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When East Meets West
As if reuniting with Planxty wasn’t enough, Andy Irvine continues with Mozaik, another musical project combining Eastern European sounds with Irish and American vibes. Úna Mullally spoke to him about the music.
‘Live From The Powerhouse’ is the new record. How do you feel about it?
I love it! I think it’s great. We were in Australia, coming towards the end of a tour and we had the foresight to rent recording equipment and record it.
The Eastern European influence – does that stem from your time in those parts in the 60s?
The Eastern European side definitely does but as well, that old-time American sound has always been a huge influence for me, and I think that comes across strongly too.
People have been predicting the death of trad for years, but it hasn’t exactly come about yet, has it?
No, not at all. There are an awful lot of bands out there keeping it going, and more. The state of Irish traditional music has never been healthier. People like Kíla spring to mind.
Of course, the big news was Planxty reforming. How did it happen?
We’d been meeting for about five years, just having dinner together and discussing old times. I think somebody just posed the question of reforming and everybody was into it. We all lept at it really. We went on meeting and recording and sometimes it seemed it would happen and sometimes it didn’t. I think the catalyst was Leagues O’Toole’s No Disco programme on us. We realised that if we didn’t get back to Planxty now, we’d all be dead in a while and never able to make that choice.
Were you disappointed when No Disco ended?
It was terrible. And RTE never explained it. I don’t know why they did it. Mr. RTE obviously has a mind of his own. They’re not doing what the people want. I just didn’t understand that decision at all.
Were you nervous about playing together after all those years?
It did occur to me that we’d get up and play it and it wouldn’t work. I thought people could’ve raised us in their memories and then be disappointed with what we actually played. But that absolutely didn’t happen. The music seemed so fresh again. 100% of the people I’ve talked to about the shows in Vicar Street were blown away by it. But, y’know, there’s no full-time about Planxty. We continue one step at a time. I suppose the CD and DVD were a last step but then we are doing 12 concerts next December and January.
What happens then?
There are no plans to record. We are going to get together for a meeting on the 1st of February and we’ll see what happens.
What’s the tour like with Mozaik?
It starts on July 18th and goes on to August 3rd. We start at the Erragail Arts festival, then Galway and so on, and it finishes at a show in West Belfast.
How do you feel about being labelled way up there as a ‘legend’ when it comes to trad?
It doesn’t bother me. If people want to call me that…well, I don’t know if I’m flattered by it. It doesn’t sway me. It’s kind of silly, really. Surely you can’t be a legend in your own lifetime?
Mozaik, with support from Dirty 3, play The Village, on Dublin’s Wexford Street, as part of the Bud Rising Festival on Tuesday 27th July. Doors 8pm, tickets €20.
http://www.andyirvine.com / http://www.budrising.ie / http://www.thevillagevenue.com / www.ticketmaster.ie
EMusic Interview - Andy Irvine / Mozaik. Event guide.
source: china2galway.com [dead link]
Music Review/Album: 27 May 2004
Rather fatuously billed on the CD sleeve as “the ultimate global stringband”, Mozaik are Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Bruce Molsky (USA), Rens Van Der Zalm (Holland) and Nikola Parov (Hungary), and this album was recorded live in Brisbane two years ago with the lads playing 18 instruments between them. The recording quality thankfully captures all the rapture of a terrific gig.
As with anything Irvine and Lunny get up to, there are exhilarating tracks here (‘Sandansko Oro’, ‘Mechkin Kamen’) in the kind of Eastern European time-signatures that would move your pocket calculator to meltdown. ‘Pony Boy’ boasts some terrific fiddle duetting from Molsky and Van Der Zalm, and serves as a handsome build-up to Irvine’s gritty vocals on his own zestful ‘Never Tire Of The Road’. The versions of both ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’ and the complex ‘Smeseno Horo’ stand comparison with the Planxty covers of yore.
The latter is a veritable stringfest, with Parov’s kaval going head to furious head with the instruments of Lunny and Irvine. But perhaps the most touching of the material is Irvine’s heartfelt tribute to the legendary Willie Clancy in ‘My Heart’s Tonight In Ireland’.
