Oliver Satyr – Munin (2023)

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But what if it concerns a CD, are you allowed to do it then? A quite valid question when it comes to Munin, Oliver Satyr‘s first solo album, as its cover is actually a whole book. 60 pages of memories to be precise. Each memory connected to to the eleven songs Oliver selected for this album. Each memory illustrated with period pictures and some beautiful illustrations, making this album something really personal.

Folk Noir

But is is not only personal for Oliver Satyr. I have my own memories attached to some of the songs as well. One of the first pagan folk albums I bought was the EP Songs From Home by Folk Noir, a project Oliver formed in 2012 together with his then-partner Kati Rán. It is still one of my all time favourite folk albums.
Oliver and Kati share the same type of silky soft voice. Nourishing; caressing; poetic; warm. That fate brought those two voices together is a gift from the Norns I’m still grateful for. I am so glad one of the songs Kati and Oliver recorded together, The Road, has found its way on Munin. As did the Paris Paloma version of You Should Have Seen Me There. In my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful folk songs ever recorded. Soft, poetic and tender in every word sung, every guitar note played, it caresses my ears and calms my mind every single time I hear it. Especially the marimba rhythm flowing through the whole song, soothing me into a trance, only enhanced by Paris and Oliver’s whispered singing, their voices blending together just as well as Kati and Oliver’s did.

The official video clip of The Road performed by Folk Noir – 2012

The Ragged Wood and She Moves Through The Fair are the two other songs from that precious Folk Noir EP that found its way onto Munin. And I’m glad they did. They showcase Oliver Satyr as the poetic minstrel he is.


In 2020 Oliver made another album born out of love, this time with his current partner Gina Wetzel.

It, too, was a combination of a book and an album. The album, called Feengold, was a limited edition hardcover fairy tale book beautifully illustrated by Gina, containing an audio CD with songs, spoken fairy tales and poems, all spoken by Oliver himself. A true collector’s item.
Four songs of Feengold were selected for Munin: Der Wettersee, Mit Uti Gröna Lunden, Knivens Polska and Näktergal. The first two songs are in the same style as Folk Noir. Oliver has that magical ability to create poetry, not only with his voice but also with the music he plays. His arrangements are both subtle and calming, but also rich, warm and full, forming a blanket of sound that give his beautiful voice all the room it needs. The subtle samples and rhythms he puts under it give it a sort of acoustic ambient folk feel. It’s a sound I find truly mesmerizing. I cannot help but sink deeper and deeper into the songs until I become one with them. That’s the magic of Oliver Satyr’s music.

Der Wettersee by Oliver Satyr and Gina Wetzel, Illustrations by Gina Wetzel

Swedish Folk

Besides neofolk, Oliver also has a second love: Swedish folk. A love he explored to the fullest on long nights playing with Boris Koller, a nyckelharpa player and painter from Austria with whom he formed Kaunan.
Of course we can also find this love back on Munin. Knivens Polska, Näktergal and Polska Efter Lorn Anders are three short instrumental melodies that take us deep into the dark snow-rich Swedish forests where we can find our lone musicians around a winter’s campfire, playing to keep warm. Playing with a feeling of longing and intent that make me wonder if they aren’t half satyr, half troll themselves, forest creatures on their way to who knows where. Maybe the forest on the cover of the album? We will never know.

All in all Munin is just what Oliver promised it would be: a journey through his memories, written in music. But it also showcases the unique talents of one young musician who watched other bards play, sitting around the campfires of the German medieval markets many, many years ago. Well, he became just that. A minstrel, a poet, a fairy tale teller and an artist who embodies all that is beautiful about neofolk.

Munin is only availabe in the Faun webshop or at a Faun concert. Make sure you visit them this season to get hold of this beautiful album – it is well worth it.


Editor: Iris
CD cover photo: Gina Wetzel
Graphic design cover: Gabriel deVue (FB)

Oliver Satyr can be found here:

The Devils Drink, Sunfire’s new album finally out

On Friday the 17th of November, Sunfire released their long awaited new Album The Devils Drink, just a day before the premiere of their Tales Of The Old West theatre tour in Rijswijk, and it is everything it promised to be. A wonderful collection of western folk songs as only Sunfire can make them.

Opening song The Devils Drink is a great introduction to their new theatre show. It is a ballad with a strong theatrical feel reminiscent of Ye Banished Privateers, or the Spleen Orchestra, even making me think of an old classic like: If I Were A Rich Man from the musical Fiddler On The Roof but always with that unique Western folk feel Sunfire have.
The sound of Sophie’s sobbing violin combined with Satria’s breaking gritty voice truly make this song. The ‘broken-pianola-playing-over-a windswept-violin’ segment becomes the first icing on this wonderful western folk cake.

For those who do not know Sunfire yet, the band makes a powerful mix of Americana and blue grass with touches of European folk, brought with the sharpness, power and energy that comes pretty close to some good old stoner rock. In Sunfire’s case, I find it extremely hard to think of bands to compare them with as they really have their own signature sound, but artists in the style of The Last Knife Fighter, Mean Mary or J.J. Cale come to mind, albeit Sunfire’s music is more rough and feisty than the before-mentioned artists.

