Alan Stivell Releases New Album Emerald

I have listened to Brian Boru and Tri Martolod by Alan Stivell these past few days. What a surprise it has been to receive a letter from his website about Emerald , the new album. A coincidence! I would like to share the news to those who love Breton music and the talent of the one and only Alan Stivell. According to his official site:

It’s been almost 40 years since Alan Stivell released “Reflets” (Reflections), his first album featuring him singing. An Emerald anniversary, one could say. It’s definitely a return to the roots, a return to the violin and to folk-rock (“Chemins de terre”), much as he did with “Brian Boru”. But it’s also an album for 2010. It fuses electric and acoustic bagpipes – like his latest acoustic and electric harp prototypes – in musical arrangements that are as eclectic as they are original. Alan, the singer and the Breton of today: with his Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon, Indian or African influences and his very distinctive vocal and writing styles, he effortlessly blends Breton, French and English (along with Gaelic and Welsh). In addition, Alan wanted to present songs that were popular in the Brittany of yesteryear as well as in English-speaking and other Celtic countries … songs of his youth that are today forgotten. He brings them back to life and hopes others will love them too..

emerald

It is also in the chapter nostalgia that he invited the very beautiful Ensemble choral of the “bout du Monde” for “Mac Crimon” (a homage to Gwennole Ar Menn, Eliane Pronost, Roger Abjean, Paul Ladmirault and to Scotland).
He invited his stage musicians to join him on this disc, and also invited Dom Duff (song) for “Brittany’s” and “Tamm ha tamm”, Solenn Lefeuvre (song) for “Lusk”.
An album with much of emotion and festive.


Tracks

1 – BRITTANY’S – Ar bleizi mor – 5:56
2 – LUSK – Skye Boat Song – 4:08
3 – MARIONIG – 3:29
4 – TAMM HA TAMM – Rennes, Nantes & Brest – 3:16
5 – GAEL’S CALL – Glaoch na nGael – 6:07
6 – HARPLINN – 4:13
7 – GOADEC ROCK – 5:17
8 – EIBHLIN – Eileen A Roon – 6:52
9 – AQUARELLE – Er penn all d’al lanneg – 3:44
10 – AN HIRAÑ NOZ – Noël, espoir – Ar hyd y nos – 4:41
11 – MAC CRIMON (part I) – 2:23
11 – MAC CRIMON (part II) – 4:51
11 – MAC CRIMON (part III) – 2:58
Alan Stivell : vocals, harps, bagpipes, bombarde, flutes, percussion, synthesizers, piano, arrangements, production and composition.
Loumi Seveno : violins, alti, viele, bodhran (1,2,4,5,7,8,9).
Christope Peloil : alto (2).
Gaetan Grandjean : acoustic and electric guitar.
Nicolas Méheust : Hammond organ, melotron, piano and bass.
Marcus Camus : percussion, drums.
Iwan Ellien du Bagad Gwengamp : Scottish soldier drum (3).
Dom Duff : vocals (1,4).
Solenn Lefeuvre : vocals (2).
L’Ensemble choral du Bout du Monde directed by Christian Desbordes (11,12).
Samples of the tracks can be heard  when you go to the official site:

www.alan-stivell.com

www.alan-stivell.com/blog
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Why Celtic Music Fanatics Should Love Mary Jane Lamond

Just when we thought the singer with the golden voice has deserted us and left us riddles in Gaelic , she is back and is going around doing some shows. It seems that the foremost representative of Cape Breton’s Gaelic culture is back with more surprises. My foray into this lady’s music was actually due to an accident. I walked in the record store when I was in Makati, when I saw Làn Dùil. I knew the music would e something I like. The packaging says it. The colors red and gold expresses the sentiments. When I opened the liner notes I got a big smile. All songs are written in Gaelic! Though I am not a Gaelic speaker, I love the sound of it. I asked the sales person to play it in loud speakers. It was like going home. From then on I followed her career, and was really surprise when I learned she performed in Ashley McIsaac’s tracks like Sleepy Maggie. Miss Lamond is not the type of artist who releases an album every year. She takes her time doing intensive research. It is after all her academic background that brought her to Celtic music. Now she is really back and we hope for a long long time.

Resources:

http://maryjanelamond.com

http://www.myspace.com/maryjanelamond

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Jane_Lamond

Time Capsule: Seamus Ennis

Seamus Ennis has left us a treasure book of songs rich in the tradition of Ireland. Not only was he a composer/performer, he also became a music historian , researching and reviving songs that were on the brink of  oblivion in an age when people almost forgot Gaelic. As I Roved Out is ne of his masterpieces which, the first time I heard that song, it cemented itself in my consciousness like a body part. Amusing, quirky and at times mostly funny, Seamus is one of those responsible in bringing the tradition back to the mainstream. I salute this guy who, upon leaving this world physically, remains immortal in our hearts and souls. This video is from the 1965 RTE session.

