamiliar but decidedly heady rhythms in Malmesbury over the past week and a half as the town has gone reggae crazy.

In the space of five days around 100 children applied their musical skills to performing some funky reggae beats in preparation for next week’s WOMAD Festival.

Music students from Malmesbury School and a cluster of village schools in the vicinity have risen to the challenge of creating their own take on the sunshine sounds of Jamaica.

During a series of intense sessions throughout last week they were tutored at the school by three experienced Bristol-based reggae musicians John Hollis, Mark Spence and Andy Clarke, known collectively as AMJ.

The trio – who also brought along several guest musicians – taught the children, aged between eight and 18, the basics of the music that emerged from the ghettos of Kingston during the 1960s.

On Tuesday Malmesbury’s reggae ensemble had a dress rehearsal within the medieval walls of the ruined abbey that has been more used to the sombre chants of monks.

Now the young reggae orchestra is set to open the four-day WOMAD – World of Music Art and Dance Festival – with a performance of material especially written for the event by AMJ on the main stage at 7pm on July 24.

“There’s been a positive vibration ever since the project began,” said music teacher Debbie Corscadden, quoting a phrase from the Bob Marley song of the same name.

“The school has certainly been filled with sunny, laidback music,” she said. “The children were very excited to be working with professional reggae musicians. Some of them are accomplished musicians themselves – even those as young as 12.”

While the younger children focused on singing and dancing, the older ones have learnt how to apply their talents to the singular reggae beat on a variety of instruments including bass, brass, guitars, keyboards and percussion.

It has now become a tradition for children in the area to open the event on the Thursday night in front of thousands of fans with a performance alongside a top world music band.

http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/11347055.Malmesbury_students_learn_a_new_rhythm_for_WOMAD_appearance/

To see a gallery of photos, click here.

Catrin & Seckou at Lorient Festival: Cap Sene-Galles!

Monday, August 11th, 2014
/ Propos recueillis par Justin Daniel Freeman /

Racontez-nous la genèse du projet.

Seckou Keita : En mars 2012, mon manager, John Hollis, m’appelle en urgence alors que j’étais à Rome pour un concert pour l’Onu. Il avait lancé un projet entre le Malien Toumani Diabaté et la Galloise Catrin Finch. À cause des événements au Mali, ça n’a pas pu se faire comme prévu. Je suis arrivé dans le studio de Catrin qui n’avait aucune connaissance de la musique africaine et dès le premier jour, nous avons travaillé six heures. Finalement, Toumani est arrivé juste avant le premier des cinq concerts et le duo s’est transformé en trio pour les dates de Cardiff et Swansea .

Catrin Finch : Quand on joue avec certains musiciens, il y a un respect mutuel qui s’installe vraiment et c’est ce qu’il s’est passé avec Seckou. On a décidé de pousser le projet plus loin et ça a abouti à l’album “Clychau Dibon” sorti à l’automne .

Comment définiriez-vous votre musique ?
S. K. : C’est difficile de mettre une étiquette là-dessus. Ce n’est pas classique, ce n’est pas world… C’est le résultat d’une expérience totale où l’on a dû aller l’un vers l’autre et chercher la ressemblance entre nos deux harpes. En fait, ce n’est pas de la musique du monde, c’est de la musique pour le monde !

C. F. : Je viens d’un monde très classique, lui d’une tradition de griot, très orale… On est tellement éloignés au départ qu’on pourrait peut-être ranger notre disque sur l’étagère “tout et n’importe quoi” ! ?

Avez-vous rencontré des difficultés à accorder vos répertoires respectifs ?

C. F. : Lorsque j’ai découvert les rythmiques que Seckou a connues toute sa vie, ça a été très difficile à assimiler. Venant d’une formation classique, j’essayais d’écrire nos compositions mais ça n’avait aucun sens, c’est quelque chose qui se ressent. C’est en jouant qu’on a compris qu’il y avait de nombreuses structures communes .

S. K. : Il y a en fait beaucoup de passerelles entre les mélodies galloises des XVe et XVIe siècles et la musique traditionnelle du Sénégal, de la Gambie et du Mali qui datent à peu près de la même époque. Elles se “parlent”. Ça a pris peu d’efforts à marier. D’autre part, Catrin est une incroyable joueuse de harpe, elle a réussi à complètement se déconnecter de sa formation. Pour l’un comme pour l’autre il s’agissait tout simplement d’élargir nos horizons .

Quel a été votre mode de fonctionnement ?