We have come to know main lyricist Satria Karsono as a true storyteller, setting his songs in a version of the old wild west that seems to come from the combined minds of Sergio Leone and Tim Burton. We find his alter ego William J. Tanner in that dirty old place called Sinners Town again, where only the lowlifes, the bad and the ugly can survive. This album is filled with more stories of madame Sawyer, Deputy Frost, Banker Henry River and off course William J. Tanner himself.

Sunfire took their time recording this record, so many songs already became well known live favourites The Dolly Parton follow-up song Jolene for example; or the tragic ‘failed-marriage-before-it-even-started’ song Silently Passed Away; the upbeat americana-folk song Frost; Seven Deadly Sins with an interesting re-arrangement half way through, or the cheeky fan favourite Sawyer’s Dance.
The new songs: The Devils Drink – which I mentioned above; Ballad of River – a dark murder ballad that tells you nothing but suggests everything; One Day – a duet with Brotherwood singer Nicole Koning-Bouw, starting gently but building up to an impressive ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky on steroids’ climax; and the country ballad Leave The Bottle, they all fit right into the Sunfire world we got to know so well.

My personal favourite songs would be Grit, a heart wrenching power ballad showcasing the best of Satria’s abilities as a singer. A grooving bass, guitarriffs that cut like a chainsaw and a windswept violin provide the perfect basis for Satria’s anguished end notes. Truly awesome stuff!

My second favourite has to be Sunfire’s Opus magnum The Hunter. A western Folk epos equaling John Miles’ masterpiece Music. A whole movie in one song, epic in its build, played sharp as a knife, building up to a climax played with so much attack, so tight, it really sounds like a gunfight put down to music! Breathtaking is the word here! The whole album is perfectly mixed, but here sound engineer Berend de Vries and Jeffrey de Gans, who was responsible for the mastering, truly shine!

The Devils Drink brings you Sunfire at their very best. Catchy songs, talented musicians and lyrics with a dark sense of humour that puts a smile on your face every single time you hear them. Which leaves me with one question. Is that a hidden track suddenly popping up at two-thirds of the album? If so it is a last masterstroke of this awesome band that knows how to surprise even their biggest fans time and time again, including me.


Editor: Sara Weeda

PS: coming back to that theatre tour… It’s brilliant! Truly original in its setup, bringing the best out of the story telling qualities hidden within the band. Even bringing out their acting skills! You don’t want to miss out on this. Trust me, you really don’t!

You can find Sunfire here:

Furda – Bojany (2022)

I seem to have known Ren (FB) for just as long as I’ve been part of the Alternative Folk scene. I first noticed his talents as he uploaded some snippets of him covering OMNIA songs on Flute. And he continued to do that. Sometimes a cover. Sometimes a doodle he played on a newly built flute, sometimes a sketch he recorded with some new studio equipment he acquired, a bit later also some videos of him working with fire. And every time I was amazed by his talent.

From those first ‘doodles’ on I encouraged Ren to do something with his talent. And boy, did he do just that. In June of last year a package from Poland fell on my doormat. In it was an album called Bojany by the band Furda, a collaboration between Ren and musician/instrument builder Jakub Podskarbi (FB), and it blew me away. Especially the quality and musicianship on it. This was quite some debut they recorded and it didn’t take long before a couple of their songs made it to my personal CeltCast reviewers delights Spotify list. Sadly for them I needed a break from reviewing at that time, so the album never got the attention it truly deserved. Time to make up for it now.

Let’s start by asking Ren (right hand side) how he met Jakub Podskarbi (on the left):
–’ I met Jakub, or cukier (sugar) as we call him, at a Polish folk festival some years ago. We both can’t remember anymore which festival it was.’ He laughs:
‘ Anyhow, Cukier was playing with his other band at this festival and in the evening we jammed with a group of musicians around a fire probably and that is how we met. After that I worked a while with a member of his other band
Sumana (FB), in the end Cukier became involved and that in a way was the start of Furda. Bojany is the first album we recorded together.’

The Album

Well, I’m happy they did as Furda’s music is interesting from the very first beat the recorded. Listening to it with headphones is almost mandatory.

The intro Wdech is an almost improvised percussion piece with added overtone flute. Beautifully mixed by Jakun and Ren, also beautifully mastered by Maurycy Zóltanski (FB).

It’s an intriguing combination of neo-folk with an almost Japanese percussion sauce poured over it. Really cool.

It also has an ‘old ‘ feel to it. As if this song was captured for centuries in the swamps of time and now is suddenly freed again. Like a bubble of methane popping out of the surface.

Title track Bojany

Title track Bojany has that same ‘old’ almost Neolithical feel to it. That feeling is ignited by the haunting sound of the suka biłgorajska: an ancient Polish string instrument, related to the violin but sound wise more similar to the nyckelharpa. It was extinct for a long time, but, like many old instruments in the neo folk scene, was rediscovered and makes its return here.