The quintet on this performance may not be as pioneering as Lunny’s short-lived Coolfin project, but their unquestionable virtuosity and sheer joy in playing together makes this a memorable memento of what must have been a live gig to remember.
Jackie Hayden – Hotpress
Hummingbird HBCD0036; 62 minutes; 2004
According to legend, the term “World Music” was apparently coined by a group of record label marketing executives at a dinner held somewhere in London sometime in the mid-1980s. However, if such an event ever took place, none of those present could possibly have envisaged the existence of a band like Mozaik, even in their wildest brandy-fuelled, post-prandial deliberations.
For Mozaik, dear reader, is that rarity, a truly international band which consists of the London-born of mixed Scots/Irish parentage Andy Irvine, Kildare alumnus Dónal Lunny, American old-timey fiddler and banjo player Bruce Molsky, Dutch multi-instrumentalist Rens van der Zalm and the similarly skilled Hungarian Nikola Parov. Add to that brew Irvine’s well-documented affection for the music of the Balkans and all manner of quirky time signatures and the fact that the Powerhouse in question is in Brisbane, Australia and those marketing executives would be chortling into their glasses and calling for trebles all round.
It was Andy Irvine, of course, who was behind the original Mosaic (presumably, someone else now has the licence for the name) which first appeared after the final break-up of Planxty in 1983 and featured, alongside Dónal Lunny and uilleann piper Declan Masterson, and various European musicians.
That band never recorded, but thankfully this one has, though the concerts from which this album are drawn took place in March 2002. Nevertheless, a recent conversation with Andy revealed his desire for the album to achieve some recognition and, on the evidence provided, you’d be well advised to take heed.
One of the attractions of Planxty was the band’s never to be replicated line-up of instruments – uilleann pipes plus the various stringed instruments of Irvine and Lunny and the bodhrán of Christy Moore – and this is equally where Mozaik’s innate attractions lie. Apart from Andy’s occasional harmonica and Nikola’s whistle and clarinet, this is very much a string driven band (though any connection with the lamentable 1970s UK progressive band String Driven Thing should be firmly avoided). Like Planxty, Mozaik seem to be masters of all they survey, although it’s a substantially different landscape – one in which they can move from Aegean Macedonia (Suleman’s Kopanitsa, in the extraordinary time signature of 11/16) to Bruce Molsky’s Tennessee-inspired version of The Rocky Road to Dublin which itself segues into a wild Kentucky breakout, with Nikola’s whistle blowing hell for leather, on Indian Ate the Woodchuck. And from there it’s off to a Dutchman, Rens, playing a Rumanian tune on the fiddle which Andy once heard on a tour of Italy with the Breton band Gwerz!
If this all sounds as though musical passports are an essential requirement, fear ye not! Every listening unearths gems which possess an inherent commonality, but it’s Andy’s songs which, ultimately, provide the coat peg on which this truly international and thoroughly enjoyable musical exploration can hang its hat (and, as Marvin Gaye wrote, “Wherever I hang my hat is my home”).
So amidst all the musical exploration there’s a wonderful reading of A Blacksmith Courted Me and perhaps everybody’s favourite Irvine composition, My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland “in the time of Sweeney in the sweet County Clare”, to which Dónal adds Robinson County, learnt from Pumpkinhead, and Bruce finales with a splendidly exuberant Trip to Durrow. Then there’s the Macedonian song Mechkin Kamen and a stirring tribute to Woody Guthrie – Never Tire of the Road.
Naturally, the album has to include the tune with which Planxty opened ears to Eastern Europe, Smeseno Horo (in a bizarre mix of 15/16 and 9/16 signatures) and the CD aptly closes with an evocative clarinet-led rendition of the Hungarian tune The Last Dance.
All told, this is a stunning confection and an extraordinary collaboration which should be valued and cherished. More treble brandies all round!
Geoff Wallis – 11th May, 2004