Afro Celt Sound System 'Release'

Fusion music is a fantastic genre of music; it allows people to listen to various genres of music at the same time, expanding their taste and finding a common ground with others. Fusion is a musical technique of blending two or more genres or musical styles together to create a new sound of music. 

Afro Celt Sound System’s “Release”, from their 1999 album ‘Volume 2: Release’ is a brilliant example of fusion as it blends music of Western African culture, traditional Gaelic culture and the techno genre, making it appealing to two different cultures and maintaining the upbeat feeling of Pop music. Afro Celt Sound System themselves were formed in 1995 by guitarist Simon Emmerson and dhol player Johnny Kalsi. Since then they have recorded multiple bestelling albums and performed at various WOMAD festivals around the world. 


I recommend listening to the piece here:


The Irish elements of the song are made up of the accordion, uilleann pipes, similar to bagpipes but played with a bellow pumped by the elbow to produce a mellower, more inviting sound, the hurdy-gurdy, which visually appears similar to a chunky violin, but the sound is made by turning a wheel which rubs against the strings to create a bagpipe-like noise, and the bodhran, a celtic frame drum played with a double headed wooden stick called a tipper. The African elements of this song are made up of the kora, which is played similarly to a harp, but appears more like a cello, a djembe, and the talking drum, a small double ended drum with strings running down the sides, which, when squeezed, alters the tension of the head to change the pitch of the drum. 


Afro Celt Sound System also uses features from the techno/electronic genre, like electric drum loops and a synth pad; both of which are very useful when performing live as they can be programmed beforehand to repeat and stop at any time during the performance without any of the musicians having to do anything. It also allows for sounds that would be hard to produce acoustically on stage such as electronic drum sounds and ‘breath samples’. 


“Release” has lyrics in three different languages, Maninka (spoken in Guinea), Irish and English, which shows how fusion is a genre which brings people together with music, combating segregation and hierarchy between cultures. The lyrics themselves were written as a tribute to Jonas Bruce, who was one of the group’s founding members and died shortly after the release of the first album. Fusion music like “Release” is an excellent way to show support for anti-racism and equality all over the world; music like this is important all the time, however it is particularly relevant now that the “Black Lives Matter” movement has gained widespread acceptance.


I believe that artists who are famous and influential among young people should bring more elements of fusion music into their own pieces to encourage equality and culture-sharing, as it is easier to make an impression on young people and would help them to broaden their taste and opinions.



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