More info here:http://my.liveireland.com/profiles/blogs/tradition-in-review-april-2010

and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9amus_Ennis

Oona McOuat’s Thirst-Quenching New Album: Honey and Holy Water (Interview)

Photos by Kmax

Oona McOuat (pronounced oo-na mick-kew-it) is a naturalist singer/composer. Her music evokes the Earth Mother‘s embrace, laced with bohemian sultriness and Islander spirit. Her’s is a fresh approach to a genre that has remained stable and vibrant through the years. I am one of the lucky people who is able to listen to the whole tracks off her new album Honey and Holy Water. I have  been listening to the songs in small speakers and head phones before expanding to large living room speakers. There are nuances one can usually miss upon a single  listen. There are those passages that make you say ” hey I never realize that before”! Repeated listening can have its rewards.

Honey and Holy Water exudes the atmosphere which I refer to as maritime folk music. And popularly, this one is called Eco-Celt. A kind of genre that raises awareness for ecological conditions like  the disappearing trees, bees,  dying whales and “the world  in chaos because we could no longer go back to Woodstock and be with the Earth Children” as one of her song talks about.

She has eclectic taste, which explains the ensemble created in this recording. Cellist Corbin Keep has carved a name for himself as the wild cellist. Other wonderful performers are: Cellist Jami Sieber, Richard Lee on woodwinds,Chris Bertin on percussion, with fiddlers Zav Rokeby-Thomas and Michael Fox and singers James Mujuru and Desmond Sutherland. Producer Daryl Chonka also added bass, guitar,piano,didgeridoo and other beats.

Track by track detail:

1.Mystery : From the first few chords up to her breathy slightly smoky vocals, the songs holds the listener with its poignant melody. In the chorus Oona sings

“Oh Mystery
in you and me,
Like sky and sea
Like Earth and tree.
Oh waterfall
of flowing love,
Pass through our hearts
and show us we are one with all,
with all.

The perky flute flaps all over the song above the sonorous low purring of the cello creating a contrast .

2.Africa: Zimbabwean singer James Mujuru recorded his vocals and based his improvised lyrics poetry and folklore. The African chant and drums accompany her silky vocals.

3. Crystal Maiden of the Lake: Here’s a song with an intro that catches you right away. The cello is plucked in a way to sound like a huge hammer dulcimer. The vocals are layered to create the effect of church choir. Perfect movie soundtrack with strings going in and out like silken sheets. In the second stanza Oona sings:

“Although I long to soar on the nighttime’s velvet wings
and travel to the places where my soul softly sings,
I’m bound to stand upon this shore a teardrop in my eye
to protect the land from human hands for whose misdeeds I cry.” Wow!

4.Ancient Mother: She invokes all the earth mother figures in different mythologies from Egyptian to Celtic.

“Hecate, Demeter, Isis, Astarte,
Diana, Pele, Cerredwin, Kali,
Yemaya, Ishtar, Gaia”…….

5.Drowsy Maggie:A fun track. Traditional Celtic meets trans-continental electro. The irresistible beat makes you  want to throw your inhibitions away dancing. Just when you think Oona’s music stays in the same line, it’s then when she tosses her hair and stops taking life too seriously. Just pure fun, goodness and that naughty leprechaun dancing on your table.

6.Green Mountain: After several haunting tracks , this one is a fresh folk-pop tune that glides into your car seat seamlessly. The fiddles provide the unmistakable Irish feel. A great song to listen to while driving long distance.

7.Woodstock: Fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell wrote and performed this song in 1969 . I remember watching a documentary about Woodstock a couple of years ago. I am reminded how the spirit of the 60s were different from now. Gone are the dreamers.

” came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road,
And I asked him, where are you going?
This he told me.
Said I’m going down to Yasgur’s farm
gonna join in a rock ‘n’ roll band,
Got to get back to the land
and get my soul free.”

The Afro-Celt feel of the song makes it Oona’s own.

8.This is a Prayer: The smoky atmosphere of this song makes my eyes cloudy. And I mean it. The melody simply rips your heart out of your chest. The lyrics talk of lost innocence, a paean to life’s painful passage when we lost that childhood  and discover that life hard..but then there is hope somewhere, as indicated by the uplifting sound of the sax. This is the kind of music that Oona should develop more. It is a cool combination that I have never heard from any artist out there.

“There’s a power greater than words
dormant somewhere inside.
Masked behind this gentleness
There’s a rage.” And I say amen to that!

9.Honey and Holy Water: The title track summarizes the whole feel of the album. The mouth harp is also an effective introduction in this hypnotic track that builds up in improvisation. This one also displays her range as a vocalist. Though lyrics aren’t present here. Just her humming along exotic instruments.