Ren: ‘Jakub is not only a musician but also an instrument maker who specialises in recreating or restoring old instruments. The instrument you mentioned, the suka biłgorajska is actually made by him. Our goal is to build all the instruments we use ourselves. We also try to achieve an ‘antique’ sound when we record our music, fitting with the instruments we play.

Back to the song itself. The deep throat singing, the almost crying duduk, and the before mentioned haunted suka biłgorajska sound make this such a gothic song. With a lovely build up by the way. It keeps growing. An overtone flute solo, a kid running around, (As if Alison Shaw, singer of the Cranes, rushes by). Another old instrument, the jouhikko, makes an appearance as well. You would also think you here some deep synthesizer bass sounds, but Ren tells me that are sounds created by putting the suka biłgorajska through some guitar effects.

–’ We love to do that, take the acoustic instruments and play with them with effects. Because we do it with guitar effects we can reproduce that sound live as well. It’s all part of the improvised live set we play.’


Furda made an official video to go with this song and in the accompanying text they explain what the song is about. [or so I thought]
– ‘For quite some time, the scarecrows have been disappearing from the fields. Locals thought this to be a mere prank pulled off by some kids, so one morning they decided to set up a trap for the mysterious jester. No one knows what really happened there, but since that day, all three volunteers, who wanted to catch the scarecrow thief, have not been able to utter a single word apart from B… bo… bo… bo… BOJANY!!!”

Ney Haro

The story, and the overall feel of the album, make me wonder if all the songs on Bojany are based on Polish Folklore. Ney Haro again has that dark feel. This music seems to slowly flow into your living room, caried by thick ‘shards’ of fog. Dark brown from the moors it arose from, black from the branches it past, Greenish wet from the lichen it touched, heavy from the myths it witnessed on its way. Or is it? Looking up the lyrics google translate ended up choosing Bengaly as the source of origin not Polish. I needed to ask Ren about that.

‘I’m afraid we fooled you on both parts Cliff. Jakub actually made up the story you mentioned. That story that Bojany was based on a Polish Folklore story. [thanks Ren, that takes care of about 5 questions on the subject I had lined up. ] So no, the songs aren’t directly related to any mythical folk tale. Although the village where I live – which is called Bojany is full of myths and ghost stories, so in a way we were influenced by that. Lisek for instance is based around a Polish nursery rhyme. But most of the stories we created ourselves, just like the story of Bojany.
For your question if there is Bengalese in there. Well no. All the lyrics are either in Polish or -and that goes for almost all of the songs on Bojany– in languages Jakub and me invented. This is something I already do for a long time, even before we started Furda. Almost all the times I wrote a song I would improvise word-like sounds that fitted well with the music , rather than them having a meaning. Its not something I do beforehand. Its more intuitive during the writing process. Only afterwards, transcribing the improvised words I’m singing I discovered that there are similarities in what I sing. That they become sort of an improvised language.’

Fooled again

Well, they got me fooled again it seems. But the song itself is a gem. the build up again is brilliant. It starts with something I can only describe as whispered Neolithical beat boxing. Or to put it differently, as if Gollum mysteriously cloned himself and all the Gollum’s decided to join in just for fun. And this is only the start. One by one elements are added. The suka biłgorajska bass effect sets the dark swamp mood. Gollums beat boxing sets the rhythm. Some humming, some shakers, a frame drum, a xaphoon, one after another shards of music drift into the song. There is no other word for it. And the vocals just finish it of. This is what an Neolithical soundscape should sounds like.

Mythical neo folk fun

An important thing about this whole album: it is fun. That is the really cool part about it all. Although the songs sound dark, like they come from some ancient deep dark Polish primordial wood, they don’t feel black. They have something fun and mischievous about them. Something troll-like.

A song that just screams ‘trollish-mischief’ is Lisek, the song Ren mentioned above. The wailing sound of the suka biłgorajska opening the song is pure genius. You could almost mistake it for the distant chant of a whale. Spooky yet unearthly beautiful. The repeated whispered vocals make this song increasingly eerie. Done like that, the lyrics become the heartbeat the of the song. The rhythm instead of the melody. Trust me, no kid will be soothed by this nursery rhyme. None at all.
Jakub and Ren love to play around with their vocals like this. They use the vocals as yet another instrument to add flavour to their sound. Characters manifest themselves trough their vocals. In this particular case it is as if Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars) joins the trolls for a midnight jam session. The Irish bouzouki riff under the vocal beat is catchy as hell. The soprano recorder and overtone flute solo are the finishing icing on the cake. A cake I gladly skip when the Jar Jar/troll choir picks up speed and ends in a maniacal spiral dance of some sort. This is not music this is a trap. And Furda are luring me in, deeper and deeper. Lisek is easily one of the best songs on Bojany.

Furdana is another of my favourites. Again it starts with a vocal beat indicating the rhythm, which continues throughout the song. The xaphoon -or Sax flute as it is called in Dutch- makes this ballad sound like a beautiful mix of the Nordic folk played by Fuimadane and the Eastern folk melodies we know from Irfan. Ren and Jakub truly created their own musical world. A world slightly dark, a bit gritty, a bit mischievous but with beautiful melodies. And I’m loving it.

