Congratulations Seckou, Catrin and the team and thanks to everyone who feels the force!
Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita
Congratulations Seckou, Catrin and the team and thanks to everyone who feels the force!
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.
http://www.songlines.co.uk/world-music-news/2013/10/songlines-best-albums-2013-announced/, nominated for album of the year at fRoots http://www.frootsmag.com/content/critpoll/ and has also been nominated in two categories at the BBC Folk Awards (best traditional track and best duo) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03ldc63/profiles/winners-nominees
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.”
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.
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.
The debut album from Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita is now availble for preorder exclusively from this site.
To order a copy and stream the featured track click here.
To listen to previews of the tracks, please use the player below. Enjoy!