10.The Wild Ones:”I’m the wild one that runs with the wind
Thought I could rest here with you my friend

But here they come, here they come.” Here she sings in a higher register. Her vocals emulates Judy Collins and  Mary Hopkins. ( One thing to mention – the whale and dolphin sounds in The Wild Ones were not synthesized – they were made by Jami on her cello and by Chris on his drums-Oona).. The tempo is lively and in the end part you can hear sounds of city streets and vehicles honking.

11.Where the Emptiness is Full: This piano based song closes this wonderful album. Again a departure from her usual themes. But then again I realize that no songs ever sound the same. She does manage to keep a holistic approach that makes this album coherent without tracks going in their own way and making their own tea party(which alas mostly happens with other musicians).

She has created a solid base of musicians and a matured  crafted songwriting that can stand the test of time. Honey and Holy Water challenges true music enthusiasts to take a listen and be delighted by the bounty of mother earth.

Here’s our Q&A with the artist herself:

CMF: How did you start out as a musician and what made you choose this kind of musical path?

"I’ve been singing since I could open my mouth and make sound".

“I’ve been singing since I could open my mouth and make sound”.

I’ve been singing since I could open my mouth and make sound.  (See attached photo!).  My mother sensed my innate musicality and love of song and enrolled me in piano lessons.  While growing up I also studied dance, music theory, theatre, painting and voice, and wrote stories and songs and poems.  When I graduated from high school I had to make a decision- become a classical pianist or explore a world of ideas.  I chose the latter and became a journalist.  It took 10 years for me to return to a path of creative self-expression.  I was introduced to the Celtic harp by a beloved First Nations elder and began to reconnect with my muse.

Are your songs biographical and what inspires you to write the lyrics and melody?

Feelings, hunches, deep inner swirls of sensation, colour and image, set in an inner world beyond, or perhaps beside, physical place and time inspire my lyrics and melodies.  Sometimes the words flow from my own experience; sometimes they seem to flow from a collective unconscious that is larger than my own memory or life.

What’s the song writing process?

photo by Melissa Schelling

photo by Melissa Schelling

When I am in tune and able to make space I can feel a song coming on.   I simply need to sit and the words and melody pour out, generally without effort.  I have experimented with other forms of song writing – creating the lyrics first, finding a rift with my hands and then letting the lyrics follow where it takes me, but I think my truest songs are the ones that require the least effort, editing and reworking.  I seldom sit down and think – “I want to write a song about….”  I simply make room for the song that wants to be created.  I have studied song writing and know this is not necessarily the most professional way to practice the craft but it might be the purest.  I am soon going to experiment with another way of composing.  I want to take a small handheld recording device off into a natural setting and sit and let a song come to me there, away from my instrument.

You have other existing projects with Cellist Corbin Keep. What created this tandem?

I applied to perform at a festival Corbin was curating10 years ago.  The gig did not work out but our connection was instantaneous.  I invited him to join me on the other gigs I had set up in his area and he agreed.  The funny thing is I did this based on our email conversation.  This was before he had a website, and I presumed he was a she.  I imagined her long flowing hair and cello complimenting me and my harp beautifully.  I almost fainted when we arranged our first phone meeting and I heard his very clearly male voice on the other end.  But I was right about the way we would complement each other.  Corbin’s skilled rhythmic playing and his rock and roll influences are quite different from my soaring style with the harp.  Our differences add colour and contrast to our music, blending with our commonalities – our classical training, similar world views and our ease together – to make a great musical match: one with depth, grace and a touch of the unexpected.

What’s the recording session like with your band Dream Deep? Give us a glimpse of the jam that created this sweet album.

Where the Emptiness is full was recorded live – piano, voice, no click track – very straightforward.  Honey and Holy Water, the title track, was recorded as a live studio improv.  I gave Jami Sieber a verbal image of what I wanted the piece to represent, she began with a cello lick, I sang live over top, she added another cello lick and our conversation began. We created a 20 minute improvisation in the studio that eventually had to be edited down to 5 minutes or so.  Before the editing began, two digds – played by Daryl Chonka and Chris Bertin – did their own studio improv on top of our tracks.  I added a bit of harp at the very end.  The rest of the songs were recorded in a completely opposite manner.  I laid down the harp tracks to a creative click track created by Daryl.  Then we laid the vocals on top.  To record the vocals he brought his equipment here to my little cottage and I sung all the songs in my own home.  We then decided what  we wanted where, and invited Chris, James Mujuru, (who is now living back in Zimbabwe), 6 year old Desmond, Corbin, Jaime and Zavellenah Rokeby Thomas to each come into the studio for a session to layer in their parts.  We did not tell them what we wanted them to play or sing specifically but gave them images to illustrate with sound.  Richard Lee recorded all his woodwind and vocal parts in a studio in Hawaii and Mike Fox recorded his violin tracks for This is a Prayer in his bathroom in Brazil.  I think the reason remote recording worked so well with them is that we have played together live for several years so they were able to seamlessly drop into the songs.  Daryl then added finishing touches – always thinking that less is more – and we began mixing and remixing and remixing until we were both satisfied with the songs and the album.

