Monday 18 December 2017

'Bryan Adams thought we were from the Sahara'

'Structured': Trad/folk group Kíla are the latest act to take part in the Windmill Lane Sessions
'Structured': Trad/folk group Kíla are the latest act to take part in the Windmill Lane Sessions
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

A confession: one of the finest shows I ever attended was Kíla at Vicar Street in Dublin in 2002. Go to YouTube and watch Tog go Bog é from that gig yourself and tell me that this is not some form of chaotic, eclectic transcendence happening in front of your eyes - the magic of music at its most real yet shamanistic or supernatural in its ability to move you in some deep level.

I promise I wasn't smoking a crack pipe at the gig; merely having great craic watching all the genres jump about in the sonic ether.

So you can only imagine my delight at having the incomparable Kíla record All My Trials ("Hush little baby, don't you cry/You know your mama's bound to die") at the Windmill Lane Sessions on and getting to watch them perform up close and personal. They are rather brilliant, and we were lucky to have them - not just in Windmill Lane studios but in Ireland as well.

In a particularly splendid article entitled 'Pyscho Kila' in Hot Press magazine way back in 2003, Peter Murphy wrote that their then new album, their sixth, Luna Park, was not only one of the records of the year, but "a monster of a record that, given the right headwind, could do for indigenous Irish sounds what the Gypsy Kings did for flamenco, Los Lobos did for Tex-Mex, Ry Cooder did for Cuban music."

They might have even done the same for the music of Mali too, according to a mistaken Bryan Adams. After a gig a few years ago Mr Adams mistook Kíla exponent of djembe/congas/bongos/guitar and vocals Rónán Ó Snodaigh for a member of Tinariwen, the Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert area of northern Mali.

"It was just the head on him!" laughs Rossa Ó Snodaigh (tin whistle, low whistle, clarinet, bazouki, mandolin, bones and vocals). Brian Horgan (bass, double bass and vocals) adds with another chortle: "It's the mug on his face."

"I think he fitted in," laughs Dee Armstrong (fiddle, viola, hammered dulcimer, accordion and bodhrán.)

Rossa does a very passable impersonation of Bryan Adams saying to Ronan thinking he was in the aforesaid Tinariwen: "Man, I love your stuff."

Many people, both far and wide - possibly even as far as the Sahara itself - have said the same of Kíla.

How does the dynamic in the group work?

"Good question," laughs Dee. "Like a bag of bees," laughs Rossa. "It's like a mad dysfunctional family that arrives together on the stage," adds Brian, "with all that is good and bad about that. It is a chaos. We play gigs, make a bit of money, make an album - basic hand to... foot."

"Foot and mouth disease," laughs Rossa.

When you play live how rigorously do you stick to the set-list? Rossa: "I remember when we were in Germany in 1993 on tour. There was this one band and they were doing the same set every night. We were changing it. We couldn't do the same thing every night."

"At this stage, Colm," he says referring to Colm Ó Snodaigh - flute, tin whistle, guitar, saxophone, percussion and vocals - "will write a set and we'll have starters and finishers and a certain amount in-between."

Is it like jazz in the sense that no song is ever truly the same twice?

Brian:"No. Within some of the songs, there are areas where you can go a bit [wild] ... but someone has to call it when you have eight people on stage, or else it would be like a train crash!"

Dee: "There is quite a lot of arrangements."

Brian, roaring with laughter: "That's misconception about us: everyone thinks we're jamming."

Dee: "It's actually arranged. Often times it is quite structured."

To watch the full interview with Kíla, plus three exclusive songs, see the Windmill Lane Sessions on You can also watch the sessions on TG4.

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