Meiko’s indie pop songs and distinctive alto vocals make her a young artist to watch.
Despite considerable international acclaim during their strong ten-year run (1996-2006), the band Afro Celt Sound System (or simply Afro Celts) is not familiar to most Americans. Their extraordinary world fusion music mixes indigenous non-Western with modern Western styles.
The Afro Celts weave exotic spells with their distinctive West African djembe rhythms and kora (harp) instrumentation, traditional Celtic melodies, and modern dance electronics. Formed in 1996 by Grammy-nominated UK producer Simon Emmerson, the Afro Celts released five CDs plus a remix entitled Pod in 2004. Their roots can be traced to a 1991 session when Emmerson recorded with singer/guitarist Baaba Maal. Struck by the similarity between the musical structure of one of Baaba’s Senegalese folk songs and the traditional Celtic music in his own background, Emmerson reflected on the stories he heard about how Germanic Celtic nomads were believed to have traveled to West Africa before settling in what we now call the British Isles. So, a few years later at Peter Gabriel’s studio in UK, Emmerson assembled a collection of international musicians to experiment with the blending of various musical styles. The result was Afro Celts’ first CD, Sound Magic, released in 1996. Over the next ten years, a rotating cast of musicians joined Emmerson in the studio and on tour dates.
Of the many outstanding Afro Celt compositions, I suggest you try:
- “Seed” (2003) reveals the quintessential Afro Celt signature sound complete with Ullian pipes, African drums, electronic beats, and both acoustic and electric guitars. Don’t be surprised to find yourself soaring high above the landscape in Africa blazing with a shimmering inner light. Yeah, life is good!
- “Nevermore” (2003) features the haunting vocals of Larla O’Lionaird and magnifies the effects of the earlier track.
- Move quickly into the ambient Rae and Christian remix of “Persistence of Memory” found on Pod (2004). Flow, endorphins, flow!
- If you haven’t yet savored enough bliss, then taste the three-piece medley entitled “Eistigh Liomsa Sealad / Listen to Me / Saor Reprise” from Sound Magic (1996).
When you return to earth, dip deeply into the self-titled CD 1 Giant Leap (2002), springing from a different group of world music collaborators. See the March 2010 Fringe Toast review.
As some bands fade away, others ascend to lift music lovers to new heights. In the category of rising young talents, Meiko deserves some attention. Among the many up-and-coming female vocalists who share a similar territory in vocal stylizations, Meiko holds promise for breakthrough. Meiko began singing “White Christmas” at the Southern Baptist Church in her home town of Roberta, Georgia. Over the subsequent years she developed her singer-songwriter talents while playing a six-string Gibson guitar. Soon after she moved to Los Angeles, Meiko recorded a track with male songwriter AM on his 2008 CD, Side by Side—Duets Volume 1. In her own debut 2008 CD, Meiko splashed upon the scene as several of her tracks were scooped up by television and movie soundtracks. So far, she has not released a second recording.
Here are the cream-of-the-crop, highly recommended tracks:
- “New Road,” from AM’s Duets CD, notable for great harmonizing and acoustic guitar accompaniment.
- “Said and Done,” from her self-titled CD, exposes the possibilities for her developing talent. On this CD some tracks seem stuck in pop formulas. Yet this particular song reveals a developing level of soulful womanhood. Meiko reflects, “I watched you from afar….” Muted echoing saxophone contributes to the melancholy pain of love slipping away, “What are you going to do, when it’s all said and done.”
- Listen to Meiko’s capable cover of the classic “All of Me,” released as a jazz single.
- Finally, discover why Meiko does not expect Santa to visit this year on “Maybe Next Year” because she has “been a bad girl.” Perhaps she needs a little discipline.
Do yourself a favor. Cuddle close with someone special on a warm winter night and dive deeply into the marvelous music of Afro Celt Sound System and the promising talents of Meiko. You’ll be glad you did!
Live streaming of Andy’s radio show is available at Fringe Toast. Listen to the show every Wednesday, 8-10 p.m., CST on KRUU FM 100.1 in Fairfield, Iowa.
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