You travel a lot and Mystery was inspired while you were in Hawaii. What are other places that you’ve been to?

Europe, the Southwest, the North, the Maritimes, all across Canada, the Eastern United States, the West coast, Mexico and Central America.  Generally, I am more concerned about our relationship to the natural world than to specific geographical locations.  That being said, sometimes a song will arise from a specific place and express itself through me in ways that stretch and illuminate me musically as well as personally.  I think this is the best of what travel offers us – as we journey to a foreign place and experience new things, we may come to know and appreciate the familiar in fresh and meaningful ways.

Before your foray into music, you were into theater . You also served as a war correspondent and a wild dolphin swimmer. Do you think being a journalist inspired you to write some of the most moving songs in this album? Because reading through the lyrics you tend to deal with the human condition . Something that I really care about too.

I am glad we have that in common!  I think I became a journalist because I cared about the human condition but I did not remain one because I realized that for me, the best way to make a difference was to write and perform songs and stories that could touch people in ways that facts and figures and analysis could not.

It is interesting also to note that you are from the west coast since a lot of Celtic music is concentrated on the east coast. What can you say about this?

I hope and believe my music is not bound to a specific geography.  I do perform some traditional music and have studied Celtic harp, Gaelic and traditional Celtic lore in Scotland and Ireland, but I think my gift is to synthesize what has been with what is.  I definitely have one foot rooted in the mists of Avalon and yet I am interested in creating music that responds to the current set of challenges facing humankind and our planet.  How do we live in balance with a natural world which sustains us while we are destroying it?   How do we connect more deeply with each other and ourselves when those of us who have money do not seem to have any time and those who do not have money or their fair share of the resources are forced to focus on surviving rather than thriving?

Canada is an eclectic-friendly nation and a lot of my favorite musicians came from your country. Have you met some of the notable musicians in the genre and what it’s like?

Canada has traditionally had a strong history of nurturing and supporting the arts which has allowed musicians and artists to flourish.   Until now, the Canadian voice has been strong in folk, pop and contemporary Celtic music – ie: Loreena McKennitt, Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, etc – partly because there were mechanisms in place that supported touring and recording.   This is not the case here in British Columbia now where government funding to the arts has been drastically cut.

I have played at the same festival as Bruce Cockburn and the Rankin Family.  I’ve received career guidance from Sarah McLachlan’s producer Pierre Marchand.  I have shared a stage with Ferron – a great Canadian singer songwriter.  I recently shared a stage with folk music legend Valdy who lives down the road.  My album was mastered at Randy Bachman (of the Guess Who’s ) recording studio.  I have enjoyed meeting all these “greats” and learning from their skills and I believe that those who were successful in the music business of the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s may be less able to support or mentor emerging artists now than other indie artists who are walking the same path. We do not have a team of publicists or managers or record label personnel to take care of all the details for us.  We must focus on the business aspects of our careers while maintaining an authentic relationship to our craft and our fans.  So although I love absorbing the creative gifts of these successes, I believe indie artist are in the midst of living and building a new paradigm.

What’s it like to work with producer Daryl Chonka in this album?

I had literally traveled half way across the world in search of the right person to create this album with and, as it turned out, I found my producer within walking distance of my own front door. The album was recorded in a tiny studio in the beautiful valley where Daryl and I live.  Last winter when we were snowed in for a month, Daryl and I hiked over the mountain between our homes and met halfway so he could give me a copy of his latest mix. Daryl plays several instruments on the CD – bass, piano, guitar, beats. He subtly helped shape the sound of the recording without adding anything that felt out of sync with the project.

Tell us things we don’t know yet about you.


Ah – I’m a Scorpio and we like to remain a bit mysterious but…I have family visiting this Easter weekend and last night we played a game which I will share with you. We each made a list of 26 words that felt true to us, each word beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.  Here’s my list:

Attics, Bach, cetaceans, dancing, effervescence, flow, giggling, hugs, ideas, journeys, kookies, lambs, miracles, nettles, oceans, pumpkins, questions, results, stories, truth, unicorns, vastness, whales’ song, xylophones, yoga, zip.

Interesting list words. It’s hard to top those 🙂

Album front

Album front

Album back

Album back

http://www.oonamcouat.com/
http://www.myspace.com/oonamcouat
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/oonamcouat
http://www.reverbnation.comww.reverbnation.com/oonamcouat

What’s New in Music !

So many updates, so little time. I am writing this in breakneck speed while I m trying to uncover a new band from Russia as well as a gifted siren who sent me an email. I shall post them in this site soon . But first thing’s first. The wind has taken us to the Scottish skies . There are new releases waiting foe our ears to swallow-hahahaha I like this imagery.

