Tuesday, April 07, 2020

RIP : Bill Withers has died, aged 81

Singer and musician Bill Withers has died, aged 81, in Los Angeles, California on April 2 2020.

His family shared the news, following Withers’ death on Monday 30th March, from heart complications. “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” Withers came to fame in the seventies following the release of his 1971 album Just As I Am, with the classic singles ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, Grandma’s Hands and ‘Everybody’s Talkin’. He went on to release eight subsequent LPs, before retiring from the music industry in the late eighties. Withers is survived by his wife and two children.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Hiatus Kaiyote - WOMAD 2020

Photo - McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
Hiatus Kaiyote (/haɪˈeɪtəs kaɪˈjoʊti/) is a future soul quartet formed in Melbourne in 2011.  The members are Naomi "Nai Palm" Saalfield (vocals, guitar), Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keyboards) and Perrin Moss (drums, percussion). They have been nominated twice for Grammy Awards. In 2013, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance for their song "Nakamarra", performed with Q-Tip. The song appears on their debut album, Tawk Tomahawk. The band released their second album, Choose Your Weapon, on 1 May 2015. The review aggregator Metacritic has given the album a normalised rating of 88 out of 100, based on 6 reviews. On 9 May 2015, Choose Your Weapon debuted at number 22 on the Australian albums chart. The song "Breathing Underwater" from Choose Your Weapon was nominated for Best R&B Performance at the 58th Grammy Awards.

One of the most sampled bands in the world, artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper are finding inspiration from Hiatus Kaiyote; a beguiling outfit that stretches kaleidoscopic sounds into Grammy-nominated masterpieces. Jazz, soul, funk, fusion, hip hop and electronica are their predominant building blocks but the resultant sonic shapes blur the edges and defy the pigeonhole.

Here's a couple of photos from their WOMAD session in March this year.

Photo - McKenzie Jennings Gruar
Photo - McKenzie Jennings Gruar

Monday, March 30, 2020

Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch - WOMAD 2020 - Photos

In October last year, organizers announced the first of the big hitters coming to this year’s WOMAD Festival. Among them was harpist Catrin Finch and renowned kora player Seckou Keita, who have been nominated for a string of world music gongs over the last year, including the coveted BBC Radio2 Folk Awards, for their second album SOAR. That album also took out fRoots Magazine’s Critics Poll Album of the year 2018, Best Transglobal Album of The Year in the Transglobal World Music Awards and ‘Best Fusion’ in the Songlines Music Awards 2019. So, given all the fuss, the Tim Gruar decided to call up Sekou Keita and find out what all the hoo-haa was about and why it’s unthinkable to miss their performance at this year’s 2020 WOMAD. 

Read his interview here: https://www.ambientlightblog.com/womad-2020-interviews-catrin-finch-seckou-keita/

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Reb Fountain - WOMAD 2020 Photos

Born in southern California to her music lovin' peace-making parents, Reb Fountain had a bit of a rough ride before eventually ending up in her current life in Auckland.

Initially arriving by ship into Lyttleton harbour with only $100, Reb's family relished in get-togethers and sing-a-longs.

Following her heart on her OE to London and then back to the States, Reb studied performing arts in Seattle, Washington. As a jazz vocalist, Reb landed a place at the prestigious Dimitriou's Jazz Alley club, immersing herself in the work of the greats – Eartha Kitt, Tito Puente, Flora Purim and many others.

Reb Fountain has recently wooed audiences on an extensive nationwide winter 2008 tour with Johnny Barker aka Sleepy Kid. She had earlier teamed up with Barker at the 2008 Silver Scrolls Awards, where they honored The Top Twins Hall of Fame induction, performing Milestone to wide acclaim from industry insiders and their musical peers.

Reb Fountain - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
A self-titled new album is heading our way; the keenly awaited follow-up to 2017’s Little Arrows and her Hopeful & Hopeless EP, which won Fountain the 2018 Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Artist and APRA Best Country Music Song awards.

