Friday, March 4, 2011

Joy to the world

'WHOA," says a friend, putting up his hands as we enter Barbican Hall on a windy London night.

A tube strike has made us late for the official reunion by the Afro Celt Sound System, the group's first concert -- bar a storming warm-up gig at the WOMAD festival in Wiltshire last July -- after a three-year break.

Tickets have sold out in advance; internet chat has been anticipatory, excited. But with London at a virtual standstill the comeback has promised to fizzle rather than bang. Remarkably, against the odds, it goes off.

The heat in the auditorium is intense. Everyone has reached the venue somehow, then shrugged off their coats and danced. People aren't just dancing on the spot. They're dancing on their seats and in the aisles, up the back and down the front. Middle-aged men with goatees are grooving unself-consciously. Wild-haired women are pointing their toes and waving their arms. Teenagers -- the children of these long-time fans -- are whirling through the happy pandemonium. Even the Barbican's stewards seemed to be throwing shapes.

Onstage, older and a little craggier than when they first got together in 1995, the Afro Celts are delivering songs and instrumentals from their five studio albums and new retrospective CD, Capture. Everything from guitars and kit drums to whistles and uilleann pipes (the national bagpipe of Ireland) are vying and blending with African percussion and the cascades of the 21-string kora harp-lute. An Irishman wearing mirrored sunglasses is beating out rhythms on his hand-held bodhran drum. A tall West African in traditional garb has clamped the tama talking drum under his left armpit and is whacking it with a stick.

Joy to the world | The Australian

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Currach Honors Irish Music Traditions

"When the workweek ends and it’s time to start the weekend, The Currach is ready to ease that transition. Every Friday at 5:30, the trio (and usually a few friends) sets up near the bar at Brocach and welcomes visitors with lively jigs and reels—“the stuff that’s been played in Irish pubs for hundreds of years,” says fiddler Daithi Wolfe. Darl Ridgely, Josh Perkins and Wolfe have been jamming together for years—at Brocach for five and at the Coopers Tavern on Mondays for one. On St. Patrick’s Day, catch ’em at the Harmony Bar."