Some background

Ren explains about the rhythmical build-up of most of the songs:
‘ We didn’t get together in the way a band normally would. Actually one day, while we were considering the possibility of maybe doing something together, Jakub just messaged me and said he had arranged a gig for us at a festival. We were due to play 2 weeks later. But we didn’t have a song let alone a set or anything. So we decided twe wanted a two men band, using a lot of our instruments. The only way to do that was using a technique called live looping. A technique were you play a certain melody live and then loop that on the spot, building up a song right there and then as you go. The first gig was a bit hard as we still were learning and we didn’t make it easy on ourselves as we wanted to build up complex songs with many instruments but only played by the two of us and the assistance of those loops. But nowadays it works really well and our live performances are characterized by a lot of improvisation over those loops creating the song base.
Back to that first concert. We met up at Jakubs house in the days before with a lot of instruments and we wrote some song sketches that we rehearsed once before going on stage with them. A rather stressful experience to be honest. After that we worked more on those song sketches and in the end figured out how we could make the whole idea work for us.’

I find it interesting that Ren describe your songs as Sketches, as I have a line in my notes that says: “The music seems to be build up like a painting. First the rhythm – quite often a vocal rhythm – is laid down as a sketch. Then the first melody is thrown down like the base colour of the painting. With that settled, the colours come one by one, brush strokes that add or subtract from the song, slowly but surely building it up to a lovely yet slightly weird piece of musical artwork.”

Exhaustion and carpentry; a very special recording session

The start-up of Furda as a band was a strange one, but the recording of Bojany also wasn’t without its own difficulties Ren explained:

–’ It was in the autumn of ’20/21 that we decided that we wanted to record an album. I live in a wooden house in the forest and we decided to record the album there, taking just two weeks’ time to do it and build a recording studio in my bedroom with Jakub sleeping there with me. Now I can tell you, recording an album in two weeks straight is fun but extremely tiring. . All though the creative part itself is really fun, we won’t do it like that again. As a speedrun like that, waking up, composing, recording, only interrupted by eating and sleeping is extremely exhausting. What made it even harder was that the walls in a wooden cabin are quite thin and my dad’s workshop is right next to my bedroom. And he is a carpenter. So we had to arrange our recording times around his working times to prevent all kinds of weird machine or hammering sounds getting on our sound recordings.’

SeeDish feel

This story reminds me so much of the story of SeeD’s first album. Just going out and recording it in the middle of a forest. In a way Furda and SeeD share this whole ‘forget-about-the-rules-we-just-do-it-like-we-feel’ attitude. They also share that mischievous element in their music. When we come to Zwiędły the similarities become even bigger. This song has something truly SeeDish about it, mixed with an Arabesque flavour for good measure. Ski’la Va is more Trolska Polska meets SeeD featuring Irfan yes I know, it sounds weird, but trust me, it is there whereas Skeya Rokha takes me to the early days of OMNIA especially the Irish Bouzouki part with Koen (SeeD) on lead vocals.
To be clear these are all just references to give you a sense of the musical diversity that makes up the musical world of Furda. Ren and Jakub let their musical imagination run loose and created a wonderful neo folk world of their own. A world that is unique, intriguing and truly theirs.


In this review I used parts of an interview I did with Ren. The whole interview can be found here.

The artwork is from the 1869 reproduction of ‘the drolatic dreams of Pantagruel’ by Louis Perron of Lyon.

Furda can be found here:

Ďyvina – Du​š​e (2023)

Saturday the 5th of August, 11:30, Meadow stage. I was watching a Czech neo-folk band getting ready for their gig. One of the many new names on Castlefest this year. Their EP Po​č​va (2019) had made quite an impression on me beforehand, but nothing – and I do mean nothing- could have prepared me or the other members of the crowd for what we were about to see: A performance with the impact, the energy, and the spirituality of the awesome Sowulo concert just a year before, or the mind-blowing live stream concert Irdorath recorded in 2020.
But there was one small difference. Instead of performing in front of a full Village Stage field; instead of blowing away a full live-stream crowd, this band was playing at 11:30 for 100+ people at the most.
It was then and there, halfway through the gig, as lead vocalist Vitus Pribylus was pouring out every ounce of his soul toward the sky, that I decided the world had to know about this band. I had to tell people about this. I just had to. And so my retirement turned into a sabbatical. A sabbatical I’m breaking right here, right now! And Ďyvina is the reason why! What a band! Castlefest please put them on a bigger stage and a better timeslot next year. They so deserve it!

Before I even start talking about the music on Du​š​e I have to mention the CD booklet. The wooden (!) front is fully hand-crafted by Ďyvina mastermind Vitus Prybilus. It is a beautiful piece of art in its own right. In the ‘old ‘days’ – showing my age here- there was always a moment of beauty, of calmness, of preparation when carefully removing an elpee from its sleeve. You did it with care. It slowed you down, emptied your mind, and in a way prepared you for the music you were about to hear. Removing the leather binding tying the Booklet together does exactly the same thing. Putting a CD in a CD player suddenly becomes a magical moment again.