Produced by Dave Khan at Roundhead Studios, the collection promises to be a showcase for Fountain’s noir punk-folk songwriting style, and is further teased by lead single Faster.

The song has a a gorgeous video created by Lola Fountain-Best, shot on vintage Super 8 Ektachrome film to compliment the tune’s timeless feel.

Here's her new video, Sampson

Check out more from WOMAD at www.womad.co.nz

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Soaked Oats - WOMAD 2020 (Photos)

Soaked Oats are a young four-piece band hailing from Dunedin, New Zealand who have been described as “a southern stew of Kurt Vile with a good shake of Kevin Morby and Mac DeMarco”. Since forming in 2017, Soaked Oats have come to notoriety for writing songs about stoned fruit (‘Avocado Aficionado’, ‘I’m a Peach’), and have have become known for endearing live performances showcasing the bands penchant for joyous songwriting and high energy shows.

During this year's WOMAD the band charmed the audience - young and old. They even baked a pie at the OMV Taste The World tent - with a few Science Student questions thrown in for good measure.

Photo - Tim Gruar

Here's one of their popular tunes, Stoned Fruit, played at WOMAD

Check out their music at: https://soakedoats.bandcamp.com/

Keep Up with Soaked Oats https://www.facebook.com/soakedoats/

Keep Up with WOMAD - www.womad.co.nz

Friday, March 20, 2020

Shapeshifter - WOMAD 2020 (photos)

Kia Ora Groovers.  Tonight we start off a series of photos taken at WOMAD 2020 (Mar 13-15)
First up is one of the country's most iconic bands, Shapeshifter, who stepped in at the 11th hour when Ziggy Marley had to pull out.

Formed in Christchurch in 1999, Shapeshifter's brand of South Pacific jungle/drum and bass and heavy soul has become an integral part of the tapestry of our live and recorded music scene. Consistently selling gold to platinum and playing sold-out tours across the country and abroad, their influence and impact is undeniable.  Click and expand the slideshow above to view the photos.

Photo: McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
Here's their new video, Break Me Down

Keep up with Shapeshifter - https://www.facebook.com/shapeshifterlivenz/

Photos - www.freshthinking.net.nz

Keep up with WOMAD - www.womad.co.nz

Monday, March 16, 2020

Statement from Creative Capital Arts Trust regarding CubaDupa Cancellation

Today's announcement by the Prime Minister, requiring cancellation of upcoming major events, was a crushing blow to our plans for CubaDupa but now seems entirely necessary. Our organisation produces what might be New Zealand’s largest and most creative free outdoor festival.

Our team and creative partners were ready to fill the streets of Te Aro with 1500 artists, 447 events, and celebrate cultural identity with tens of thousands of friends and neighbors.

But in the name of public health and safety, and flattening the potential epidemic curve, going dark and keeping audiences and artists safe seems like the right policy. Italy, Korea, Spain, and the United States are making a case for early and robust mass containment policies, even when they seem drastic or belated. An important observation (Michael Leavitt, a former US Secretary of Health) is that “Anything said in advance of a pandemic seems alarmist. After a pandemic begins, anything one has said or done is inadequate.”

 CubaDupa are fully supportive of being drastic, of ensuring safer communities, of lessening the impact of contagion and illness.

There will be no 2020 festival. But we also remain committed to our mission as a leading cultural organisation, a champion of artists, and a facilitator of creative responses to the the issues of the day. Whatever comes next, a few things are certain: we intend to find new ways to support artists, to celebrate our amazing community, to be a post-pandemic festival.

Our team are currently figuring out how to postpone all the plans we’ve made for 2020, suspend what can be put on hold, and then keep on going. Then when times and community are safe, we'll present CubaDupa in all its glory.

Even in the face of terrifying uncertainties and great unknowns, the arts and creative ideas will lead us from dark to light. So while our organisation is now concerned with public safety and lessening contagion, we will never lose our focus on artists, performers, storytellers, and the magical experiences they bring to our shared humanity.

That too is entirely necessary.