***

Celtic Metal from the Russian Federation:Fferyllt

I didn’t know what to say. This band blew the rooftops with their explosive brand of music-A union of Celtic and Metal music. There is nothing more refreshing than to have someone shake down the house once in a while. What can I say? They look better than most metal bands though…and sound much ,much better. Take a look at this edited video I found in YouTube:

Official band site:http://www.fferyllt.net/

***

Siren of Songs from British Columbia:Oona McOuat

I have heard of Oona McOuat long before I got a mail from her but I didnt know how to get in touch. Like all wonderful musicians I listen to, she lives in British Columbia. Her music is a combination of soft tunes drenched in soulful saxophones, traditional instruments and lounge sophistication that makes just lose yourself to the music after a hard day’s work. Her music is evocative and her voice is part ethereal and part earthly rooted both in folk and jazz. I love her refreshing approach to this kind of genre because she really brings something new to it. Like bringing a new set of recipes on a get together party . I hear a bit of Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and Loreena McKennitt in her . But of course the music is uniquely Oona McOuat.

You can listen to her songs here:

http://www.myspace.com/oonamcouat

Her new album Honey and Holy Water is now available. You can learn more at her official website: http://www.oonamcouat.com/

I will be posting more updates about her soon.

Phil Holland Sings of Ancient Greece and the Celts (An Interview)

(pictures courtesy of her Myspace site)

Turn off the lights, open your windows. Above the ceiling are glow stars. Outside the crescent moon hangs like a golden boat. The scent of night flowers permeates the air and the stars twinkle above Van Gogh’s indigo sky . A gentle soprano glides accompanied by the majestic harp ,singing about people and places from long ago.

When Cleopatra rode across the Nile river,thousands of years ago; it is believed that she had her barge bathe in perfume and decorated with flowers . People knew then that she was arriving because of the scent. Phil Holland has that same commanding presence with her music .Her harp is the vehicle in which her voice rides on, and her music is atmospheric and beautiful. She could have gone Pop if she wanted to because she is well-versed in what’s happening to the music industry .She also collaborated and performed onstage with a lot artists. She could have pursued playing Classical music and performed in the great venues of the world. But instead, she chose the road less travelled.

This lady has so much to say about music, history and life. When she plays , she evokes the image of a Pre-Raphaelite character or a Madonna. But she is no coy Lady Marian. She is a traveller and an observer. Like an Archeologist, she writes what she stumbled upon through her songs. And they can be love songs…of a different kind. Born in the west coast of Scotland, she is now based in Italy. Over the years she ‘s able to create four albums.

Although she mixes a lot of World ,Jazz and New Age elements in her style, she often resorts to  acoustic arrangements.Instead of relying on technology to offer the sonic effect, she’d rather use natural ambiance to carry her sound. This is something totally missing in a lot of current recordings dealing with the genre. I am one of those who got a rare opportunity to Interview this artist and you can tell it has been a fun and rewarding experience.

I like your approach when it comes to the harp and voice. There is too much clutter in music today and hearing such simple arrangement is a breath of fresh air. Do you go into the studio with a specific formula in mind or are you the type that goes in empty-handed and comes out full?
I love purity of sound and I especially love it when music breathes. So often, musicians forget that, as they must breathe, so must the music. I generally go for an acoustic approach when I record. Just simple harp and voice, as it would be in a live performance. Occasionally I will over-record a violin track, or my voice singing a second time in harmony, but I like to keep things simple, both at the recording stage and at the mixing stage.
There is purity and power in your voice. How did you come out with such singing style? Maybe because from a very early age I sang a lot. At home I liked to go with myself on the piano singing folk songs and a lot of classical songs and arias, whatever I could find really. I also sang in an a cappella choir which did a lot of renaissance music. I think I learnt early on how to support my breathing.
The 26-stringed harp as an astounding instrument. Do you always take it anywhere?

In my earlier recordings I used a lightweight 26-stringed instrument which was light enough to carry anywhere, but it had tuning problems, reacting very badly to temperature and humidity changes, which could be a nightmare in a concert situation. I also needed something with more reach and versatility so I’m now playing a heavier 34-stringed harp. It’s still portable but I do sometimes need a helping hand from some kind-hearted strong-armed knight in shining armour!

The marriage of Greek and Celtic music is a fascinating concept. We know that ancient Celts travelled as far as Italy and Greece. Do you think that your music aims to awaken that collective consciousness buried deep within what we call as long cultural sleep?
Absolutely, yes! I am a firm believer that deep down we are all connected in some way. Years ago, people travelled much more than we imagine, and I think it is entirely possible that there are connections un-dreamed-of between cultures so apparently different. In some Irish folk tales, it is believed that Ireland was first populated by Greeks and Scythians a thousand years before Christ.

I found some curious similarities between Greek and Irish folk lore/mythology, and while it will always remain speculative, it got me thinking. So in my mind really we are all connected all over the world, and music is the one universal language that can bring us together

Other places you are marking down in your map for travel or perhaps musical fusion in future recordings?
I haven’t really got anything marked down. I’ll go where the wind takes me, and if inspiration hits then I’ll know it.

