It is with enormous sadness that we announce the death of Martyn Bennett after a long struggle against cancer. Martyn died in Edinburgh on Sunday 30 January. He has left behind an extraordinary and seminal body of work - influential recordings and the memory outstanding live performances. His last album 'Grit' is an image of a struggle and endurance - both of the singers featured and of Martyn himself.
"On various levels this is an extraordinary album. The charismatic fiddler/bagpiper/dance innovator has endured an horrendous couple of years battling with cancer, and Grit - born of pain, passion, emotion and a very real sense of roots - is the immense response. Paradoxically it's tender yet explosive; ancient and futuristic; beautiful yet violent; scarred yet triumphant; quietly reflective yet full-on dance.... Remarkable stuff." ( fRoots Magazine)
Anyone wishing to pass on their condolences to Martyn's loved ones can do so by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass them on.
Hotel Rwanda, for which the Afro Celts have contributed to an outstanding soundtrack has been nominated for three oscars. Don Cheadle is up for Best Actor, Sophie Okonedo as Best Supporting Actress and Keir Pearson and Terry George for Best Original Screenplay.
Saturday night saw a packed Union Chapel in Islington for an inspiring performance of "I Could Read The Sky' with readings by Timothy O'Grady and music from Iarla O'Lionaird,Karan Casey, Martin O'Connor, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. (pictured at the event below)
You can still catch a performance in Glasgow, Gateshead. Southport and Stamford and at an extra date -the 30th January at the Irish Centre at Blacks Road in Hammersmith London (tel 0208 563 8232).
Real World artist and Afro Celt vocalist Iarla O Lioniard is set to join writer Tim O'Grady and a host of brilliant Irish musicians in theatres around the UK. Their show on Saturday 22 January in London will be the last ever musical performance at the popular venue of the Union Chapel in Islington.
In a recent interview Tim O'Grady describes the show:
"It's not a play," he stated firmly, his accent wavering between Irish and American - using "toon" for "tune".
"It's about an old man who migrated to England from Ireland.
"The character is a musician and what he's doing is remembering, so the tunes that are played are part of that and remind him of what he's left behind and what he is.
"I will be reading from the text, some musicians will be playing and we will project images onto the stage - some of Steve Pyke's photographs and also some images from a film which was made of the book.
"There will be guitar, accordion and violin, and singers who alternate different performances between songs and pieces of the book, with projection going on all the time.
"It's a performance of the book but not like a book - but it suits because of the way the book is written in that each of the incidents are more or less self-contained."
To me, the book appeared to be almost like a biography with its first-hand narrative, but Timothy assured me it's a work of fiction.
"I was actually born and raised in Chicago, and I then went to live in Donegal when I finished university. Then I moved to London but I was in Ireland a lot over a 20-year period.
"The book came about because my publisher was speaking to Steve about doing a book of his photos and he asked me if I would write some text to accompany it. And over a long period of time, it transformed into a novel."
Vocalist Iarla O'Lionaird (pronounced Earla O Leonard), who had been photographed for the book, then sang at its launch in Dublin, accompanied by musicians, which planted a new idea in Timothy's head.
"It was such a different experience and seemed to send the words out much better. So we rented the Shepherd's Bush Empire to perform it. It was a crazy idea at the time, but now, here we are."
The performances will also feature Karen Casey on vocals, Martin Hayes on violin, Dennis Cahill on guitar and Mairtin O'Connor on accordion. Full details of the show are on our tour section.
The original book by Tim O Grady and Steve Pyke and the CD of the soundtrack to the subsequent film are both available at the WOMAD Shop.
We have two new live videos of Daby Touré for you to download. One filmed here at Real World Studios and one filmed in Paris at the end of 2004. Both tracks are taken from his album Diam.
Also still available is Kia A So, an exclusive new track not from the album, which is available to download for free in a high bit rate MP3 format.
The new Blind Boys studio album 'Atom Bomb' is now ready to launch and will hit the streets on March 14th (Europe)or March 15th (USA)!
With gospel still at it's core, the new recording makes forays into the pop world with a wildly infectious version of the Fatboy Slim/Macy Gray song 'Demons' featuring rapper Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and a boogie version of Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit In The Sky' featuring David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and the legendary harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite.
Watch this space for tasters of this forthcoming future classic!
Iarla O'Lionaird, best known as lead vocalist of the Afro Celts, is currently in New York working with producer/mixer Kevin Killen (well know to Peter Gabriel fans for his work mixing 'So' ). After many years of study and work Iarla's new album 'Invisible Fields' will delight fans of traditional sean-nos, rock and experimental ambient sound everywhere. With touches of etheral beauty (reminiscent of Sigur Ros) and earthy rock guitar, the album even features an extraordinary arrangement for a medieaval viol ensemble by revered English composer Gavin Bryars.
The album is due out in early summer 2005 but we will be posting some intriguing musical tasters before then.
The collaborative album of Ben Harper and the Blind Boys 'There Will Be A Light' has taken critics and audiences by storm. The success is reflected in the recent Grammy nominations. The extraordinary chemistry between the legendary old timers and Ben can been seen on a video on Ben Harper's website with unique studio footage of them recording together.
'There Will Be a Light' can be bought at WOMADShop.com.
Following their 3 successful Grammy wins, the Blind Boys will now be performing live with Ben Harper on the 2005 telecast! Catch this amazing collaboration on 13 February accross America (and at various other broadcast times internationally).