Eric Vaughn Holowacz Chief Executive Creative Capital Arts Trust Toi Poneke - Wellington Arts Centre 65 Abel Smith Street, Te Aro, Wellington

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

WOMAD 2020 is all go!

WOMAD New Zealand is famous for bringing together artists from all over the globe for a vibrant showcase of the world's many forms of music, arts, and dance.

The 2020 festival is no exception and will feature close to 100 hours of music, dance and voices across eight stages. Over three days Ngāmotu's stunning Brooklands Park and the TSB Bowl of Brooklands will once again be transformed into a village of colour, energy and inclusion. WOMAD New Zealand 2020 features cutting edge performers and world-class musicians from every corner of the planet, delivering fresh new takes on traditional music.

And come March 2020, multi-award-winning, solo artists, duos, trios and 12-piece brass bands from around the globe will come together to perform at WOMAD New Zealand. Finnish Beatboxing, Maloyan Dance and Black Samba will join hands with Reggae, Rap, Folk, Funk, Jazz, Soul, Classical and Afrobeat to celebrate the world's differences.

Pioneering young artists alongside inspirational icons are set to promote acceptance, joy, love, hope and change via the universal language of mankind, music.

 WOMAD New Zealand is very proud to present, for the 16th year anniversary of the festival (in alphabetical order) Albi & The Wolves (Aotearoa/NZ), Blind Boys of Alabama (USA), Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita (Wales/Senegal), Destyn Maloya (Réunion), Ezra Collective (UK), Flor de Toloache (Mexico/USA), Hiatus Kaiyote (Australia), Hot Potato Band (Australia), Ifriqiyya Electrique (Maghreb/Europe), KermesZ à l'Est (Belgium), King Ayisoba (Ghana), L.A.B. (Aotearoa/NZ), Laura Marling (UK), Liniker e os Caramelows (Brazil), L Subramaniam (India), Marina Sattir & Fońes (Greece/Sudan), Minyo Crusaders (Japan), MONTELL2099 (Aotearoa/NZ), Odette (Australia), Orquesta Akokán (Cuba), Reb Fountain (Aotearoa/NZ), RURA (Scotland), Salif Keita (Mali), Shapeshifter (Aotearoa/NZ) Soaked Oats (Aotearoa/NZ), The Black Quartet (Aotearoa/NZ), Trio Da Kali (Mali), Troy Kingi (Aotearoa/NZ) Tuuletar (Finland).

 The ever-expanding World Of Words stage, now held on the sun-drenched lawn of the Kunming Garden will be hosting poets, musical legends, authors, entertainers, comedians and educators to leave you both thinking and laughing.

Being hosted on a brand new stage in the tranquil setting of the Pinetum is WOMAD New Zealand's first-ever STEAM Lab. Come and hear speakers from Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics fields talk about incredible breakthroughs and their journey of innovation. Introducing WOMAD New Zealand's inaugural Book Club.

The book chosen for the 2020 festival is We Can Make A Life by Chessie Henry.

Book Club aims to bring people together to express their perspectives and explore the themes within the book while getting insights from Chessie herself. WOMAD New Zealand remains a place to bring artists together from all over the globe to break down barriers, educate, inform and inspire. Come and lose yourself in the sights, sounds, and tastes that blend together to make up the vibrant WOMAD experience!

Blue River Baby play 'Big Lil Summer Blowout' Festival Friday 13 March at San Fran

New to Wellington 'Big Lil Summer Blowout' - is a magical underground inner city summer fest, it's all about coming together to party and stretch out the last Rays of Summer, with some of Wellington’s favourite bands, plus hot out of town talent,bringing good vibes and great music with sweet drinks deals on the night.

Featuring Matiu Te Huki Musician, Sam V with (EDY & Hiiata) , plus Wellington's Blue River Baby & King Oyster!

Homegrown 8 piece-funkmeisters, Blue River Bay, are just one of the acts on the Blowout Stage this coming weekend. The CoffeeBar Kid had a bit of a chat to Cam, from the band.