There are a number of mainstream artists today that cater to adult, sophisticated tastes. I think is is amazing especially that generally, it is thought that music buyers are younger people who are into disposable pop music. With this realization, do you think that with good promotion, your music can reach far wider audience than ever imagined?

I certainly would like to think so, who knows? It is strange that the music business not only tends to forget about the great number of people who love music and are curious and sophisticated in their tastes, but also assume that all young children will have the same taste for soulless commercially-produced “products”. It’s all about dumbing down and telling people what they should listen to, the same way the fashion industry tells us what to wear.

Who influenced you musically? And what were the artists you listened to(and still listening to now) whom you think encouraged you to do the music you are doing now?

Over the years so many different and varied artists have inspired me and influenced me that I find it really difficult to pin anything down. I find I can appreciate and be inspired by an artist who is miles away from my own sound. As a teenager I discovered David Bowie. I was blown away by “Offramp” and “As falls Wichita so falls Wichita falls” by Pat Metheny in the mid eighties. I adore Tchaikovsy and Vivaldi and loathe Mahler and Wagner. I listened to hours of Ella Fitzgerald when I was a teenager. I never really sang along to pop songs, except for Kate Bush. I love what Sinead O’Connor is doing getting back to her roots. The list goes on…

I was definitely influenced by the folk song background of my family. I then studied classically and was strongly influenced by all the musicians I met and all the music I played. When I was studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, I began to feel a negative vibe in the hot house atmosphere and the “preciousness” of the place and that definitely pushed me to try things out on my own. I tried jazz and played with some members of a big band from the 80s London scene called “Loose Tubes”. I got talking to Eddie, the flute player and he took me to the Camden Composer’s Workshop where I experimented some more. I was very aware that my classical training had inhibited my ability to improvise and I wanted to break out of that box. I think at that time I was starting to look for my own voice, the sound I wanted to make. I played with a Mexican Mariachi band, recorded a couple of albums for pop artists, even did a single for a gothic punk group. A long story ensues, but I found myself drawn back to my Celtic roots and when my daughter was born I sang so many songs for her and this pulled me further in that direction. I love writing music. When I’m in a creative mood I stop listening to music completely and I find that silence will inspire me more than anything else. The sound of the sea and the clicking of boat masts and seagulls are all sounds that inspire me, maybe because I grew up by the sea on the west coast of Scotland. Loud, violent sounds upset and disturb me.

You are also doing live performances. How was it like to play side by side with Alan Stivell? I love his music.

I love performing live. Generally-speaking you feel a real bond with the audience. Alan Stivell is a great and fascinating artist. I played in the same festival as him. There were three harp concerts and mine was the night before his. I was interested to hear how he was experimenting with his sound and form and how he obviously did not feel constrained by genres. It was very liberating and ground-breaking.

Let us talk about Greece and Sappho.I learned that in 2009, you launched and conceived the first Sappho Festival by performing on a rock in which she jumped to her death 2,500 years ago. What was it like?

It was amazing. Sappho jumped to her death from Lefkas rock. For a couple of years I had been thinking how I would like to play where she had stood and feel the presence of this great poetess/musician. I had written a song called Lefkadia Sappho which I also performed that night on the very edge of the rock in front of about 400 people. The only lighting was the full moon and hundreds of candles. It really was a very special atmosphere.

You are a master violin and piano player who studied professionally. Tell us about each instrument as to what comes to your mind .

I actually started, as do many children, with the recorder (descant and tenor). Afterwards I moved on to the piano and the violin. I loved them both equally. They both gave me different things. With the violin I could play in orchestras, quartets and trios as well as playing solo, and with the piano I could play alone and still create harmony, accompany my singing, accompany others. I came to the harp later and it seemed the perfect instrument. The first time I touched it I was in love. Where the violin is passionate but demanding, draining you of energy until you feel exhausted,

the harp is a generous instrument that gives energy and serenity in equal measure.

For you, what does self-development means(musically and personally)?

I want to be myself and be happy being myself. Musically and personally. It’s not conscious but I think my music reflects the serenity that I’m looking for. I don’t like to feel boxed-in. If my music reaches out and touches someone, that makes me happy. After one concert in Italy a young Indian guy came up to me and said in English, “Your music has entered in my heart and now I will carry it with me.” That touched and encouraged me more than he will ever know.

To know more of Phil Holland, please click the links below.

http://www.philholland.net/http://www.myspace.com/philholland2

http://philholland-celticharpandvoice.blogspot.com/

Alf Kelty on Joy Is…( Interview)

 “My life from the start was filled with the sound of piano. Before I could read I started fiddling with the piano. One day I started playing a song I have heard many times before. It came out of the blue and ever since that day the piano made sense”.

