No, I’m not trying to sound ‘kool.’ I think it’s the most senseless thing to do, replacing ‘c’ with ‘k.’ It’s so wrong. Anyway that’s my pun on Kan, the folk band from UK. A month ago, I had never heard of them, but the awesome job that I have, introduced me to the band, let me interview them and go for their performance, and trust me, it was the HAPPIEST concert of my life.
Click on the play icon to listen to them while you read this post.
I’m sure most of you have never heard of Kan. They play Scottish folk music, and a few of their pieces sound surprisingly similar to Indian folk music. I wasn’t too thrilled about interviewing them in the beginning, until I found time and opened a youtube video of them. I have never fallen in love with something so easily before. This is the video I saw.
The band mainly concentrates on flute and fiddle sounds, played by Brian Finnegan and Adrian O’Rourke. They are so energetic and tireless. My jaw dropped and I could never fix it back all through the show. It’s as easy as breathing for them. (Not breathing in Bangalore, of course. It’s as easy as breathing fresh air in, say, Iceland). Jim plays the drums and I have never seen any drummer remain so subtle and in the background. It’s difficult to control your energy and strength while playing such a loud instrument I’m sure. Ian plays the acoustic guitar. I can’t believe I have the same instrument he does and he can produce that kind of sound. Everytime I pick my guitar, I say “Oh it doesn’t have a cut, I can’t reach the high notes. I need another guitar. Can’t play this ever,” and put it away. But you must see the stuff he can do with the guitar. It’s uncanny, really. These guys are just too good. Ian did most of the interacting with the crowd, perhaps because his accent was most easy to understand. Brian is Irish, and another member Scottish and two from Manchester and elsewhere. I forget.
Coming to their music. I don’t know where to start. They begin all their songs with a slow, deep intro and somewhere in between, they suddenly pause. That pause! It’s the most magical pause. And suddenly with unbelievable coordination they pick up speed and go crazy with their instruments. They push themselves to the limit and give you goosebumps until you shudder. It’s insane. Nuvena, who initially didn’t want to come to the show with me had her eyes were brimming with tears at the end of every song! (So were mine, but I’d rather speak of someone else’s tears). She loved them so much, she bought a Kan CD and we played it all the way home in the car. The next morning I couldn’t wait to get back in the car to listen to the CD again. They’re that addictive! They’re the best ensemble ever.
You must listen to this song called (I think) 90 mile drive. It was one of the first few times they were performing it. Adrian even said they never get it right. But that intro. Oh my god! You won’t believe they’re making those beautiful sounds from their instruments. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel good about life. Their song One, Two, Three, their only romantic track, sounds like a lover trying to convince the woman of his life that everything is going to be alright and there is nothing to worry about. It’s like the music speaks to you. It’s the kind of music that will make you say “To hell with rock music!”
Brian Finnegan, especially, was like Lord Krishna come to life. (I don’t mean to say Krishna is dead you religious people. Relax.) He even crossed his legs and held the flute just like Krishna for one song. Before every song, he’d fish out a different flute and stand modestly in front of the mike. They were so sweet, they even said “thank you for listening.” I mean, which international band would say that. They said they were scared before performing 90 Mile Drive and I think Brian said “Go baldies!” to themselves. It was such a cheerful night!
I recorded some of their music on my phone, so I can relive it. I don’t think I’ll share it here because I’m ordering appletini and you can hear all that. I can’t believe I was so mesmerised by the band that I blindly ate a pasta full of yucky mushrooms without realising. It’s going to be very difficult for the next live performance I attend to live up to this one. I just loved every second of it.
A big thanks to Nuvena who be’d a sweetheart and took me all the way to Whitefield on the murkiest roads that I took her in, following Google maps that showed me bicycle routes for a Volkswagon Polo. Hehe.
Here are a few questions from the interview I had with them, if you want to read. They came to India as part of the Bristish Council’s Folk Nations programme and taught underprivileged kids nuances of Scottish music in Mumbai and Kolkata. They had some sort of a master class in Bangalore. I’m so glad they came here.
- Have you ever been to Bangalore before? What are you looking forward to in the city?
[Brian]: I’ve never been to Bangalore. Someone said it’s a great city for music, good vibes and a good atmosphere. Everyone tells us it’s very different from Kolkata and Mumbai.
- It’s lovely on your part to teach underprivileged children. What exactly do you expect to teach children in India? Will you actually be teaching them how to play the instruments or will there be a bit of theory as well?
[Brian]: We’ll go to the workshop with a piece that we’ve written and performed. Then we’ll talk about the instruments – about whether they’re traditional or modern, where they come from and different styles. We’ll talk about our arrangements and basically just be interacting with the kids. If they want to play an instrument, we’ll encourage them to come and play the flute or whistle or guitar or drums. So it’ll be pretty organic.
- You have collaborated with Indian musicians such as AR Rahman and Shankar Mahadevan. Can you tell us a bit about that? What was the experience like?
[Aidan]: I’ve worked with some Indian musicians in the past; Trilok Gurtu and Shankar Mahadevan at Celtic Connections festival in 2010. And I’ve also collaborated in the past with the master violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava. They were all wonderful experiences.
[Brian]: Jim has done a lot of work as an orchestral percussionist, and has performed film scores live by Nitin Sawhney and, recently, A R Rahman. I toured in India in 1998 and played with Rajendra Prasanna and Sunil Kant Gupta, and it was a hugely inspiring experience for me, and influenced quite a lot of my music.
- Do you think folk music, on a global scale, is being pushed away to remain in the background? What is the global scenario like?
[Aidan]: Folk music in Scotland, Ireland and England is at an all time high. You hear a lot of folk music on mainstream radio now. I know a lot of purists would like the music to remain as a museum piece, but I think it has and always will evolve. And I don’t hear it becoming homogenised. If anything, more people are digging deeper and listening to the raw folk music that’s become more available through online archives, etc. This is an exciting time for the type of music we play and we’re embracing it.
- You have performed all over the world. Which country, in particular, do you think embraces folk music most easily?
[Brian]: I think these days music travels much faster than it used to when I first started playing music 20 years ago. We just came back from Japan, where we did two sold out concerts in Tokyo. It was our first time in Japan. People are understanding folk music and world music a lot more now and it’s travelling. So places like Australia, America and Canada are very exciting places to go and play. And for me, coming home to Ireland is always extra special. No matter where I go and play, coming home to Ireland is always a different vibration.
- It has been a while since you released Sleeper. Do you have any other albums coming up?
[Aidan]: We’ve got some new tracks which we’ll be playing in India. We plan to record our new record next year, so I think there should be something new out next year.