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Afro Celt Sound System & Dhol Foundation, Town Hall, Birmingham

  • Written by  Ben MacNair

The musical collectives Afro Celt Sound System and Dhol Foundation are not known for being shrinking violets. They do not do musical delicacy, they are about the tribal experience of music, the transcendental fusion of genres,of grooves, sound and melody, sound it was no surprise when they turned Birmingham Town Hall into more of a dance hall than a concert venue for recitals when they appeared there as part of their nationwide tour.

Both ensembles are well over two decades old, have many members in common, and are both experimental and adventurous in their music making, fusing all types of genres together, from the Fiddle, whistles and pipes of celtic music, to the dhols, djembes and African singing styles that inform their soundscapes.

Starting off the evening were the Dhol Foundation, founded by Johnny Kalsi, their energetic sound, and stage presence has provided the soundtracks to many films and television shows, but it is in the live arena that they really come to life. They played pieces from their most recent release, Basant, which ranged from the bombast of 'Thunder-Drum' to the folksy protest song 'Mother Tongue'. Their soundscapes were informed by looping pedals, electric and acoustic guitars, and drums, and were highly rhythmical. Indian singers and dancers also add both colour and visual colour to the presentation, whilst a number of guest singers and musicians featured throughout the set.

Afro Celt Sound System are at the forefront of World Music, with their sound blending industrial drums and rhythms with traditional folk instruments to danceable, tune laden effect. With founding member Simon Emerson on guitar and bouzouki, the rest of the group was made from a collective of players, many of whom featured on their latest release The Source. Emer Mayock played whistles and pipes, whilst fiddler Ewan Henderson also made a valuable contribution to such songs as 'Honeybee' and 'Release', whilst the dance club rhythms of such songs as 'The Magnificent Seven' and 'Cascade' added to the energy that the band produced, The encore saw both bands playing the upbeat, rhythmically intense 'Desert Billy' and 'Kalsi Backbeat', which ended this historic concert in a suitably uplifting fashion.

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