I asked Vitus who designed the booklet:
-‘Richard Hladký designed the wooden front cover and generously provided me with his self-made CNC machine. Every single cover is handmade, sanded, stained and oiled. Noemi Valentiny, who you saw doing backing vocals and hand drum during Castlefest, designed all the graphics found in the booklet – whether it’s the CD print, front cover, and she also edited all the texts and lyrics.’

I have to admit that I was left a bit confused about the status of Ďyvina​ after reading your background info. When I watched you at Castlefest I was convinced Ďyvina​ was a band. But reading into the band I’m starting to wonder if Ďyvina​ is your personal project?
-‘Both actually. The origin of Ďyvina was more of a personal project, but from the beginning, I was always leaning a bit half-half towards a real band. Our guitarist Anděl actually co-founded Ďyvina​ with me. I’ve always had the intention to play the music live, so I have always been open to work with other musicians. The line-up you saw on Castlefest is quite new. We first played in this line-up a year ago.

Primarily all of the live members are my friends. We all knew each other even before I asked them to join Ďyvina. I got to know our guitarist Anděl through my former work as a sound engineer in a theater where he performed. Our singer Noemi I know since high school, we studied at university together and also played together in our former band Pilgrim. Our drummer Siwa and flutist/bowist Joan – she is Siwas daughter- I met at our first Ďyvina gig, where they wanted to discuss hurdy-gurdy. Siwa plays hurdy-gurdy just as me. (We actually have three gurdist in Ďyvina, besides Siwa and me, Noemi played hurdy-gurdy in our former band).’

Are those the same people that helped you record Du​š​e?
-‘Mostly not no. Jakub Gabriel Anděl Rajnoch added a few guitar parts, particularly fingerpicking, at which he is a beast!

Lenka Jeducha Ondráčková played a few of the drum sections and the gudok (an ancient Eastern Slavic string instrument somewhat similar to a lyre, played with a bow). Martina Morgyš Lamschová added precise whistle parts. Zora Matulová played the harp sections, Johana Joan Rybenská nyckelharpa, and Barbora Števanka Kadlíčková the violin.

Noemi Valentíny (left) who I named before provided the second voice of the hurdy-gurdy in Nevolja and played the piano. She also composed the beautiful piano outro you find at the end of Duše.
Ján Garláthy arranged the brass section of three talented individuals: Lukáš Brázdil (French horn), Marek Bukovjan (trombone), and Martin Cupal (bass trombone).

Most of the people mentioned above also lent their voices to Duše. The complete list of vocal contributors includes: Jeducha, Jakub Rajnoch, Morgyš, Liliana Heczková, and Noemi, along with a few other hosts – my dear friends from the band Ragojka: Kateřina Stavinohová, Eva Paličková, and Jakub Vaněk. Also Jeducha’s children: Vít & Tonda Sydor, and my own dear grandma Hildegarda Panašová.’

Could you tell me a bit about the lyrics of the songs? Looking at the intensity of the Castlefest performance, the historical instruments you use, and the stage props, I would say you are a pagan band. Do you agree?
-‘I’m very enthusiastic about the traditions and folklore of Ancient Europe, but I don’t really consider myself to be a pagan. Sometimes that is my personal struggle with Ďyvina’s music as it is labeled pagan folk due to its sound and the instruments used while it is not. Rather than trying to celebrate the beliefs of our predecessors, I use it in my lyrics just as a metaphor for the actual themes I’m dealing with in my life. That’s why I call our music neo-folk, or maybe post-paganism. That’s an idea that arose in my mind the other day — the idea of post-paganism. What do I mean by that?

It comes from my ponders about my beliefs and whether Ďyvina is really playing pagan folk. As I said, I do not consider myself a pagan, nor atheist, nor any other ‘labeled’ believer. I like the old traditions, the old way of thinking and I like folklore, but have I ever genuinely believed in gods? To me, gods are simply names for different natural energies. I don’t perceive gods as supernatural beings. This is where my path somehow diverges from nowadays neopaganism. But this strong connection to nature and some kind of primal energy persists in my mind. This is where the term ‘post-pagan’ emerged. A person highly connected with nature and our ancestors, while acknowledging the reality of living in a modern urban society with a contemporary mindset and present-day demons. This is what I truly relate to, and it’s also what in a way Ďyvina’s music represents.

As for explaining the song lyrics. That’s a bit of a hard question for an introvert like me, but actually, if you take a look at our YouTube channel, there are acoustic versions of our songs performed just by me – every video starts with an introduction where I try to talk about the particular song and all the songs have English subtitles. You can find the link here.

Be it Post-Paganism or Neo-Folk, this album just oozes quality, from beginning to end. I’m not gonna review every single song but pick out a few of my personal highlights. The first of them being the epic power ballad Jezd​ě​c. That intro alone is beautiful. Full of cool sample effects, and dramatic drums before the hurdy gurdy slides in. Like the whole album it is a beautiful mix of acoustic Slavic- and Nordic folk. As if the Belarusian ethno folk band Troitsa met up with Skáld for a recording session. Listen to those beautiful Slavic melody lines,and those impressive Nordic folk drums. Deep, low and powerful. Just as deep and powerful as Vitus voice. I come to that later. For now I want to focus on the power of it all, on the choir pulling me in a dark Scandinavian night. A wolf tribe surrounding me as we chant away with them. The haunted flute pulling it all together. The emotional tension in the vocals. The build up to its climax. An epic song from beginning to end.