S. K. : Au départ, je suis venu avec mes compositions et quelques morceaux traditionnels, car il fallait trouver des ressemblances entre les deux harpes. Après des recherches sur Llio Rhydderch, avec qui j’avais partagé une tournée en 2002, on a retrouvé un air qu’on a repris, en y ajoutant nos idées ; c’est devenu “Les bras de mer”. Il y a aussi “Robert Ap Huw meets Nialing Sonko”, qui vient du mélange de deux morceaux traditionnels qui se jouent avec les mêmes notes. Je n’ai rien changé sauf le tempo. Ces deux morceaux parlaient “la même langue”. Ça nous a trop excités, on s’est dit : “Woaw comment se fait-il que ça se passe comme ça ?” En fait, le travail avait déjà été fait par nos ancêtres !”

C. F. : Après deux ans à travailler ensemble, on se pousse plus l’un l’autre. Le processus de création change. Au départ il fallait poser des bases. Aujourd’hui on est plus créatifs, on comprend mieux ce que peuvent faire nos instruments. Pendant les balances, par exemple, on arrive avec des petites idées. On sort vite nos smartphones pour ne pas les oublier mais là on arrive à tout un catalogue prêt à être enregistré !

Il y aura donc une suite à Clychau Dibon ?

C. F. : Peut-être ! On ne sait pas encore, mais pour l’instant notre premier album est toujours “en vie”. On ne va pas prendre une décision trop rapide mais on le souhaite .

S. K. : On a déjà fait une trentaine de dates ensemble, il nous en reste une vingtaine et, autour de février 2015, on devrait sortir nos projets personnels. On est prêts pour un nouveau projet commun mais le temps ne nous le permet pas pour l’instant, on doit d’abord retrouver nos sources .

Catrin, Seckou and AMJ rock WOMAD 2014

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

wom1The Astar family were out in full force this week as WOMAD sold all 40,000 tickets for the first time at Charlton Park.

Catrin & Seckou played a blinder in the early hours of Saturday morning. Don’t take our word for it… here is what the papers said.

“Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, a collaboration as delightful as it is unlikely. Finch, a Welsh harpist, was lined up a few years ago to play a tour with Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, and warmed up by rehearsing with his Senegalese counterpart Keita. Diabaté eventually showed up mere hours before the first of those concerts, and though he was there for the tour, Finch felt a closer connection with Keita. They carried on working together and last year released an album of duets, Clychau Dibon, that proved a surprise hit.

Here, the blend of Manding and Welsh material finally stilled the buzz of chatter around the edge of the tent. They listened intently to each other, nodding and smiling as the songs took shape. They duelled playfully on “Future Strings”, Finch plucking ascending chords and running 47-string-long glissandi in a way that is hard for a kora to emulate, though Keita tried; when she knocked rhythms on the frame of her harp, his echo on the gourd of the kora was resonant and strong. The centrepiece of the set, as of the album, was “Robert Ap Huw Meets Nialing Sonko”: in the second half, when Finch took up the dancing Casamance pattern with her right hand, plucking the occasional bass string with her left, the whole tent held its breath.”      Financial Times

“Following Thompson after midnight was the mellifluous award-winning sound of the kora and harp of Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch, as gorgeous as it is on record”   Independent

Copyright: York Tillyer

Copyright: York Tillyer

AMJ were also a huge success on the main stage with the Malmesbury schools’ project. Their biggest gig yet and the Collective has expanded tenfold!

 

Catrin & Seckou Usher Hall Review

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

herald

Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Rob Adams

It's little wonder that Catrin Finch finds working with Seckou Keita liberating. After all, there can't be too many gigs for a concert harpist where she gets to run her nail down a bass string with mock venom, use the harp's body as a conga drum and administer gleeful skelps instead of arpeggios.

This all happened during Future Strings, where Keita's kora was used to produce various effects, including a pantomimed rub of his beard. They're clearly completely at ease with each other, these musicians from different continents but although they're part of separate cultures, they're both also representatives of long traditions and it may be this that makes them such a natural musical pairing.

Then again, maybe it's just because they both happen to be great players.

When Finch introduced something from the sixteenth century Welsh harper Robert Ap Huw's manuscripts, Keita was able to add, in an entirely complementary way, a tale and melody of similar vintage from his own lands and the two flowed together like comingling streams. And so it went over two sets of absorbing, conversational interaction, some of it reflective, some of it spectacularly intense, some of it dancing to a celebratory rhythm.

A piece inspired by the building in the 1960s of a reservoir at Tryweryn found Finch playing both electro harp and the concert model and intoning folk memories of lost homes and flooded valleys while Keita tugged a sympathetic rhythm and voiced a wordless, soulful commentary

Church bells chimed figuratively. Ships sailed. Mists hovered and best of all, Finch became a veritable string band, riffing and grooving superbly alongside Keita's agile, high tensile melodising.

