Bluesfest Drops its Third Artist Announcement

Afro Celt Sound System
Image Courtesy of Afro Celt Sound System

The third artist announcement from Bluesfest dropped today, headed up by a trio of powerful women – Kesha, Sheryl Crow and Melissa Ethridge.

Joining them this time around are a host of artists that will no doubt get Timber and Steel readers excited including Afro Celt Sound System (above), William Crighton, Elephant Sessions, Newton Faulkner, Harry Manx, Juanes, Seu Jorge, Ziggy Alberts, Ásgeir, Harts and Holy Holy.

Bluesfest is held just outside of Byron Bay from the 29th March to 2nd April. For more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

The full announced so far is below:

Lionel Richie, Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, John Butler Trio, Tash Sultana, The New Power Generation, CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers, José González, First Aid Kit, Morcheeba, Gov’t Mule, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, The California Honeydrops, Eric Gales, Bobby Rush, Dumpstaphunk, Joe Louis Walker, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Youssou N’Dour, Seal, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jackson Brown, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Gomez, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, The Original Blues Brothers Band, Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers, Benjamin Booker, Hurray for Riff Raff, Canned Heat, Walter Trout, André Cymone, The Teskey Brothers, Kesha, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Ethridge, Afro Celt Sound System, William Crighton, Elephant Sessions, Newton Faulkner, Harry Manx, Juanes, Seu Jorge, Ziggy Alberts, Ásgeir, Harts, Holy Holy

WOMADelaide Review: Afro Celt Sound System

Afro Celt Sound System
Image Courtesy of WOMADelaide

Afro Celt Sound System
Sunday – Stage 1

I don’t like dance music. There, I’ve said it. I like dancing to music. I like tunes that were traditionally written to be danced to like jigs and reels and polkas. I even like watching people dance to music. But I find the whole “dance music” genre to be, well, boring. That is I did. Then I saw Afro Celt Sound System.

As the main drawcard at the biggest stage on Sunday night the Afro Celt Sound System were always going to draw a massive crowd. The fact that they were up against Luka Bloom on the Zoo Stage probably didn’t hurt them either considering how different their music was. But I probably wasn’t prepared for just how munch enthusiasm the crowd had for the Afro Celts and how much they fed off that energy.

Considering the Afro Celt Sound System have been plying their unique brand of Irish-Afro-Drum-and-Bass fusion for the past 15 years and that they first appeared at WOMADelaide in 1997 you’d probably expect them to be acting like elder statesmen. But instead what we were presented with was a high energy force to be reckoned with. The band leaped and pranced around the massive stage. The drum and bass was turned right up to 11. And the mixture of Irish instruments with African and Indian beats was just amazing.

N’Faly Kouyate on the kora was an absolute highlight as he ran and posed around the stage. Emer Mayock pipes added the much lauded Irish element to the sound. And Afro Celt leader Simon Emmerson excelled at pulling it all together with his guitar, bouzouki and drum machine. I was impressed by how grateful Emmerson was about what WOMAD and WOMADelaide in particular has done for the band and I feel they gave back to the crowd as a massive thank you for the support they’ve given over all those years.

Overall an amazing performance and the perfect way to wrap up Sunday. I can’t believe I actually danced to dance music.

The Afro Celts Announce WOMADelaide Sideshows

Afro Celt Sound System
Image Courtesy of Afro Celt Sound System

If you’re a fan of Afro Celt Sound System but can’t make it down to Adelaide for their WOMAD appearance this March don’t fret – the band have announced three sideshows, one each in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Joining the Afro Celts in the support slot on the Brisbane and Melbourne leg of the tour is DJ JUMPS from The Cat Empire (no word on whether there will be a Sydney support). Full dates are below:

14th March – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
15th March – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, QLD
16th March – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne, VIC

Interview: Afro Celt Sound System – WOMADelaide 2011 Preview

Afro Celt Sound System
Image Courtesy of WOMADelaide

It’s been a decade since the Afro Celt Sound System last came to Australia so when they were announced for this year’s WOMADelaide fans were suitably thrilled. With the festival just under two months away Timber and Steel’s very own Evan Hughes sat down with Afro Celt Sound System guitarist, producer and founder Simon Emmerson to discuss the tour, future plans for the AfroCelts and what the term “world music” means in 2011.