Vl​č​í M​á​k carries on with that same epic strength. An acoustic guitar; a sample of water; a soft drone in the background; whispered vocals, flowing into a Native American feel with the low whistle and driving drums. Such a cool mix. Again reminiscent of the band Troitsa. This time mixed with the whispered vocals of Vladimir Irdorath and Ivy Leaves on flute added for good measure. The song itself is a powerful love ballad expressing loss and pain in a way that is breathtaking. Truly breathtaking. Especially when the song builds up momentum and Vitus lets his emotions go in a full on scream. The full baritone melody line Vitus produces right after it tears me up every time I hear it. Pure beauty.

I just need to showcase Vitus’ voice at this point. And no better song then Vrane Krila to do it. This song, that started life as a piano ballad, features Vitus’ voice in every aspect of it’s capability. I already mentioned the impressive whispered spoken word parts. His singing voice can only be described as pure awesomeness. He has that rich deep immense sound that only Slavic people seem to use. Sure there are more men singing contemporary music with a baritone voice. But so rich. With such depth, warmth and emotion. That is rare in these western parts. When Vitus opens up his lungs in full voice it sounds like he has hidden a whole neolithic cave in it. The sound comes from somewhere deep down in the earth and seems to reach to the eagles flying over the highest mountains’ trees. That’s how big his voice is. You need some impressive core strength to pull a voice like this off and he has it through his whole range. From his lowest notes, through his belt into his equally strong head voice. And he is not doing it once. No, he is blessing us with this awesome sound, song after song after song. Amazing!

Combine that voice with the deep sounds of the drums; the raw sound of the low whistle; the beautiful addition of a choir and you get something truly impressive. But he also knows how to pull back. The piano outro written by Noemi is the perfect counterbalance for the epic sound we heard just before. That goes for every song on Du​š​e. They are beautifully written songs that build up and slow down with a wonderful flow. From majestic to really small. From tender to out of this world large. A compliment has to go to Vitus his sound engineer skills, and Max Morton’s mastering of the music. Together they made this album sound awesome. It equals the majestic sound Fieke van den Hurk can produce, and the outcome can only be jaw dropping. Song after song after song.

I tried to keep this review short, but the music got hold of me I’m afraid. Listen to V Maskah. That cool percussion intro. Vitus and Max are nicely playing with some nature samples and stereo effects there. While also playing with some more drone like soundscape effects that remind me a lot of the Finnish folk band Gói, who have that same ability to seamlessly combine ancient instruments with modern sounds and samples. The shamanic drums that follow have to be played as loud as possible. There is no other way. Much to the dismay of my cat and the neighbours downstairs I must add. The chant in this song is ridiculously catchy. The children and Vitus’ grandmother joining in on the spoken word part is a stroke of musical genius as is the Native American chanting at the end. As if Taloch Jameson (The Dolmen) himself joins in for a moment of free expression. Wow! Just wow.

Po​č​va has something Irfanesque about it and has become another firm favourite of mine. The song is so strong, so powerful, so enticing, yet the cool thing is that within that immensely powerful sound; Within those bigger-than-life emotions pouring out of Vitus; the melody lines are actually quite catchy and upbeat. I found myself singing along rather quickly with many of the songs. Only to be held back by my lack of knowledge when it comes to the Slavic language.

Ďyvina in an older live band setting at Veligrad in 2021

All in all Du​š​e is a brilliant debut. From the way it looks, to the way it sounds. Brilliant neo-folk songs. A beautiful mix between the rich beauty of Slavic folk and the dark shamanic sound of Nordic folk. An album that gets better and better the more times you listen to it. It does something with you every time you play it.

I didn’t mention it yet, but within all that emotion pouring out, it is actually a cheerful album. It invites you to dance and celebrate. I would highly advice you to do just that. With this album, or seeing them live. Because there is just one thing better than Ďyvina​ on CD: seeing them live on stage!


Ďyvina can be found here:

Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola – An Raicín Álainn (2002) review
A CeltCast Classic

