various artists,
Dublin to Dakar: A Celtic Odyssey
(Putumayo, 1999)

Dublin to Dakar is indeed a Celtic odyssey, as the title proclaims. Partly tracing Celtic musical and cultural roots through Europe and partly showcasing Celtic fusion music, it certainly does not undertake a small task. Many of the tracks have a strong Celtic influence or are by well-known artists. And, though the artists listed only cover Europe and a small part of Africa, the influences in the music itself are much broader, from the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East.

Breton harpist Alan Stivell and Senegalese vocalist Youssou N'Dour begin the album on a fantastic footing with "A United Earth I." Next Brigid Boden, originally from Ireland, mixes traditional sounding original lyrics with reggae, in collaboration with some of Bob Marley's contemporaries. Italy's Modena City Ramblers provide "Canzone Dalla Fine Del Mondo (Song to the End of the World)." It's sung in Italian, but with many of the same instruments, including fiddle, accordion, guitars and percussion, that you would find in any other Celtic band. They aptly demonstrate the musical ties between Italy and the Celtic lands.

Baka Beyond provides "Soiridh Leis," a Gaelic song from the Isle of Barra with a beautiful violin melody and some fantastic percussion. This is one of the most diverse multi-style pieces on the album.

Algeria's Cheb Mami has joined forces with musicians from throughout North Africa and Brittany, and included bagpipes! This is probably one of the few tracks in the world where you will hear North African drumming, Berber singing, pipes and Rai all mixed. This track is amazing! Nothing sounds misplaced and everything melds beautifully.

Aine Minogue's "O Boro Braindi Braindi" is a celebration of the fall equinox and the fruits of the vine in the form of brandy. Providing the cross-cultural link are a Brazilian guitarist, Moroccan slack-key guitar and North Indian tabla drums. "Co Ni Mire Rium (Who Will Flirt with Me?)" combines Capercaillie from Scotland and the duet Sibeba from Guinea on a Gaelic track with a difference. Sibeba and Karen Matheson blend perfectly, and the fantastic musicians of Capercaillie back them up.

Spanish group Na Lua puts forth a pop-influenced Celtic number "Os Tempos Son Chegados (The Times Have Arrived)" from the Gallacian region. Kila has a hefty helping of gypsy violin in "Rusty Nails." Strong African rhythms help the Irish band along. Rita Erikson seamlessly blends a Norwegian folk song with Irish musical elements, demonstrating the two styles kinship.

The final track is English folk-rock group Oysterband with "Street of Dreams." With subtle Celtic musical influences, the song is the perfect way to end the album.

The diversity on the compilation and consistent high quality of the memorable songs chosen make this a fantastically wonderful CD. Celtic music truly is international. This collection not only showcases musical bridges already built, but may inspire more. It is a great album for people who don't like pure Celtic or those who appreciate fusion music. So go ahead and have your own Celtic odyssey through the world!

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 31 July 2004

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