Andrew Cronshaw - Ochre - CD
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cd cover Andrew Cronshaw
Ochre (Cloud Valley Music)

The English composer and musician player turns 'world music' around by inviting an international roster of artists to help him reinterpret his own traditions. At a studio in south-west Wales, he recorded with Syrian qanun and oudist Abdullah Chhadeh, Welsh triple-harpist Llio Rhydderch, Arabic vocalist Natacha Atlas, Pontic/Greek lyra player Matthaios Tsahourides, Australia-resident Brit Ian Blake on bass clarinet, clarinet, soprano sax and prepared piano, Irish double bassist Bernard O'Neill, and Cronshaw on electric zither, the 6 foot long Slovakian flute fujara, Chinese brass-reeded ba-wu and other instruments not usually associated with English music.

Specfial offer. Buy Ochre and On The Shoulders of the Great Bear (2000) for a special price.
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Press from Cloud Valley Records:
It's not uncommon these days to hear British musicians investigating foreign traditions; indeed Andrew Cronshaw explored Finnish music with his last album, On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear, made in Finland's traditional music heartland. But for his new one, Ochre, it's back to Britain, and the view is reversed - musicians from the traditions of the Middle East, Greece and Wales react to and build on music exotic to them – that of England.

The result, with each of the seven tracks using as its starting point a song melody from English tradition, is inventive, image-rich and voluptuous. The team that gathered in January 2004, not in England but at a studio in the green rolling countryside of the south-west tip of Wales, comprises Syrian qanun and oud virtuoso Abdullah Chhadeh, the great Welsh triple-harpist Llio Rhydderch, Arabic vocal diva Natacha Atlas, Pontic lyra virtuoso Matthaios Tsahourides from northern Greece, multi-talented Australia-resident Brit Ian Blake on bass clarinet, clarinet, soprano sax and prepared piano, Irish double bassist Bernard O'Neill, and Cronshaw himself on electric zither, the 6 foot long Slovakian flute fujara, Chinese brass-reeded ba-wu and other instruments not usually associated with English music. But after all, much of what might be considered English culture, including music, has its origins somewhere else; this is just a continuation of that process.

More music by Andrew Cronshaw

The artist's bio:
Central to Andrew Cronshaw's most recent work are the traditional musics of Finland and other Finno-Ugrian counties, but it also shows earlier and continuing influences from Scottish Gaelic and north Iberian musics as well as from his native England.

At the heart of his instrumentation is a 74-string electrified European chord zither, to which he adds a range of other stringed, wind and percussion instruments including fujara (a 5½ ft long ornately carved Slovakian shepherd's three-hole flute generating shivering breathy harmonics) and ba-wu (a seductive-toned brass-reeded instrument from China's Yunan province).

When playing live he has usually been a solo performer, and during the early 1990s in The Splendid Venues Tour he created his own unusual performing circuit, presenting in the course of a couple of years over a hundred atmospheric solo shows largely in ancient English village churches. However on his seven albums he has been joined by a long list of other musicians, with most of whom he has at various times appeared live.

Since 1991 Cronshaw has become increasingly involved in the emergence of new Finnish music strongly rooted in its folk traditions. He has produced albums by the band Salamakannel and the remarkable songwriter Nikolai Blad, and developed new live ensemble projects. His sixth album, The Language of Snakes , featured Finnish singer Sanna Kurki-Suonio, fiddler Arto Järvelä and kantele player Minna Raskinen. In 1997 he produced and played in a large Finnish project of runo-songs and kanteles, Huuto Hiljaisuudessa - A Cry in the Silence , for Kaustinen International Folk Music Festival. In 2000 Kaustinen Festival presented a large performance project initiated by Cronshaw, Hauenleuka , which involved the floating of a giant 7-metre five-string kantele down the river Perho accompanied by four hundred local musicians and dancers.

His seventh album, On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear , is based almost entirely on Finno-Ugrian music. It was recorded at the studio of the national Folk Arts Centre in Kaustinen, and features Heikki Laitinen, Hannu Saha, Jenny Wilhelms, Minna Raskinen, Kimmo Sarja, Ian Blake and Bernard O'Neill.

In March 2002 a major touring show based on the album was staged by the Arts Council of England's Contemporary Music Network, produced by Folkworks. Directed by leading Finnish theatre director Vesa Tapio Valo, it involves most of the musicians on the album - Cronshaw (zither, marovantele, ba-wu, various flutes, concertina, jew's harp, shawm, fujara etc.), Ian Blake (bass clarinet, soprano sax, vox etc.), Bernard O'Neill (double bass etc.), Heikki Laitinen (vox), Hannu Saha (kanteles etc.), Jenny Wilhelms (vox, fiddle, hardingfele etc.) - plus extraordinary physical performance artist/dancer Reijo Kela. It's no straight rendition of the music on the album but an immersion of the audience in the atmosphere of the old, pre-classical, pre-chordal layer of European music that is close to the surface in the traditions of Finland and of the other north European regions of taiga and tundra, using aspects of performance art and intensified by dramatic use of sound and light. After rehearsal and debut in Kaustinen it went to England for six performances, at Newcastle Playhouse, Thoresby Hall (Nottinghamshire), South Hill Park Wilde Theatre (Bracknell), Warwick Arts Centre (Coventry), Kendal Brewery Arts Centre, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. In July the show returned to Kaustinen for a performance at Kaustinen Festival. Further performances worldwide are planned.

One of the instruments Cronshaw plays on the album and in the show is the marovantele, a double-faced kantele with a set of strings on each face, which he designed in conjunction with kantele maker Kimmo Sarja. It came about as a result of Cronshaw's contact with Madagascan stringed instruments such as the valiha, jejy, kabosy and marovany in the course of eight years touring worldwide as live sound engineer and tour manager for the Madagascan band Tarika.

Recently, as a result of a chance meeting in Singapore, Cronshaw has begun another musical involvement: performing, writing and recording with Egyptian/Belgian/British singer Natacha Atlas and with Syrian qanun virtuoso Abdullah Chhadeh.

As a world music journalist Andrew Cronshaw writes features and reviews for magazines, particularly for fRoots and others in the UK, Finland and USA. He wrote the chapters on Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Faroes, Iceland, Sámiland, the Baltic States and Portugal for the new 2-volume edition of The Rough Guide To World Music, the sections on music for the new editions of The Rough Guide to Portugal and The Rough Guide to the Baltic States, the chapter on Galician and Asturian musics for Celtic Music (published by Backbeat in the UK and USA in April 2001), and the European section of the UK roots music directory Direct Roots.

On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear (Cloud Valley CV2007), Cronshaw's seventh album, was released in January 2000. His latest, Ochre (Cloud Valley 2008) was released in August 2004.

Apart from his own albums, he has produced, and in most cases engineered, albums by June Tabor, Silly Sisters, Bill Caddick, Zumzeaux, Brendan Power, Salamakannel, Nikolai Blad and others, and produced the mixes of Flook's Flatfish and of Hannu Saha's Mahla.

Recent session work includes playing on albums by Scott Walker, Suede, Natacha Atlas, Pascal Gaigne, B.J.Cole and Ute Lemper, on film soundtracks including Trevor Jones' for GI Jane, and with Magnus Fiennes in work for The Reckoning. The song Zitherbell, which he co-wrote and performs with Natacha Atlas on her album Foretold in the Language of Dreams (Mantra MNTCD 1029), appears in Jonathan Demme's film The Truth About Charlie.

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