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The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music
Afro-Celt Sound System

Artist: Afro Celt Sound System

Category: Boundary Crossing/ Listeners Award (Winner)

Read an interview with Simon Emmerson of Afro Celt Sound System.

Long a festival favourite, The Afro-Celt Sound System have created a hybrid of West African kora music, Irish sean nos vocals, house beats and solid songwriting. Having quickly gained an international following - they are a fantastic live band - the Afro Celts third album Volume 3: Further In Time has proved their biggest hit yet: its first single 'When You're Falling' added to the play list of 300 US radio stations on its first week. Finally, it seems, the world's hardest working Irish-African-English band are about to enjoy major league success. Vocalist Iarla's O'Lionaird is obviously enthusiastic about this although he sounds a little apprehensive as he waits for the public and critical reaction to Volume 3.

'I think the new album is more fully realised than the other two but I know that some people are going to hate the Robert Plant track. And some will resent the Peter Gabriel tune being track three so I expect some stick. And the fact that I'm singing in English rather than Gallic.'

Perhaps he could explain why he chose to sing in English - for the first time - and what those two old rock warhorses are doing on the album.

'I was writing 'When You're Falling' and I said to Simon (Emmerson - band director) 'this would sound great if Peter sang it' and he agreed and we approached Peter and were surprised as hell when he agreed to do it. The other thing we've realised as a band is that we have to expose ourselves to more people. We're a big band so we lose money touring and so we end up borrowing off the record company and that comes out of royalties and it's a vicious circle. So hopefully Volume 3 can break us out of the deadlock.'

Having pioneered a whole new form of musical genre crossing, Afro Celt Sound System look to see if a pop audience can embrace them as enthusiastically as world and folk fans have.

Biography by Garth Cartwright, November 2001

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