Evan Hughes: How are you feeling about your first tour of Australia in, what is it, ten years?
Simon Emmerson: I keep getting asked this and I keep forgetting when it was but yeah I think it was 2001 when we were last in Australia. We did WOMADelaide. We’ve played WOMADelaide twice. The first time was in ’96 when Joe Bruce was still in the band. He was the youngest member of the band, the keyboard player, and he very tragically died soon after that. And then we came back in 2001. Both trips were incredibly important for us, the first time we played WOMADelaide it was the first time we realised we could play on these big international stages, the band had really gone on to the next level. And similarly when we came back, we came back with a drummer and a full band and it was a lot less of a “sound system” and much more of an established band. So both times were very significant key markers in our history so it seems right that we should come back when we’re relaunching the band, starting the new chapter in our lives. What better way to do it than WOMADelaide.
EH: I think when you were announced for WOMADelaide you got a lot of people very excited here.
SE: Yeah, we have an amazing fanbase in Australia. It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s really heart warming. We’ve had this fairly lengthy hiatus – the band never planned to split up but we went off and did our own things. It’s a very kind of creative powerhouse collective of people so we’re all involved in other projects and it was just sort of by fate that the band’s collective consciousness kind of moved and we all decided it would be nice to start gigging again last summer. And then from that, and I mean particularly doing the WOMAD in England,which was a bit of a homecoming for us, we decided to go onto the international stage again.
EH: Is the beginning massive international tour?
SE: It’s the beginning of massive international work. We’re not going on to do anymore touring directly after Australia. We will be planning to do more international gigs but that’s more likely to be in 2012 because we really want to concentrate on getting a new album out. I think that’s the priority. Capture’s a fantastic retrospective and we’re touring music from Capture but I think the most important thing, the main priority once we’ve promoted Capture, is to get a new album out.
EH: You sound like you’ve almost got a renewed energy having taken two years off.
SE: Well it’s more than two years – it’s more like five years (laughes). Yeah we have had a renewed energy. We’ve worked incredibly hard as a band, put our heart and souls into Anatomic, but basically the studios we had in London had to close down. We couldn’t afford to stay there, the overheads were very expensive. The good thing about this group is that it’s through the live work that we sort of lit the spark again, and I think that’s important. It’s a great live band and I’m hoping the next album will have a much stronger live feel. And I think an element of Anatomic had that as well because I think really that’s the way the band’s going. It’s much more a live entity now – the fact we’ve got a real drummer and we’re not running so much midi stuff, it’s important. Although there’s still a very large element of that in what we do.
EH: That is a defining feature of your sound.
SE: Yeah it is a defining feature. The whole point of the Afrocelts was we were based around the sound system, we weren’t a conventional band. At the time it was quite unusual – well it wasn’t particularly unusual for me because I grew up going to reggae sound systems and the band emerged out of the whole London post acid house rave club culture that was around in the early 90s. So it was very much a club based project. But I think it was inevitable that we were going to go on to form a band, consolidate around a more conventional rhythm section. We’re not touring with a bass player but we’ve got very very strong front line. Either that or we would have just kind of become a DJ project and I just glad that we adopted the live approach.
EH: You do have a reputation as a pretty exciting live band so I’m glad you took that approach.
SE: Yeah absolutely. I mean there’s only so much you can do as a DJ as I’ve found over the years. The great thing about playing live is we can introduce new musicians to an audience. We’re bringing over some fantastic new trad players to introduce to the Australian crowd and we’ve got some of the old regulars like Johnny Kalsi, we’ve got an amazing drummer, Ian Markin, who’s one of my favourite drummers, a great rhythm player. It’s much more creative and adaptive.
EH: So would you say Australian fans can expect a brand new live show?