Blue River Baby ‘BRB’ are a New Zealand 8 piece funk dub psychedelic rock band flowing from the misty mountains of Wellington's hills and magical valleys, formed in 2016 their name stands to remind us of a time when our rivers once ran clean and clear.

You’ll love the bands high energy, powerhouse grooves and slow burners with lead singer Ivy Padilla’s killer vocals. BRB bring with them horns from Southside of Bombay, a bold rhythm section and tasty yet deadly musicians who play with many of Wellingtons favourite bands.

Destined for the big festival stages of NZ and beyond the majority of BRB are former or current students of Whitereia, NZSM and Massey music schools. 2019 was a standout year for BRB who played to 20,000 on NYE, then released a self-titled Debut album which hit #1 on the NZ Indie (IMNZ) Top 20 Album Chart and #8 on the Official NZ Music Album chart, gaining three weeks in both charts and received a bunch of radio play around NZ. BRB’s single Walk of Shame’ Hit #20 on the UK iTunes Blues Chart, and at home their singles ‘Blue River Baby’ reached #1 & ‘Blackyard Town’ hit #7 on the NZ iTunes charts.

Big lil' Summer Blow Out Festival at SAN FRAN - 171 Cuba Street - Friday 13th March $10 Students / Unwaged $15 Early bird $20 On the door Hot Summer drinks specials on the night

For all the bands, tickets and prices go to : https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2020/big-lil-summer-blowout-2020/wellington

Monday, March 09, 2020

Laurie Anderson – Here Comes The Ocean Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, Friday, March 6 2020 - Part of the NZFestival

Laurie Anderson - Taken in Odlins Plaza (7 March)
Photo: Tim Gruar
In an interview the following day, guest curator and performer Laurie Anderson reflected on her lace in the Festival.  "We are not here to do shows - to present - we are here to collaborate, to be part of the festival"

I suppose this was the premise behind her 'show ‘on Friday night - a symphony (of sorts) featuring ocean-inspired songs by Lou Reed (her late husband), and a variety of poems, observations and spoken word pieces of her own, supported by improvisations from her and the touring band.

This is a really good example of a Festival event, where the audience are part of the 'experiment,.  At one pint we were invited to howl along with the dogs and sing, clap and engage. 

It all started with Reed's former guitar tech Stewart Hurwood doing his 'drone' thing with Lou's guitars arranged around a circle of amps like some kind of druid's seance.  Over that Horomona Horo and another uncredited Kaumatua welcomed us all from the balcony calling across the din.

Horonoa came in to sit and play a variety of Taonga pūoro, which all fitted perfectly in with the other music, giving everything a 'Pacific' flavour - as it should, being the largest ocean ! A double bassist, Greg Cohen, cellist Rubin Kodheli and violinist/guitarist Eyvind Kang provided much of the beautiful orchestral washes and supported Anderson's own trademark electric violin.  Multi-instrumentalist and percussionist Shahzad Ismaily provided beats and plenty of colour and variety on songs, when needed.

We had a few locals, too including Megan Collins and Budi Putra from Gamelan Wellington, and some 'special guests' - a children's orchestra of 6 -9 year olds who came out to play the 2nd Violin Part from Debussy's La Mer, conducted by Kodheli.  Anderson argues that it's the songs and smaller bit within the big pieces that are the special moments. The youngest was only 6 but was dressed in an amazing red dress that sparkled so brightly!
Could you say Anderson was steering her ship through this crazy voyage?  Perhaps.  It all seems very off the cuff, and she seemed to just randomly press buttons on her keyboard to conjure up vocals from Reed, a bit of James Brown (Get On The Good Foot) and a dark and alien version of her own voice – via some snazzy filters and software,  Woman-machine-morphed together. 

I recognised a few bits and pieces in her soup mix, like Lou's Reed’s Cremation (Ashes To Ashes) from '92's Magic and Loss and Here Comes The Ocean (1972) plus one or two few chamber music pieces.  It all melded into the drone sounds, images of dogs and space, random lyrics from Joni Mitchell (River) and more Lou - Dirty Blvd in particular.

