Afro Celt Sound System at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea REVIEW: 'The music reachs an ecstatic point that rarely dims'

Afro Celt Sound System live. Picture by Paul Windsor
Afro Celt Sound System live. Picture by Paul Windsor
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Somewhere along the line multiculturalism became a dirty word in certain quarters.

Well, for anyone holding that view, the Afro Celts are unlikely to be their cup of tea.

And that’s their loss.

With up to eight players and vocalists on stage at a time, including percussion from the Irish bodhrán and the mighty dhol drum, keyboards and samples, a violinist, a flautist/whistle player, the 21-string kora and good old guitar, they create a sound that defies genre.

Guinean kora player N'Faly Kouyate is the first to take the stage – picking out a delicate tune alone. But it’s not long before he’s joined by the rest of the group.

And by the time Johnny Kalsi brings the thunderous dhol to the party the music has reached an ecstatic point that rarely dims for the rest of the set.

The group formed in 1995, as their name suggests, as a modern melding of African, Irish and electronic sounds, but has gone on to encompass so much more.

There’s a bit of politics with The Path, an indictment of how our leaders have lost their way. It starts off sounding like a lost Massive Attack cut, all brooding synths with a stunning female vocal, before building to an exhilirating finale.

If anyone thinks there’s any danger that this could all be a bit ‘worthy’, they couldn’t be more wrong – one look around at the broad grins in the packed house will tell you that.   

And while their albums are certainly worth a listen, it’s in the live arena that they really take off – it can be no coincidence that their most recent album is called Flight.

All consummate musicians, the joy they take in playing together is obvious throughout.

The band play for two hours, but the audience would happily have had them for two more.