The creative process in music is something that is fascinating to me. I like the idea of being in the studio and knowing what musicians use in making songs.  It is a treat to know what inspires them and what their influences are in creating that distinctive style.

In this Interview, we are going to meet Alf Kelty. Let’s get to know the man behind the The album Joy Is… His music is dreamlike, vivacious and spiritual. There is  this sweet optimism and a sense of control in his compositions. And you can bet he is at home in  a live recording environment. As he mentions in this interview:”  I ‘m a hardcore recording artist that believes in spontaneous musical combustion.”

You can hear traces of Classical, Celtic and Folk influences in his instrumental pieces. To hear his songs, simply visit his page at myspace: http://www.myspace.com/alfatlastree

Tell us a little bit more about the place where you live in South Africa.

I live in Hartenbos a suburb of a picturesque coastal town called Mossel Bay (Bay of Mussels). It forms part of the Garden Route, which is one of the most spectacular tourist attractions in South Africa. I love it here. If there is one South African town where one should live it is Mossel Bay. It is a tranquil place with lots of sunshine, beautiful beaches and mountain views. It does not get any better than this.

You are a self-taught pianist. What is it about the piano that spoke to you as a child?

I grew up in a nature reserve called the Kruger National Park. The community was very small and my mom happened to be the local piano teacher. As a child many a morning I woke to the sound of my mom playing the piano, and in the afternoons the children came for piano lessons. My life from the start was filled with the sound of piano. Before I could read I started fiddling with the piano. One day I started playing a song I have heard many times before. It came out of the blue and ever since that day the piano made sense. It happened without any rhyme or reason. I think certain people are born with a musical intuition. And in the right circumstances it comes to the fore. It can’t be explained. I feel very blessed that I was raised in such a milieu. I think it is easy for people to miss their callings in life. On the other hand my mother tried to teach me to read music and play from the book many times since then.  It never worked out. I always loved playing by ear and making my own melodies. I was a bit hard headed and here I am today still doing my own thing. I must say – sometimes I wish I listened to my mother. It would have been wise to get some proper classic training. It must be very fulfilling to sit and play an intricate piece of classic music from the book. I look up to those musicians.

What’s the creative process in writing a song?

First of all I never start a song with a specific image or theme in mind. I try to keep it as spontaneous as possible. Usually it starts with a few lucky notes, which leads to the right emotions or imagery. I want my music to be without pretension. Spontaneity takes center stage in my music. I let the notes run their course. Afterwards I will select the best parts of the recording and weave them together. Usually I leave a recording for a few days and come back to it. If it makes sense and awaken the right emotions I will work on it more and refine it. Rarely will I add anything to it. Just clean it up a little and play around with the material. In reality the final product you are listening to is the core of an elaborate jam session. That is also why my tracks are so short. It stops where the emotions and imagery stopped. Rarely will I perform a piece twice. It is once-off musical snapshots that you are listening to. I ‘m a hardcore recording artist that believes in spontaneous musical combustion.

What are the musicians you listened to as a child and then growing up

My earliest memories of music were ABBA and Boney M. Later on I listened to Kylie Minogue, Suzanne Vega, Sandra, Madonna, Cindy Lauper. The usual 80’s play list. Most importantly I discovered Enya and Andreas Vollenweider in the late 80’s.

Tell us about your album Joy Is..

My album “Joy is…” was released September 2008. It consists of 21 instrumental tracks. It is available at CDBABY.COM in mp3 format or CD.  It is also available in mp3 format through ITUNES and various other portals.

What’s the timeline in creating this album?

“Joy is”… was made over the course of many years. When I came to the point where I decided, “Now it is time” I had to go and select from a bunch of compositions old and new. The tracks that made it onto the album were the ones that held the fondest memories and moments of joy. Some compositions were more than 9 years old. I see “Joy is…” with its many imperfections as a scrapbook documenting the core of my musical self-discovery. I am glad today that I recorded and kept those joyful musical moments. Not only for posterity’s sake but also for the joy it brings me to share it with those willing to listen.

Did you work alone in the studio?

Yes I work alone in my home studio. I wasted some money on fancy studio time in the past. But I have discovered that working on my own, with my own unconventional ways works best.

Tell us about the instruments and gear you used in this recording…the mixing…simply the whole process.

My home studio consists of a very basic electronic music setup. I find that it works well with my spontaneous ways. It consists of a music keyboard, Midi Interface, Soundcard and Midi Sequencing Software. All my music is done electronically. So I do not work with live audio recordings. All the sounds are electronic in nature, triggered by me playing the keyboard. I tend to work with ethnic instrumental sounds. I love Celtic harp and Oriental instruments. I find it challenging working with these sounds electronically. I always aim to keep the sound as acoustic as possible. I think it is a key factor in keeping my tracks sounding as spontaneous, unedited and live as possible.