While it was great to hear Anderson's delightful, measured vocal delivery (nothing seems to phase her) the work Horo put in also made the show even more special.  I don't think you can really critique a performance like this, except to ask: "Was I bored?  Was I confused?  Was I entertained?  Was I challenged?"

I was definitely entertained when Anderson demonstrated her Tai Chi moves.  I was definitely challenged when she dwelled on those deep remembrances of loss - a point she makes a lot.  You do not need to experience sadness to understand it. 

So, how can you sum up a show like tonight’s?  I wouldn’t.  Just let it happen.  Being there is what counts.  Art can be just of itself, you don't always need to over analyse it.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

THIS JUST IN! Shapeshifter are coming to WOMAD 2020

Shapeshifter are the latest artists to be added to WOMAD's stellar 2020 line up.  Repalcing Ziggy Marley, who had to pull out for family reasons, the Christchurch D'n'B hroes will light up the Bowl stage and bring some much needed groove to the festival's first night.

Shapeshifter are no strangers to performing at packed-out festivals including WOMAD UK. They create a stadium-sized sound which adds layers of heavy soul, drum & bass, jazz, funk, rock and electronica to solid bass culture foundations, capable of morphing from rolling drum & bass to pummeling guitar-driven jams to horizon-shifting electronic soundscapes.

The five-strong lineup are thrilled to be bringing their very own genre-defying amalgamation to WOMAD New Zealand for the first time next week for a breathtaking show like no other. On stage at 10.15pm Friday on the Bowl Stage. WOMAD NZ Director, Emere Wano says “After the news of Ziggy’s withdrawal we were thrilled when Shapeshifter, without hesitation confirmed to play on Friday night. The group and their management worked quickly with us to get things sorted so that we could make an announcement today!  It’s the first time that they have played at WOMAD New Zealand which makes it even more special for all of us.”

 “It has been far too long since we have played down in Taranaki and so we are utterly stoked to be headlining the Friday night at WOMAD! Got some brand new flavours alongside some classic old treats to play, can't wait!" - Shapeshifter.

WOMAD New Zealand is very proud to present, for the 16th year anniversary of the festival (in alphabetical order): 
Albi & The Wolves (Aotearoa/NZ), Blind Boys of Alabama (USA), Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita (Wales/Senegal), Destyn Maloya (Réunion), Ezra Collective (UK), Flor de Toloache (Mexico/USA), Hiatus Kaiyote (Australia), Hot Potato Band (Australia), Ifriqiyya Electrique (Maghreb/Europe), KermesZ à l'Est (Belgium), King Ayisoba (Ghana), L.A.B. (Aotearoa/NZ), Laura Marling (UK), Liniker e os Caramelows (Brazil), L Subramaniam (India), Marina Sattir & Fońes (Greece/Sudan), Minyo Crusaders (Japan), MONTELL2099 (Aotearoa/NZ), Odette (Australia), Orquesta Akokán (Cuba), Reb Fountain (Aotearoa/NZ), RURA (Scotland), Salif Keita (Mali), Shapeshifter (Aotearoa/NZ), Soaked Oats (Aotearoa/NZ), The Black Quartet (Aotearoa/NZ), Trio Da Kali (Mali), Troy Kingi (Aotearoa/NZ) Tuuletar (Finland).

 The ever-expanding World Of Words stage, now held on the sun-drenched lawn of the Kunming Garden will be hosting poets, musical legends, authors, entertainers, comedians and educators to leave you both thinking and laughing. 

The new schedule is available now: https://www.womad.co.nz/schedules/

Friday, March 06, 2020

REVIEW: Mám - Teac Damsa and Stargaze (Ch. Michael Keegan-Dolan) - TSBArena 7 March 2020NZFestival of the Arts

Photo: maturetimes.co.uk
The first time choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan was in Aotearoa was in 2008, when he produced Giselle at the Capital's Shed 6.  He returned in 2014 for Rian and then Swan Lake/Loch naEala in 2018.  All have been Festival shows or associated with them.