 

http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/music/review-music.24206293

Catrin & Seckou win Songlines Magazine Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration Award 2014

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

SMA14-WinnerCrossCultural-WEB

We are delighted to have learned today that we have won Songlines Magazine Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration Award 2014.

More than 8,000 Songlines readers from 65 different countries voted for the awards shortlist, with the editorial board deciding the final winners. The magazine celebrates its 100th edition with the issue announcing the awards.

Read More…

Reuters article…

Songlines Awards Youtube trailer

Two Harps That Beat As One: Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita (VIDEO)

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

huffpost_3lineTwo Harps That Beat As One: Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita (VIDEO)
by Michal Shapiro

Huffington Post 11/20/2013

To view a video of Bamba from the WOMEX showcase that is included with this article online go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/two-harps-that-beat-as-on_b_4308317.html

Almost 25 years ago, I was walking down West 4th street in Manhattan, and heard a harp-like sound that seemed extraordinarily out of place in the urban noise surrounding me. I tried to locate the source, and eventually realized it was emanating from three tall, slender men in robes who were sauntering up the block ahead of me. I sped up my pace and as I got abreast of them, saw that one of them was playing what I learned later was a kora, as he strolled.

And something magical was happening; the instrument changed the environment surrounding the three, and all around it, people were calmed and drawn to it. These three stately men had everyone –including myself — in thrall with the pure, rippling notes of the kora. The instrument itself was sort of a cross between a harp and a some kind of lute, and the most conspicuous part, the resonator, was half of a large gourd. I walked a block out of my way before tearing myself from the sound to go home.

Since then, there have been quite a few musical collaborations involving the kora in combination with other western instruments. (The wonderful "Chamber Music" with Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal is one of the most successful.) But as far as I know, the collaboration between Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch is the first one to pair the kora with another harp. And upon hearing this duet, one actually wonders what took so long.

The two musicians in this duo are well matched, Keita has a history of innovating and experimenting with his instrument — he plays a western-machined double necked kora — but has been careful to always maintain some distinctive root of his beloved West African music. Catrin Finch (known in her home country of Wales as the Queen of Harps) is also known for her forays into experimental music, as well as her mastery of the standard classical and folk repertoire. For their performance at WOMEX 2013, Keita brought both a single and a double necked kora, while Finch played a striking Camac "Big Blue 47" concert harp with pickups on each of the 47 strings.

There was quite a buzz building up to their performance at WOMEX, which this year was in Cardiff, Wales. It was unfortunate that it took place in a rather small concert room instead of the big auditorium, as it filled up to capacity far too quickly and many delegates could not get in to see the show.The room was jammed with a mostly Welsh audience, and anticipation crackled in the air. I was pretty much crushed up against the apron of the stage, almost in the middle… not the best angle for shooting!

When Finch and Keita play together, there is a complete immersion one with the other. Keita plays the rhythmic patterns and Finch's precise fingers play a counterpoint or a harmony figure and it all just feels right. Keita grins when Finch plays a stately figure enhancing his motif, and Finch nods back, giving Keita the room to cascade away on the kora. And that's quite a blazing solo he takes at the end, I might add. Through it all, there is a close communication that is palpable. Purists from one tradition or another may take issue with this blend — and I did hear one opinion voiced that it sounded too Welsh and not sufficiently Senegalese, but I think it is just that the two players have made allowances for each others music, and this give and take creates a true hybrid. At any rate, I was in string heaven, awash in pleasure from lovely music, exquisitely played.

Queen of harps Catrin Finch finds her kora king with Sengalese musician Seckou

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

walesonlinelogoQueen of harps Catrin Finch finds her kora king with Sengalese musician Seckou
Wales Online 15 Nov 2013

Like strawberries and cream and fish and chips, some things just work very well together. Harpist Catrin Finch tells Rachel Mainwaring why her pairing with Sengalese musician Seckou Keita, with whom she’s touring, has produced a magical album that’s getting rave reviews

If you are searching for something to help you relax, forget scented candles and a hot bath. Just pop Catrin Finch’s new album, Clychau Dibon – a haunting collaboration with kora musician Seckou Keita – onto the CD player and you’ll be suitably chilled out in no time.

The album, produced by Mwldan, is a marriage of two ancient instruments that has already been selected for the prestigious Songlines Magazine Best Albums of 2013, and pairs two virtuouso players of harp traditions mixing their music so that it’s almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.

And former royal harpist Catrin, who performed alongside Seckou at the recent world music market Womex in Cardiff, says she’s hugely excited by the album’s success so far.

The 33-year-old, originally from Llanon but who now lives in Gwaelod-y-Garth on the outskirts of Cardiff, admits: “It’s been really full on for the last few weeks.