You credit Enya, Andreas Vollenweider, Vangelis, Yanni and Deep Forest as part of the mix in your music. What an interesting mix. Tell us more about them and why you love their music.

I think Enya and Andreas Vollenweider’s music had the greatest impact on me musically and psychologically. Their music opened the doors to a whole new world of emotions. Their music has a magical quality to them. As a child their music took me on the most amazing journeys imaginable. Their music took me to new emotional heights and today it still does. I think Enya and Andreas Vollenweider were unique. They were musical pioneers in their own right. The world of music would have been a much poorer place without them. They are my Idols. Other artists like Vangelis, Yanni and Deep Forest should be credited because I feel many artists like me composing music within the new age/world genre should be thankful for the influence they had on the music industry. These artists gave something fresh and extra ordinary to the music industry and opened the minds of many people to a different kind of music. I think each and every New Age/ World Musician is attempting in some way to follow in their footsteps. Aiming to gain as much success and respect as these pioneers did. We should be forever grateful for their works.

I love your take on melodies. I think melodies are your strong point in song writing. Where did you get this gift of magical melodies?

To me the main purpose of music is to create positive emotion and well-being. One of the main means of achieving that is through stirring and striking melodies. Personally I do not like mindless music with a lack of melody. Nor do I like aggressive or negative music. I think it is evident in my taste of music that melody is important. Enya is a great example of what can be achieved with simplistic melody. I have found that composing striking melodies are in the luck of the draw. The longer you play around and scramble through the notes with a fine tuned ear the sooner you will strike a piece with potential. The trick is recognizing the beautiful parts and rejecting the bad parts. That is why I leave a recording for a few days and come back to it again. If it stirs good emotions like before, it will get attention. If not it will be scrapped. But there is always a little bit of magic included in the whole process. I think every musician ever so often stops and ask him or herself  “How did I come up with this? Where did it come from? It must have been my muse?” Who can say why or how it happens? But it remains one of my driving forces to make music. The unknown of what will be next in this endless universe of sound.  Constantly striving to discover the most beautiful and divine melody of all time. That challenge keeps me going. Like Natasha Bedding field sings in her song – These Words – “tryin to find the magic, tryin to write a classic ” That’s what it’s all about really.

What’s your ideal time of the day to compose music?

Mostly I compose at nighttime. I am more relaxed and less distracted. But the creative urge can hit at any time. So one needs to follow the natural flow of things and it will lead to useful material. No use in pushing it. Weeks or months may pass between compositions. So the trick is to let it fly at the perfect time.

Do you get inspired by places or landscapes when you write music? What are the places you’ve been to?

Yes. Nature is one of my main sources of inspiration. I tend to zoom in on the little things in life. Be it a bird in flight or a flower growing in the back yard. I draw inspiration from those mundane things knowing at the right time they will aid me in making music. I also believe that many a new age musician has a special fantasia from where they create. A place where every thing is at peace. Where everything is possible. A mental utopia that needs to be unlocked each time they compose. I have found it to be one of the major keys to my creativity. Entering a special place where the world disappears and where I can reach new emotional heights. It is a combination of these experiences that inspires me to make the kind of music I do. It has been like this since the start.

I have traveled to Egypt, Israel and Mozambique. I would like to encourage everyone to go and visit these countries. Each and every one of these countries is amazing.

Any touring plans in mind?

Music wise. Not soon. They way my music is constructed makes it nearly impossible to perform live. Unless I totally redo them more simplistically which in my mind will kill them and me all together (laughing out loud). Like I said most of my tracks are spontaneous snapshots. And I think it is better we keep it that way. But with future projects I might just (small might) end up on stage doing a little tour. Traveling wise there are so many places I would love to go and see. Just sitting here thinking about it makes me HIGLY depressed so lets not elaborate on that any further.

What’s your message to our readers?

It may sound like a cliché. But people get disheartened too easily. I think a lot of talent goes to waste because people stop dreaming. I am nowhere near where I see myself. But I have dared to keep to this dream of making and sharing my music. And each tiny step has brought me a deep sense of satisfaction. Today I am much further than I ever thought I would musically be. In a nutshell, I would like to say… never stop dreaming. And if you did, it is time you start again. You will be amazed what you can achieve when you stick to your dreams. God Bless and Thank You!

 

Lisa Gerrard’s Website

518993 Hi folks. It’s a lovely morning here. I just heard the King Of Pop has passed away. My condolences to his family and friends. Anyway I took a peak at Lisa Gerrard‘s website and it is undergoing construction. Maybe something big is coming up. But the picture is shocking. I looks like she is underwater and dead. Look here Well, it looks like our Gothic Queen is still Gothic after all. Been a fan of Dead Can Dance ever since I got hold of their Into The Labyrinth album . It’s a mixture of Middle Eastern/Goth/Celtic and other stuff. Very inventive.  Lisa Gerrard an Australian of Irish descent won more converts when she actually lent her compositional skills to the movie Gladiator.