When the new Festival of the Arts directors Marnie Karmelita and Meg Williams invited him to return to Wellington with a new show, he jumped at the chance. Part of the gig was a six week residency, where he also met local dancer Amit Noy, who we interviewed last year.   

Keegan-Dolan spent just under two years choreographing Mám.  He worked with Irish dance company Teac Damsa, in a Kerry Gaeltacht - a community hall, near the mountain of Cnoc Bhréanainn.  That mountain was the inspiration for the opening - 'Mám 1: Mountain pass'. 

“This venue was a crucible for a musical and choreographic exploration of the spiritual and cultural powers that are emerging once again” - Michael Keegan-Dolan

For the Wellington performance, the TSB Arena is clad all in black.  The whole show will only feature monocrome.  Everyone is in black and white.  The stage is an empty black plaform, with one or two tables that are used in various ways - as an alter, a plaform, a dining table and a bed. 

The audience sit on block of raked seating, in a formal rectangular shape, similar to a religious meeting.  The show opens with contemporary concertina player Cormac Begley sitting mid-stage in a sinister Ram's Head mask.  A wavering curl of sweet smoke rises from the head into sky.  A young girl (Ellie Poirier-Dolan)in white communion dress lies on a small table in a sacrificial pose.  As the show starts the massive 8 metre curtain the spans the back tilts on its rails rails and slides off, like a giant milk jug pouring its contents on to the floor, to reveal an austere line-up of adults in black formal wear and sinister black paper-bag balaclavas. They look like hooded executioners from the Jim Crow-era Southern States. 

Then Cormac Begley strikes up his concertina playing a mournful drone that morphs into a scampering rhythm. There is a musical spell that runs right through this wonderful piece. At first it seemed like this was a figment of the girl's imagination - a dream made manifest.  Then it becomes clearer that the congregation are here to celebrate her.

Keegan-Dolan's choreography mixes ancient and contemporary and pairs it with Begley’s inventive reinterpretations of what appear to be traditional Irish songs.  The first piece becomes a light airy thing of foot tapping and shoulder-shrugging, perhaps these are wedding guests, or attendees at a pub for wake.  We can't tell. The organic choreography grows like weeds out of this community of eclectic performers.  This includes BBC Young Dancer winner Connor Scott who mangles his deliciously loose and sensuousness with sharp-angled precise gestures.  Then there's James O’Hara's elastic delivery, as if there's not a single straight bone in his body.  Amit Noy, recently graduated from Te Whaea National Dance and Drama holds his own, blending in and taking on a huge variety of supporting roles.   They move like the music is enclosed in their cranium, other times like an invisible string is erratically pulling them across the stage like a drunken cat with a ball of wool.

In the early parts the dancers feet follow the old expected steps, hands clap and bodies reel.  But hands and gestures also flow into new playful shapes that reminded me of Madonna-era 'Vogueing'.  Later Ellie does her own short routine including a kid's version of popular dance moves.  Here and there are ritualised baroque, Scottish and Irish folk and pagan dance influences.  The modern twists and contortions work best in the collective ensembles. 

There is one section (Mám 2: Yoke. Faoi mhám an pheaca, under the yoke of sin. and 2. Lit: Obligation, duty, function) a man moves between fellow dancers feigning death and falling hard into their arms over-dramtically.  Sometimes he falls so severely you'd think he'd hurt himself.  Then one by one the whole cast appear to try it, too.

There's a short scene of a drunk sill in a haze shuffling to the airs of an old ditty, as dancer James Southward skilfully moves around the stage with that a gentle yet menacing unpredictability. Towards the end of this, Ellie drags a chair to the front of the stage, sits and appears to be watching a screen. Southward sidles up with his own chair.  He's wearing a tweed jacket and tie. He acts familiar, like a parent. A drunken scoundrel, reminiscent of the men in Angela's Ashes.  You don't know if violence or tenderness will ensue.

