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Afro Celt Sound System

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The traditional music of Western Africa and Ireland is fused into a seamless blend by Afro Celt Sound System. The band's exciting performances have become a popular attraction at the WOMAD festival in Reading, England, since 1995, while their 1996 debut album, Volume 1, remains one of the most successful examples of cultural exchange. Afro Celt Sound System bring together top-ranked musicians, including traditional Irish vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird, Uillean pipers Davy Spillane (Moving Hearts) and Ronan Browne, whistle player James McNally (the Pogues), Kenya nyatiti player Ayub Ogada, and Baaba Maal bandmembers Kauwding Cissakho and Massamba Diop. Jo Bruce, the son of British bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce (Cream), rounds out the group on keyboards and electronic programming. Engineer, producer and programmer Martin Russell, is the band's behind the scenes member, integral to its sound from inception. Several tracks on the band's debut album, produced by Grammy-nominated producer Simon Emmerson, featured members of Shooglenifty on mandolin, bongos, banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Released initially on the EMD/Real World label, Volume 1 was issued in the U.S. by Caroline Records. Afro Celt Sound System made their U.S. concert debut in July 1997. Their second album, Volume 2: Release, was finally issued in 1999 by Real World. Volume 3: Further in Time, which featured guest vocals on "Life Begins Again" by Robert Plant, was released in spring 2001. Seed followed in 2003, with the accompanying Pod DVD arriving the following year. In 2005, the group found a new home on the Narada label with Volume 5: Anatomic a set of remixes and new tracks. The band's history becomes complicated here. ACSS continued to play live over the next five years, but all of its members were involved in other projects and had become dormant as a unit. In 2010, Russell and McNally assembled the double-disc retrospective Capture. That project provided the spark of renewal for the unit. A new recording was begun, and touring resumed. In early 2015, the band had played to audiences totaling more than 750,000 in the EU and recorded a live DVD. In the midst of a short break -- with more concerts planned for the remainder of the year -- Emmerson announced his departure, suggesting the band hire a replacement for the remainder of the tour. They did so. In May, Emmerson sent a letter to his former bandmembers, informing them that he had formed a new three-way partnership that would primarily involve himself, Johnny Kalsi (Transglobal Underground) and N'Faly Kouyaté. He extended the possibility of including the other original ACSS members Russell and McNally. They declined. Emmerson went a step further and applied for a registered trademark of the Afro Celt Sound System name in the UK and sought to register further trademarks in the US, Canada and te remainder of the EU. In October announced a new album and tour dates for the following year. This was actively promoted on social media. Negotiations between the parties continued, but broke down the end of 2015. The standing members of the original ACSS filed legal challenges to block Emmerson's actions. As a result there were two bands fumctioning with the same name leading to confusion among fans. In April of 2016, as litigation continued but wasn't resolved, Emmerson's version of ACSS released the album Source on ECC. ~ Craig Harris

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Years Active:

'90s, '00s, '10s


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