SE: No it’s kind of a combination of a retrospective – we go right back to the stuff we were doing when we started. We’ve even dug out a remix of “Inion” that we first did, one of the first remixes we’ve ever done in ’95, and we’ve reworked that – all the way up to songs from Anatomic. So it’s very much an historical overview. People who’ve been to see us, who’ve been following the band since ’95, have come away from the live shows going “Oh my god, it’s a complete reinvention of the Afrocelts” and I’m kind of surprised because we are playing material that goes right back. But I think there’s a kind of freshness and energy in what we’re bringing to the music now which pushes it forward and makes it very relevant. It’s kind of interesting, a lot of the skeptics, a lot of the more traditional world music journalists who didn’t get it, who were actually quite hostile to the band in the mid to late 90s, who were at the [London] WOMAD show just sort of put their hands up and went “right, we get it now”. I don’t know if it was the strength of the crowd reaction or just the fact that music’s moved on or the fact that there was a great sense of supporting the band at their homecoming gig, but people kind of get it now. We’re not really having to fight our corner anymore, we’ve become much more elder statesmen on the global world music scene.
EH: On that do you think that “world music” is even a relevant genre term anymore given even in pop music you’ve got bands like Vampire Weekend with the afro-caribbean sound coming in and Mumford and Sons with the bluegrass…
SE: I never ever liked the term. Never. It wasn’t a term invented by musicians. It was a term invented in London in ’86. There was a group of journalists and people from the record companies who were sitting around and they wanted to find a way of racking roots music in the mainstream shops and in doing that they definitely created a marketing ghetto. Prior to the term “world music” I was in a band called Working Week and we were just seen as a soul-jazz band and we had a Brazilian percussion player and a Columbian bass player called and a fantastic piano player. Our very first ever single was called “Venceremos” and it’s got Robert Wyatt on it and Tracey Thorn and a Chillean singer Claude Figueroa and that got into the main pop charts at number 16 and weren’t called “world music” (laughes). We were a mainstream act and we appeared on TV. I always feel that the term was imposed on the music I loved. Having said that, now the term’s there, we’ve got to fight our corner and I think we should all feel very proud that world music has been moved into the main stream and more and more pop and rock artists are drawing inspiration from world music. Musicians are never comfortable with labels that are put on them and there’s an element of simplification in the term that I’ve never been very happy with. But we’ve just got to live with it. I mean I’m doing a world music interview on a world music blog and I’m playing at a world music festival and I can’t really sit here and get all pious and indignant and say “oh, I’m above all that” (laughes). I think it’s just part of the problem of language and music and trying to sum up music that’s so dispirit with a simple term and I haven’t really got an answer to the question.
EH: Have you had a look at the other artists that appearing on the WOMADelaide lineup?
SE: Do you know what, I haven’t. I’ve been so busy. I like to be surprised. I like turning up at WOMAD and wandering around without any preconceptions. And there’s always that WOMAD moment where you come away thinking “oh my God!”. But I haven’t, we’re too busy preparing. I will do though. Have you got any recommendations?
EH: The big Australian band you have to see is Angus and Julia Stone. If you haven’t seen there they’re a brother and sister duo from Sydney who do this really nice folky-pop.
SE: I really look forward to that, that sounds great.
EH: I think the lineup is just going to attract a crowd that might not normally be into world music and hopefully expose them to new and interesting things.
SE: We’ve been playing mainstream rock festivals as the Afrocelts and we’ve been getting crowds of 16 to 20 year old kids punching the air and their really getting off on the sound. I do think you’re right – there’s a new generation that’s come through, they’re listening to afro-beat because of the Gorillaz and Damon Albarn and listening to Zairian guitar music because of Vampire Weekend. And that’s how I got into it y’know? In 1981/82 I was in a band called Weekend and all we were trying to do was copy Franco and the Zairian guitarists. And we just into that by going into secondhand record shops and buying the vinyl. It will be lovely to see a new, younger crowd at WOMAD.

The full dates for the Afro Celt Sound System Australian tour are below:

Friday 11th – 14th March – WOMADelaide, Botanic Park, Adelaide, SA
Monday 14th March – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Tuesday 15th March – Hi Fi Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 16th March – Hi Fi Bar, Melbourne, VIC

And if you’re a fan of the Afro Celt Sound System check out these mixes Simon Emmerson did for Folk Radio UK here and here

WOMADelaide Artist Sneak Peak

Angus and Julia Stone
Image Courtesy of Angus and Julia Stone

The official lineup announcement for next year’s WOMADelaide festival is set to hit the interwebs on the 17th November this year. But as a teaser the crew at WOMADelaide have let slip a bunch of confirmed artists which include:

Angus and Julia Stone (above)
Afro Celt Sound System
Nitin Sawhney
Hanggai
Creole Choir of Cuba
Alan Kelly Quartet
Rango
Rajendra Prasanna
Omar Souleyman

Check out the official web site for more details

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