He hands the child a packet of sweets.  They sit in silence watching the imaginary screen.  Then a women appears with her chair and confectionery and starts to eat.  The trio share treats like a it's a family outing.  One by one extras arrive and also share candy.  They even offer some to the front row.  They all sit in a line like they are at the movies.  Then a man an woman at opposite ends stand and proceed to climb over the patrons laps, one by one until they meet in the middle, where they embrace and crash into the back row laughing.  This was just one beautiful and clever scene out of many little highlights that lifted the show and gave it a bright twist, just when the scenarios were becoming darker.  It's also a recurring theme of nostalgia, a thread that is sewn all through this work.

One of Keegan-Dolan’s strengths is his penchant for cherry-picking specifics from Ireland’s collective memory, selecting the familiar pieces of poignant iconography and giving it new resonance.  Take, for example, his interpretation of Swan Lake - which he made into Loch na hEala by incorporating references of recent agonising revelations of child abuse by the Catholic Church, and reinterpreting Tchaikovsky’s ballet so that it ended with a focus on the tragedy of the prince suicide, instead of, traditionally, the princess.

Repeating the peeling away of Sabine Dargent’s stark, otherworldly set, a second curtain spills off it's railing to reveal stargaze, the orchestral collective of seven players and their instruments.  They are as much part of the show as the dancers and will interact in many places. 

This transition between traditional and modern sounds works superbly, seemlessly.  Like two sides in some crazy battle, competing and then coming together as oil and water.  Gorgeous, soaring washes that sweep over Begley’s nervous, edgy reels and jigs.

Driven by the contemporary pop scene they've previously worked with Terry Riley, Lisa Hannigan and Deerhoof.  Which explains their unsettling disharmonies that sway between jazz, techno, traditional Irish and some kind of modern Kurt Weill styled Cabaret. Dancers twirl with distress at length, hold each other close and flash with violence and frustration. Like dervishes they spin with chairs outstretched like Icarus' wings.  There are many long moments where there is no clear reason why.  No context or rational.  But then given there is not perfect narrative for this show, why should there be?  

Most choreographers would focus on using movement to make a coherent point, from start to finish. But in Mám Keegan-Dolan prefers to recombine familiar images in brief solos and duets that barely get time to evolve before they’re swamped by group movement. The arcs of those dancers aren’t as important as the audience's registering of old references, putting them on our own past romances and heartbreaks. That can be deeply affecting, drawing on a nation’s social history, but it doesn’t necessarily make a dance complete.

The incoherence is conspicuous when you consider the dance's source. Keegan-Dolan’s choreography lives in Ireland’s subconscious, at the foot of a Kerry mountain. Its nostalgia is sweeping, but it can also be slippery, and not always attached to telling a good story.

Once again the curtains pour off their rails, to reveal five huge fans, the centre one as big as an aeroplane's turbine.  As the music swells for the finale, the fans spark up and create a massive wind, engulfing all the figures on stage.  Ellie stands on a table with her back to the tempest, like Sarah standing on the edge of her pier in The French Lieutenant's Woman.  Precisely why it's necessary to blow away the music, smoke and dance that has consumed the last 90 minutes is unclear.  But it's very dramatic. 

Mám could be interpreted as a gathering that's unravelling late into the night.  It could be a pagan ritualised sacrifice, a coven of modern day witches or townsfolk congregating around a fire.  Through out Ellie's little girl character remains impassive, as an observer, seldom interacting.  Her specific role is really unknown.  Perhaps she is a necessary element to allow us to be the observers.  Perhaps this is, as I originally considered, all part of her strange dream. 

Whatever the case, Mám is a show of engrossing dancing.  The music is just fantastic music.  There is subtlety and nostalgia. There is contemporary and modern.  Talking to audience members afterwards, many said they had seen very little ballet or modern dance, yet they loved the theatre and the drama - and those little moments - there were many.  Best of all, they loved the humanity. For many this was one of the only shows they'd seen.  Tickets weren't cheap.  They definitely considered it money well spent.  Educational, entertaining, provocative, and outstandingly creative. said one person.  I absolutely agree.

Review by the CoffeeBar Kid