We have been writing reviews for you since 2014 starting with Omnia‘s Earth Warrior album. Since that first review many bands have passed our ears and we have happily told you about a lot of them. But it also means that there is a huge void of music that we have never written about. The pagan folk scene, the music that forms the roots of this station, is about 20 years old (If you take Faun‘s 2002 Zauberspruch album as a starting point.) The ‘modern’ Celtic folk scene goes back decades earlier even, with bands like Clannad, Silly Wizard, Pentangle and Fairpoint Convention popularizing the style in the late 60’s. And I don’t even want to mention the traditional folk scene, with a history that goes back for centuries.
The CeltCast Classic series is meant to look back at the rich history of folk music and wants to highlight the beautiful albums that were made before there was CeltCast. The time we all at the station were ‘just’ fans. Now I could focus on the big names, the albums that everyone knows, the classics so to say…. But is is much nicer to dig up those smaller, less known gemstones that were made. The albums that some may have forgot about. An Raicín Álainn by the Irish Singer Lasairfhíona is such an album. But it is so worth listening to that I’ll gladly pull it out of the shadows and into the spotlights one more time. I hope I can convince you all to give it a listen, I promise you, you won’t be sorry.
Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola or in short Lasairfhíona is a folk singer that comes from Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. As she herself says in the booklet coming with the album, Lasairfhíona learnt how to sing even before she could talk. With her style of singing deeply rooted in Inisheer’s sean-nós singing tradition, it was not a surprise her interest went further than ‘just’ Celtic singing and she became a graduate in Celtic studies from Trinity College Dublin.
It was in 1998 when she was ‘discovered’ by Hector Zazou and was featured as one of the lead vocalists on his Irish sacred songs compilation Lights In The Dark. In 2002 she released the subject of this review, her first solo album An Raicín Álainn at the Lorient Festival Interceltique, an album that got here a lot of positive feedback. Hot Press Music Magazine called it one of the best folk albums of 2002 and fRoots Magazine said it was: ‘one of the most sumptuous traditional albums to have emerged for some time.
It got Lasairfhíona a lot of attention including a special documentary on the RTÉ Léargas television series (directed by Moira Sweeney) in 2002; concerts as prestigious as the Montreux Jazz festival; television exposure; and even a guest appearance on Sinead o’Connor‘s Goodnight DVD, on the track Thank You, You’ve Been A Lovely Audience. She worked with Hector Zazou again on her song Dragonfly, a song that was used in the presentation of the 2004/2005 fall/winter collection of the fashion designers Prada, Issey Miyake, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Chou. Her success continued into 2006 as her second album Flame Of Wine came out gaining the young singer even more praise, including a nomination for a Meteor Irish Music Award
…. And then the internet goes all quiet. The silence was broken in 2016 when her third album One Penny Portion was released, but other than a few appearances on several compilation albums there isn’t much more I could find. Not including the fact that she clearly isn’t forgotten by the Irish folk stations, who regularly feature her music in their programs. And that is exactly what I’m going to do right now, right here, so cue spotlight: ‘…Spotlight on!!!!

An Raicín Álainn

Opening song An Raicín Álainn gives you a perfect feel for what to expect of the whole album. minimalistic beauty. In this case a single guitar, a lone violin and a beautiful voice. That is it. Nothing more is needed anyway. Lasairfhíona’s voice is the main feature of this whole album. It is warm, delicate, tender and emotional all at the same time. She sings in the lower female regions and she has a lovely almost whispered, ever so slight hoarseness to it that makes it extremely beautiful. I can listen to her sing all week long. (Actually I did during the writing of this review.)
The second song; Bean Pháidín (Páidín’s Wife) immediately shows another strength of this album, it’s variety. Although the whole album is intimate and almost minimalistic in instrument choice, it still has a huge variety in feel and tune. If An Raicín Álainn werre a small watercolour painting ‘coloured’ with acoustic guitar and violin, then Bean Pháidí would be a fun pencil drawing sketched with only the aid of a lone bodhrán and a low ‘drone’ sound giving the song its body. A real powerful song in all its simplicity. I also love the combination of the Irish Gaelic language and the beat of the bodhran. I never realized that Irish Gaelic is such a rhythmical language with its strong ‘ch’, ‘th’ ‘mi’ and ‘shh’ sounds. It is as if I hear her voice ‘clapping’ along with the rhythm of the tune.

Caisleán Gearr is the first of the three acapella song, showcasing Lasairfhíona’s full talents as a singer. I imagine this to be in the sean-nón singing tradition of Inis Oírr (Inisheer). Which brings up the question what IS the sean-nós singing tradition? To quote Wikipedia for an answer: ‘Sean-nós singing (Irish for ‘old style’) is unaccompanied traditional Irish vocal music usually performed in the Gaelic language. Sean-nós singing usually involves very long melodic phrases with highly ornamented and melismatic melodic lines.’
It does describe this heartfelt ballad of a unreachable love of a man for a fair lady he met at Caisleán Gearr (Castlegar) perfectly.

I found a short article on Folkforum.nl where we get some more information about Lasairfhíona’s musical roots. In this 2005 article it says the following:
On the Aran Islands, where Lasairfhíona Ni Chonaola grew up, there is a big singing tradition that grew into the sean-nós style. Although Lasairfhíona is regularly connected with that style, she rather not be labeled as such: – “On the islands there were just songs,” She says in an interview with The Irish Times: “We just sang songs. We didn’t call them sean-nós. I came from a sean-nós background, but I live in the modern time, too, so there are inevitably influences there.’ In an interview with the Sunday times she underlines this will to express herself without the bounderies of musical label limiting her artistic possibillitys even more. Tradition is clearly important but artistic freedom evenso: – “There is something in the islands, a sense of mystery. It’s hard to define what’s special about them; but I was quite privileged to be raised there. The song and the singer were appreciated, there was silence for a person that sang, so it gave me the confidence to sing I expected to be listened to. “But I also live in the modern era. I wasn’t brought up with a gramophone, so there are influences from nowadays and you have to go with that. You can’t live in the past. It’s why I like living in the city and on the island. On the island I can relax with the sea around me, then go to the hustle and bustle of the city.”