“We started performing just before Womex in October and have more dates around Wales to do but it’s wonderful to be performing alongside Seckou. It’s a really magical album.

“I’m primarily a classical musician but this has been a very special project for me.

“It’s about two instruments that are effectively the same thing. The kora is an ancient African harp and the sound of the two of them together produces something quite magical.

“It’s kind of a chill-out album. It’s a very relaxing sound, and one that I think is really easy to listen to.

“I’m so pleased with the reaction so far. We’ve been named Best Album by magazines and it’s wonderful to get that sort of recognition for a project that hasn’t really been done before.

“The kora music sounded a bit indecipherable when I first heard it and, I’ve got to be honest, a little bit samey to me at first but put the two together and I just love it. With the kora, it’s all about the rhythm.

“Seckou doesn’t even read music and it’s weird to think we can perform together when he doesn’t even know where G is on the stave.

“But it’s worked and I’ve loved being involved in this kind of project. It’s been all about the ear, about rhythms and beats and that’s been a whole new ball game to me.”

The album is a move away from Catrin’s classical background, which began when she first took up the harp at the tender age of six.

But there is now talk of going to festivals during the summer, a new experience for Catrin, but one that she is hugely looking forward to.

While her work takes her away from home, her husband Hywel and their two young daughters Ana and Pegi, she admits she’s tempted to hire a campervan for a bit of festival life.

“That’s not something I’ve ever done before and I’m willing to give it a go,” she laughs. “The girls would certainly enjoy themselves.

“I’ve been very busy since we started developing the album back in May but once the tour has finished and I’ve done some Christmas concert work I will get a bit of time at home as January and February tend to be quieter.

“I’m a normal working parent so, of course, it’s a juggling act but I’m lucky that I have a lot of support and the girls understand that mummy’s job is to play concerts.

“I obviously feel guilty if I’m away from home but if it’s anywhere that’s two hours or less from home, I always go back after a concert.

“Travelling can take its toll after a while because the girls start to get unsettled if I’m away too long but I’m looking forward to having a bit of a rest and having some quiet time to compose, something I haven’t done for a while.

“I need to discipline myself to do some writing. I don’t just sit there and wait for an idea to come or I’d be waiting forever some days.”

Catrin, who was taught by harpist Elinor Bennett, who is now her mother-in-law, obviously has music in her blood but she’s not convinced her daughters will follow suit.

“At the moment, it seems that Ana is more interested in sport than music. She’d far rather put her football kit on and train with Gwaelod Rangers than practise her piano but I’m sure they must have inherited some musical genes.

“We’ve got a small harp here but they see it as something which takes mummy away from them so haven’t shown much interest yet.

“It’s seen as work, rather than a hobby, but who knows, as they get older they might take more of an interest as they certainly have music in their genes.”

Catrin’s work takes her to rather glamorous places and this year she was nominated for a Classical Brit award for Best Album for Blessed, which she worked on with John Rutter.

She didn’t win , losing out to André Rieu’s Magic of the Movies, but she says she had a great evening.

“I didn’t expect to win, especially up against Rieu, but it was a fun night. It was just such an honour to be nominated but I take these awards with a pinch of salt really.”

 

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/music/queen-harps-catrin-finch-finds-6308054

Catrin & Seckou Financial Times Review

Friday, October 18th, 2013

financial_times_logoBy David Honigmann

A royal harpist from Wales teams up with a kora player (which is to say, another court harpist) from Senegal.

Finch and Keita swap tunes from both traditions, one taking the lead while the other fills and improvises around the edges, then seamlessly trading places.

‘Robert Ap Huw Meets Nialing Sonko’ is the centrepiece: 16th century harp tunes playing off against the blissful melodies of the Casamance.

 

Catrin & Seckou London Evening Standard Review

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

EveningStandardLogoCATRIN FINCH & SECKOU KEITA

Clychau Dibon

(Astar Artes)

★★★★★

Welsh harp and Senegalese kora – a sublime duo of two artists who are masters of their instruments. Yet it might not have worked, because both instruments are plucked and often it’s better to have more contrasted textures. But just listening to the way the opening track builds up, you can feel a sense of musicality and architecture at work with both artists drawing on the traditional repertoire of their respective cultures. Both of them are no strangers to collaboration, but this is their most seductive. The overall effect is of a rich web of sound, but they bring moments of drama when necessary. I also suspect that it’s something that will get more intriguing and appealing the better you get to know it.

Simon Broughton

http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/music/album-reviews-october-2013-8859042.html?origin=internalSearch

Seckou and Catrin Uncut Review

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

uncutreview