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!


Dibon Telerama! 4F review

Saturday, May 31st, 2014



Deux CD surprenants où la kora, la harpeluth des griots maliens, est élevée au rang d'instrument soliste.

Virtuose anobli notamment pour ses apartés magiques avec Ali Farka Touré, le Malien Toumani Diabaté fait partie de ces musiciens, qui ont contribué à faire de la kora, la harpe-luth des griots, un instrument soliste à part entière. Son propre père, le grand Sidiki Diabaté, fut pionnier du genre. Perpétuant cette science instrumentale avec son fils, le « petit » Sidiki, jeune prodige de 22 ans, star des scènes rap au Mali, dont on avait déjà entendu le panache et la vélocité. Symbole émouvant, leur huis clos familial (1) s'inscrit dans un certain classicisme. En ressuscitant de vieux morceaux oubliés, père et fils témoignent avant tout de l'intemporalité de leur tradition. Techniquement au sommet, plus volubiles qu'inventifs, ils se contentent de faire ruisseler à quatre mains l'ensorcelante geste mandingue. C'est déjà beaucoup…

On a connu Toumani Diabaté plus aventureux (ses foisonnantes Mandé Variations). Il a failli donner la réplique à la Galloise Catrin Finch sur le projet afro-celte de John Hollis. Les événements maliens ont freiné leur collaboration, et le Sénégalais Seckou Keita l'a remplacé. A travers l'entrelacs cristallin et onirique des cordes de la kora et de la harpe celtique, ce duo singulier explore sur Clychau Dibon (2) les points de convergence mélodiques et harmoniques entre deux cultures instrumentales multiséculaires. La richesse des arrangements (la harpe joue même les basses !) réinvente l'une et l'autre avec une grande fraîcheur. Tout le disque ne tient pas les promesses ambitieuses du premier titre, mélopée celte médiévale réveillée par un ostinato de kora. Mais le lyrisme transcende les compositions plus linéaires. Reproche éventuel à cette production anglaise : son parti pris esthétisant. La joliesse n'est pas un mal, mais plus de folie n'aurait pas nui. — Anne Berthod  

1) Toumani & Sidiki, Toumani et Sidiki Diabaté, 1 CD World Circuit/Harmonia Mundi .
2) Clychau Dibon, Catrin Finch et Seckou Keita, 1 CD Astar-Mwldan/L'Autre distribution .

Catrin & Seckou: “delicate but quietly thrilling” Guardian ***** Review

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014


5 stars out of 5
Robin Denselow    
The Guardian, Friday 16 May 2014 15.29 BST
Bush Hall, London    

This, I suspect, will be remembered as one of the classic concerts of the year. It was the first London appearance of the celebrated young classical harpist Catrin Finch, and Seckou Keita, the finest British-based exponent of the African harp, the kora. Their debut album, Clychau Dibon, appeared in a whole batch of last year's "best of" lists, mine included, and one might have expected that the duo had already been elevated to the concert circuit – especially after Seckou Keita's impressive solo performance opening for afro-pop singer Salif Keita at the Barbican last month.

The Bush Hall can be rowdy, but they were treated with the respect and total silence that their delicate and quietly thrilling performance deserved. They started, appropriately, with the first track on their album, Genedigaeth Koring-Bato, a thoughtful and elegant piece dedicated to the world's finest kora player, the Malian star Toumani Diabaté. Diabaté had begun to explore the links between kora and harp when he toured Wales with Catrin Finch two years ago, but the collaboration was short-lived, partly because of the political chaos in Mali at the time, and Seckou Keita took over.

On this showing, it's difficult to imagine greater empathy between two outstanding musicians from different cultures that proved to have so much in common. Their first set was made up of instrumental pieces that constantly switched between Welsh and west African influences as the two players traded solo lines, rhythmic backing riffs and flurries of rapid-fire improvisation. From the delicate and gently stately Les Bras De Mer to the strummed kora passages on the rhythmic Future Strings, their playing was quietly exquisite, emotional and inventive. Returning after a break, they showed how their style is still evolving, as they added Welsh and Mandinka vocals in a new lament about a village that was flooded to provide a reservoir. Magnificent.

Catrin & Seckou Usher Hall Review

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014


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.

AMJ Reggaemani Review

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

04 November 2013 · 22:01
An inspired and ambient debut from AMJ Collective

Former Restriction members Mark Spence, Andy Clarke and John Hollis have re-united after three decades as AMJ Collective. Last year they dropped the 12” Sound History Volume 1 and now it’s time for a debut full-length effort.

On Sign they have worked with a diverse set of musicians from various parts of the world in order to create an ambient, atmospheric and warm reggae album with African and Latin tocuhes. This album is something truly special and it, for example, features Cuban trumpeter Michel Padron and Colombian guitarist Camilo Menjura on an inspired version of Don Corleon’s Drop Leaf riddim.

It was recorded in Bristol, Paris, Havana and London and offers deep and relaxed grooves, but also glances at dubstep and dub. Traditional reggae is merged with lush strings and singer Kaia McTernan graces Sign of the Times with her ethereal voice.

Sign is deeply rooted in reggae, but it also pushes boundaries and takes reggae to new and exciting places. It’s a dreamy, contemporary and global groove.

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 Songlines Review

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Songlines _ November - December (#96)

Catrin & Seckou London Evening Standard Review

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013


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

Seckou and Catrin Uncut Review

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013


Catrin & Seckou: excellent fROOTS review

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

songlines (cleaned)