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"A world-renowned musical force..."
April 18th, 2011 00:18

The Barefoot Review on the Womadelaide performance…

It’s been a long ten year gap between WOMADelaide appearances for the Afro Celt Sound System, but on the off-chance they were concerned, the high decibel greeting they received as they stepped on stage confirmed they were far from forgotten.

Since first performing at WOMADelaide in 1997 as a little-known drum and bass collaboration experimenting with a modern fusion of Celtic and African music, the band has evolved into a world-renowned musical force. Closing out the cycle in 2011, this year’s festival saw them returning off the back of the release of their “best of” anthology, Capture 1995-2010.

In an extended 1.5 hour set, the band treated the overflowing Stage 1 audience to a set of old school drum ‘n bass and tribal dance tracks, proving beyond a doubt they’ve still got what it takes to get 5000-odd people moving. As always, Johnny Kalsi, much loved front man of the Dhol Foundation (WOMADelaide 2006) was a crowd pleaser with his powerful dhol drumming and charismatic banter. N’Faly Kouyate carved insane solos out of his kora, wielding the traditional West African instrument like a rockstar.

If their aim was send the crowd home on an exhausted high, it was a job well done for the Afro Celts – welcome home to WOMADelaide’s favorite sons!

Nicole Russo

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"A high energy force to be reckoned with..."
April 4th, 2011 07:17

Timber and Steel reviews the Womadelaide performance…

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. James Mahon on 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.

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"Fresh, current and wholesome..." fRoots
November 4th, 2010 07:16

fRoots gets excited about Capture and the live show…

Watching Afro Celt Sound System in action again after a prolonged break, I was struck how fresh, current and wholesome they remained…

James McNally and Martin Russell have compiled a beautiful packaged and shrewdly programmed collection that proudly showcases a keynoted band for the modern era.

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Deep soul and wicked intelligence... The Times
November 4th, 2010 07:14

The Times reviews Capture…

The Afro Celts were an experiment to uncover and explore musical connections between the tribes of Western Europe and those of West Africa. At 25 tracks this compilation may be excessive. But it’s great dance music crafted with deep soul and wicked intelligence, and has barely dated- David Hutcheon

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"It all sounds remarkably fresh and relevant"
November 4th, 2010 07:13

Afro Celt Sound System promoted a mini revolution with their first festival appearances some 15 years ago… The band’s ingenious blend of African and Celtic rhythms and dance floor beats appealed to purists and hipsters alike. Much of this was to do with the way ACSS put their sound together. The innumerable pretenders that followed never quite managed to elicit the mass hysteria at festivals that this fluid line-up of stalwarts and special guests did.

Re-formed after a five year break, they are currently elbowing lesser acts aside at festivals at home and abroad. In case we need reminding of just how compelling and progressive they are, Realworld has issued this timely best of dividing 25 tracks into songs and instrumentals. Collaborations with the likes of Sinead O’Connor , Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant add cachet but it’s the bands standalone efforts that impress the most. The electro Afro-Indian air Lagan is threaded with the distinctive and transporting voice of Irish singer Iarla O’Lionaird and the dhol drumming of London-based Johnny Kalsi. Whirly 1 and Whirly 2 are furious Bacchanalian trance numbers. The spacious Mojave is an ode to the desert that inspired it. It all sounds remarkably fresh and relevant; we await the mooted new album with bated breath. Jane Cornwell

Songlines Review of Capture
- Jane Cornwell

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"joyous and life affirming leaving you breathless"
July 29th, 2010 14:17

The set of the day, and probably the whole weekend belonged to Afro Celt Sound System. Badly placed on the Siam Stage these guys should have been on the Open Ar Stage, though knowing their love of dark moody lighting it may have been as much their decision as WOMAD’s. In a weekend crammed with top world music and acts this was the one that, for us at least, captured the spirit and the essence of what WOMAD is all about. They’ve been away for far too long and haven’t played WOMAD for the past 10 years so it was a welcome return for a band who are able to build their set from the gentle opening bars to a soaring, searing crescendo. Euphoric doesn’t quite captured the vibe that flowed easily around the Siam Stage as track after track was laid bare for all to enjoy. Afro Celt Sound System are a joy and to witness their performance is to be part of something emotional, joyous and life affirming leaving you breathless, there can be no doubt that the music these guys produce touches your very heart and soul.

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"...their magic is euphoric and equally enduring"
July 29th, 2010 14:16

The close of the festival for me was the reunion of one of WOMAD’s favourite bands, the Afro Celt Sound System who returned after a 10-year break. They came to celebrate their 15th anniversary and launch of a retrospective CD. The Pogues and Afro-Celt multi-instrumentalist, James McNally told us, “The band were born in the Whirl-y-Gig tent,” that long-gone psychedelic den which launched a genre of cross-cultural collaborations. ‘Music without Borders’ is their category, and their music a model of enduring brilliance and collaborations. This was a non-stop, racing performance which exploded to a different level when the turbaned kit drummer Johnny Kalsi, leapt up and strapped on a thunderous dhol drum (the rhythymic voice of bhangra).

He rushed around the stage, in conversation with the high-pitched, chattering talking drum, dropped the volume to meet the bodhran player’s softer rhythms, weaved amongst the prancing, spirit-like Fulani dancer, Demba Barry, then at a whim, paused the organized chaos, to allow a chiming cascade of notes from N’Faye Kouyate‘s kora and Simon Emmerson’s psychedelic bluesy abstract electric guitar melodies. Phew. Every song brought an upsurge of energy in an almost orchestral collusion. Unlike the performance of Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, this music is not transcendental but Afro Celts operates as an organism, truly genetically mutant and their magic is euphoric and equally enduring. Sue Steward

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"Awesome Stuff", Independent (UK) Womad Review
July 29th, 2010 14:10

Last Night: Womad, Charlton Park, Wiltshire (Rated 4/ 5 )
By David Taylor

Afro Celt Sound System tore up the Siam Tent with their cross-cultural mash up of world music – the perfect band to sum up what Womad is about. At one point a kora player, dhol drummer, talking drum maestro and bodhran player jammed over squelchy acid keyboards and a breakbeat. Awesome stuff – and amazing to witness live. On CD it’s hard to apprecciate that everything is live, not Mac trickery.

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Line-up for 2014
Simon Emmerson (guitars, cittern) James McNally (whistles, keyboards, bodhran) ( ) N'faly Kouyate (kora, vocals) James "Jimmy" Mahon (uilleann pipes, flute) Dav Daheley (dhol, tablas, percussion) Ian Markin (electronic and acoustic drums) Moussa Sissokho / Babara Bangoura (djembe, talking drum) Demba Barry (Senegalese dancing) Martin Russell (front of house sound)
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