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Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita release “Soar”

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The Welsh/Senegalese duo of Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita have long been acclaimed, and in fact the combination is more likely than it sounds. The harp is a key musical symbol in both Wales and Senegal, and both nations also share a bardic tradition of intricate oral history, expressed through music, song and verse. Their delicate interweaving of both sets of strings – from the traditional West African kora, and a modern blue harp – continue to fascinate and entrance world music audiences.

Clychau Dibon, Catrin and Seckou’s first album (2013), won fRoots Album Of The Year, was nominated for two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Best Duo and Best Traditional Track, and was featured in Songlines Magazine Top Ten Albums of 2013. Their second album – SOAR – is out this month, with music roving from the Goldberg Variations, to traditional African music via   Welsh and other Western folk and contemporary influences. It’s a thoughtful exploration of emotional and physical journeys, of many different kinds. ‘1677’ refers to the French invasion and subsequent colonisation of the Senegalese Île de Gorée, which then became a central port for the slave trade. Cofiwch Dryweryn (“Remember Tryweryn”), the album’s last track, remembers the 1965 drowning of the Welsh village Capel Celyn, to create a reservoir providing water for the English city of Liverpool. ‘Téranga-Bah’ is about the ritual of hospitality, with Keita singing “open the gate” repeatedly at the end.

Presiding over the album as a whole is the motif of the osprey, the sea bird that migrates over the sea, between west Africa and northern Europe. After centuries of persecution as vermin and near-extinction in the British isles, the osprey started breeding again in Wales. The opening track Clarach is named after the first Dyfi osprey in modern times to be born in Wales who subsequently returned from West Africa as an adult to rear her own chicks in the UK. 2011 saw the first osprey chicks to hatch in the Dyfi Valley, Mid Wales, since 1604. 

“I like the bird’s freedom to migrate to different places,” Seckou says. “They soar their way, and nothing stops them, but they know where they’re heading, where they’ll find peace and be happy. I’ve been on the same journey, but in a different way.”

Catrin and Seckou will also be touring with SOAR throughout 2018. 


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