New Sound from Dublin
Prof Christopher Pak's preview of the Swan Lake /Loch na hEala which will be performing in Hong Kong as part of this year New Vision Arts Festival.
Irish folk music is arguably the best-known world music genre around the globe. Even in a place like Hong Kong where performance of world music is not particularly common, Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains performed sold-out concerts here just a couple of years ago. For many people, music from the Celtic World has already gone beyond the notion of “exotic flavour” and has become part of their mainstream music vocabulary.
One of the most important factors that have brought Celtic music to the main stage of world music is the revival of folk music since the 1960s. This revival movement reflected the growing awareness among people of artistic forms with a more grassroot character. Although the search for “music of the people” partly resembled its strength from the political current of the time, in particular the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, it was singer-songwriters like Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan who have brought folk music to the front stage.
Of course, Celtic culture is not restricted to Irish music. Wales, parts of Scotland and England, as well as some areas in France and Spain, all form the Celtic cultural heritage that we know today. However, it is Irish musicians who can always fuse different musical tastes with their Celtic root and enlighten contemporary audience of all walks. From The Dubliners to The Pogues, from Michael Flatley and his Riverdance to the Altan, audiences around the world enjoy a successful fusion of traditional, popular and modern tastes in the performances of these Irish artists.
The Dublin-based band Slow Moving Clouds is unique in the sense that it combines Irish and Nordic traditions. Do not expect to see iconic music instruments like the Irish harp, uilleann pipes, bodhrán, or bouzouki. Instead the three-member band adds a Swedish nyckelharpa, a string instrument that employs key-actuated tangents to change the pitch, on top of the conventional combination of Irish fiddle and cello. Adding to this unique combination is that Aki, the only non-Irish member of the group who plays the nyckelharpa, is actually from Finland, although the other two members of the group include fiddler Danny Diamond from Dublin and cellist Kevin Murphy from Cork.
The music presented by Slow Moving Clouds for Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake / Loch na hEala demonstrates the approach of the band to create a hybrid soundscape that combines Irish and Finnish traditions with the current idiom of world music. It includes arrangements of traditional Irish and Nordic tunes like “Downfall of Paris”, “Karelian” and “Hiljainen Suru” (Quiet Sorrow), as well as new music composed by the band in a variety of styles that draw inspirations from various folk traditions, including the piece “Mbira” that features a tune with Nordic flavour over an ostinato-like pattern inspired by the African mbira.
It is quite obvious that the music explored by Slow Moving Clouds should not be interpreted as tradition or heritage. This is not the type of traditional Irish or Finnish music that you may encounter in taverns or village bars. The sonic effects of their music challenge our conventional sense of folk music and give us a taste of the old and new worlds. And perhaps this is why their music perfectly matches Teaċ Daṁsa’s reinterpretation of the all-time classic.
Performances will take place at the Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium on November 16-18.
Tickets running fast, visit https://www.newvisionfestival.gov.hk/2018/en/swan.html#stag (Programme) and https://ticket.urbtix.hk/internet/eventDetail/36101 (Ticketing & Internet Booking) for more details.