reading how Lasairfhíona expresses her love for the relaxing sea in the interview fragment above, it is an easy bridge to Oileán Na Teiscinne (The Isle Of Teiscinn), the next song I want to pick up on. You can feel every ounce of that love reaching you through your speakers as this song starts. You can hear the tide gently coming in. The calmness of the waves, combined with an almost meditative guitar tune will instantly calm you down. The soft, single-voiced ‘choir’ in the background, and Lasairfhíona spoken lyrics over it are the icing on the cake. One of the best songs on this album in my opinion.

After the poetic calmness of Oileán Na Teiscinne, comes the more serene calmness of Banríon Loch Na Naomh (The Queen Of Loch Na Naomh), a duet between harp and voice, a typical folk ballad about a not-so-typical meeting between a ghostly lady and a limbless warrior in the deep of the Celtic night.
What I especially notice in this song is how Lasairfhíona just let’s her voice flow naturally while singing. She sounds as if she is at the very limit of her high voice in this song, sometimes maybe even a wee bit above it, but she just goes with it. Allowing her voice to break a bit while it reaches for that softly whispered high note, making the sound even more intense, more vulnerable and eerie, but therefore more beautiful than it would have been if she used her obvious singing technique to form the note perfectly. It makes Banríon Loch Na Naomh another of the many favourites of mine on this album.

Talking about favourites, I feel a big smile inside every time Bímse Féin Ag Iascaireacht is playing. It is the odd one out on this CD, as the lead vocals are not by Lasairfhíona, but by her dad, MacDara Ó Chonaola, a poet who wrote several of the songs on An Raicín Álainn. The song itself is a fun singalong accompanied by bodhrán, with Lasairfhíona on backing vocals. In this song it becomes clear that the vocal talent runs in the family, as MacDara could easily be featured as one of the lead vocalists of M’anam. (In all fairness I thought he was at first)

MacDara Ó Chonaola is not the only person contributing to this lovely debut album. We hear Pat Hargan on guitar, Mary Bergin on tin & low whistle, Johnny McDonagh (former De Dannan) on bodhrán, Paul Dooley on Clàrsach (the Celtic harp), Alex Barcelona on piano accordion and bells, and Máire Breatnach on fiddle, viola and piano, who all add their delicate parts to Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola’s music. And I say that deliberately, as all musicians play purely in service of Lasairfhiona’s voice. the instruments seem to be there like illustrations in a well written book,to enhance the intensity of the story.
This feeling is even more enhanced by the beautiful production of the music by Máire Breatnach. She and Lasairfhíona carefully selected the instruments each song needed, with a clear ‘less is more’ approach, giving each song its very own colour. Be it the gentle colour of guitar and fiddle, the ancient combination of harp and vocals, the rich colour of the guitar and viola, the ‘classical’ combination of piano and tin whistle, the romantic sound of the piano accordion and a distant bell, ore no colour at all, as are the beautiful acapella songs on An Raicín Álainn or the sketched pencil stripes of the bodhrán/vocal combination.

Due to these carefully made choices this is the most intimate album I have heard in a long while. I have often described in reviews how I had the feeling the artists were sitting right there with me in my living room, but with this album it is the other way around. I have the distinct impression I was lucky enough to walk into the space Lasairfhíona was in, singing to herself. Every time I hear it the sound stops me in my tracks, leaving me with the deep urge to quietly sit down in a corner, disappear into the shadow and listen, just listen.
The first time I clearly had that urge was listening to Banríon Loch Na Naomh, but it happened a couple of times. When listening to Tonnta Chonamara (The Waves Of Connemarra) for instance, or the acapella song Amhrán An Phúc. But find the feeling especially strong listening to De Thaisme (Coincidence), a song Lasairfhíona is lilting, only accompanied by the bodhrán. Lasairfhíona’s whispered singing style feels almost introvert in this song, and the clever reverb on the bodhrán and her voice even enhance that feeling. Musical simplicity in all its beauty.

Another example of that ‘introvert’ singing style is Ar Bhruacha Na Laoi even though it is one of the more richly arranged songs on this album. The viola melody gives it a suprisingly Eastern feel, in the direction of Katie Melua‘s Nine Million Bicycles. Come to think of it, Katie Melua has that same whispered, delicate, almost introvert singing style I find so beautiful in lasairfhióna’s voice.

All in all this is just a beautiful debut album. As I said in the intro, after this Lasairfhíona went on to release Flame Of Wine in 2005 and One Penny Portion in 2016, both also well produced beautiful folk albums, well worth listening to, but it is the intimate magic that Lasairfhíona, Máire Breatnach, and all the other musicians captured on An Raicín Álainn that makes this album stand out for me.
A true folk Classic, well worth putting the spotlight on one more time.


Editor: Sara
Cover art: MacDara O’Conaola
Quotes taken from:
– Wikipedia
– Folkforum.nl


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