Catrin Finch and Sekou Keita review – life-affirming musical union

Classically trained Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, the Senegalese exponent of the west African harp kora, first collaborated in 2013 on their widely acclaimed album Clychau Dibon. Its long-awaited follow-up, Soar, was released last month. This concert was an emotional demonstration of how two virtuoso musicians triumphantly bring different cultures together.It began with a delightful and appropriate concept. Wales used to have a large osprey population, but by the 17th century the birds had been persecuted to extinction. The ospreys have recently returned, migrating from west Africa, and Clarach celebrates the first Welsh-born osprey for hundreds of years. The track began with floating harp work punctuated by kora basslines, then developed into a soaring, gently rousing improvisation celebrating freedom of movement.

 

The duo swapped improvised melody lines and rhythmic backing almost intuitively, in a set that showcased their new album. Bach to Baïsso started with a western classical theme – from Bach’s Goldberg Variations – played on kora before easing into an elegant but lively ancient Senegambian tune, with Seckou providing laid-back vocals. Elsewhere, on 1677, they moved from a bluesy, atmospheric lament about slavery to a playful rhythmic workout, while on the charming Listen to the Grass Grow they were joined by Welsh singer Gwyneth Glyn, who had opened the show.

Finch is undergoing cancer treatment, and asked for donations for an NHS centre in Cardiff “that has saved many lives and is currently saving mine”. Then she launched into Hinna-Djulo, matching Seckou’s now swinging, jazzy kora improvisation with delight. It was a classy, joyful and life-affirming set.

 

Source: Catrin Finch and Sekou Keita review – life-affirming musical union | Music | The Guardian

Review: Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita “Soar”

Even before the first notes of harp and kora play out from this excellent second disc by Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese Kora player Seckou Keita, there is a lovely piece of romance surrounding it that mirrors the two musics that this duo have put together so very successfully. The main star of Soar is the Osprey, a raptor that has begun breeding again in Wales after a four hundred year absence when it was effectively persecuted to extinction in the country as vermin. The bond between Wales and West Africa has been re-established for the bird, with the first to remake the several thousand mile round journey being christened ‘Clarach’, which also provides the title of the opening track.

As was clear from the duo’s debut Clychau Dibon from 2013, the music produced from this pairing seems to be more a re-establishing of sound and musical cultures, rather than an introduction, which of course ties in well with the story of our eponymous bird, flying the flag for the species in Wales. ‘Clarach’ begins spacious, with a long bass note and phonetics playing alongside the picked kora, before the harp line begins to set a pace and rhythm that grows in strength and urgency as the track develops. At six minutes, there is time to allow the music to unfold here and switch from a minor to major key, which adds to the drama of the bird’s journey, so skilfully illustrated through the duo’s playing. Just before we are two thirds through, there is a subtle shift where the energy calms and Keita’s kora line jumps away from the harp, as if being carried off on a breeze, before rejoining for a rousing end. It’s examples like this running through the whole set that displays the trust the pair have in each other’s ability and the relationship they have built through collaborating this past six years. Continue reading