Tag Archives: CeltCast

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:

New Interview & Review: Furda – Bojany (2022)

This album has been turning its round in my CD player for about a year now, and it is still a firm favorite of mine.

Furda is a young band from Poland who easily mix Nordic folk with Middle European vibes. Who seamlessly blend ‘old’ traditional instruments with modern techniques and effects. Who manage to maintain an ‘antique’ sound while improvising most of their songs live on stage. Who have written some unique primordial troll-like songs that will definitely appeal to all those who love slightly dark Neo Folk music.

References I used in the review were Irfan, Fuimadane and SeeD. The band themselves are Influenced by Heilung (FB), OMNIA and Lorn. The outcome is one of the best debut albums I have heard in years.

Follow me here for an extensive review with-interview-sniplets, or here for a full interview with Boleslaw Ren Rygiel singer, percussion and wind instrument player with Furda, or go straight to their music in the links below and be just as enchanted as we at CeltCast are.


Furda can be found 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:

An interview with Bolesław Ren Rygiel,
playing Scarecrow with Furda

I have known Bolesław Ren Rygiel (FB) for a long time now. All the way back to 2012/2013 when I was involved with the World of OMNIA fan group. I first noticed Ren when he uploaded a cover version of an OMNIA song he played on flute. A very good version actually and from that moment on I always encouraged this young Polish musician to do something with his talent. That went on for about ten years and then, in 2022, a package fell through my letterbox from a new Polish neo folk duo called Furda (FB), and one of the members was Ren. That album, Bojany, has become a firm favourite in the de Booy household. I actually consider it to be one of the best debut albums I’ve heard since I’ve started listening to neo folk music, so it is high time I catch up with Ren and ask all about the CD Bojany and his band Furda.

So how did you and your fellow band member Jakub Podskarbi meet up?
– ‘We met at one of the Polish folk festivals but we are not sure anymore which one it was. Jakub (FB) was playing a gig at one of these festivals with his other band Sumana (FB).

Afterwards we just jammed around a fire and we met like that. From then on me and Jakub started to talk about maybe doing some project together.’

And that was the start of Furda?
– ‘Well that is sort of a funny story actually. As I said we were sort of talking talking about working together and at one point in 2021 Jakub just messaged me like: ‘Yo, we are playing a concert in two weeks or something.’ Ren continued laughingly: -‘ So he invited me to his house to talk things through and we decided we needed to make some material. We also decided we wanted to use live looping techniques so that we could use a lot of our instruments, just the two of us.’

I did notice you and Jakub use an impressive range of historic– and neo folk instruments. All sorts of recorders, a xaphoon, a Bulgarian kaval, a kalimba, a darbuka, and the kantele to name just a few.

– ‘Yes that is true. Besides being really active in the local neo folk scene. Jukab is also an instrument maker who specializes in creating some extinct or rare instruments such as the Polish traditional fiddle, the suka biłgorajska.

It is an instrument that had been extinct for over 150 years and now is the core of our sound essentially. The cool part of it is he made that suka biłgorajska himself .
Quite a lot of the instruments we use are either made or modified by us. At the moment I personally don’t really use many instruments I made myself but that is what I ‘m aiming for in the future. ‘

So you wanted to try and use all those instruments at that very first concert?
– ‘Yeah we thought it would be a fun idea to make something that was musically complex, using a lot of different instruments, but only with us two playing, so live looping was the way to go. We sat down at Jakubs house and jammed with a lot of different instruments and a looping effect.
We came up with a couple of song sketches that day that we then polished in if I am not mistaken one more rehearsal.’ Ren says with a smile. –’And yeah, then we played our first gig. Which was quite unsuccessful to be honest because we weren’t fully prepared for what we were hoping to achieve technically. So it was a rather stress full experience. After that we kept making music together. figuring out how to make the live looping concept we wanted work. How to be more consistent technically and how to make it a fun experience for everyone involved.’

That explains the way the songs on Bojany are build up. Did any of those first songs make it to your debut album?
– ‘Yes, most of the song sketches on Bojany come from that first rehearsal and that first gig we played. In the autumn of 2020 we decided we wanted to record an album. So Jakub came to stay at my home. I live in our family house, a nice wooden house my grandma build for us all in the forest. So we set up a studio in my bedroom and we just settled down for over two weeks and recorded every single day. We would wake up, eat breakfast and start recording We did for two weeks in a row. Every single day! Recording, recording, more recording, mixing, composing and recording again. I have to say, it were a rough couple of weeks.
Why? Well when you try to speedrun the recording of an album like that, day after day, and do it in one recording session it is very exhausting. It ended up being a very tiring experience. But a fun one none the less because it is a creative process and creative processes are fun. But , laughing, there were some obstacles on the road. For instance, as I said the studio was set up in my bedroom. Well my dad is a carpenter and his workshop is right next to my bedroom and there is essentially no walls and no doors between my bedroom and his workshop. So you can imagine there would be quite a few electric carpentry devices like saw blades and stuff , that made a lot of noises that we didn’t want on our recordings. So we had to organize a schedule that would work for both my dad and us as well. So yeah, it was difficult to pull it all off but luckily we did.’

You recorded and mixed the album together, did you also do the mastering yourself?
– ‘No, when we had the album somewhat ready we went to a friend of mine, Maurycy Żółtański (FB)(middle), who I used to go to school with. He now is a professional producer. He did the mastering for us and he gave the album a more Polish and a more sparky sound.’

The first video single you uploaded is of the title song Bojany. In the description under it you explain it is a local Polish folk tale collected in an unpublished book by Oskar Kolberg, a Polish ethnographer, folklorist, and composer. Are all the songs on the album based on Polish folkore?
At this point Ren starts to laugh out loud : – ‘I’m sorry Cliff, but actually Bojany is not based on polish folklore at all. The story that you refer to, was actually made up by Jakub, he improvised that post on the go. I think he just felt it was a fun way to introduce our music. Using a mystical story. So I’m afraid it is actually made up, although Oskar Kolberg was indeed a very renowned ethnologist and researcher of the polish folk culture and its mythology, so the story was certainly inspired by him.
So although most of the songs on Bojany are not directly based on Polish folklore, there is one exception: the song Lisek. That song is based around a well known Polish nursery rhyme. Other then that the songs on Bojany aren’t inspired by Polish folk tales as such, but it was recorded in the village of Bojany, the village where I live, and I have to say that Bojany in itself is a very interesting place. It is a very mystical area, with a lot of local folk tales. Lots of ghost stories actually and other things that are on the verge of the metaphysical. It is a place that is quite rich in those, shall I say weird forest myths and ghost stories. It would be safe to say this area definitely had some impact on us and the music we were making as we were recording it.’

Lisek taken from the album Bojany, released by Furda in 2022

When I was trying to translate the lyrics, the program I used found some Bengali in there. Did you really use Bengali lyrics on Bojany?
– ‘No there is no Bengali on the album, all the lyrics are either in Polish or -mostly- a made up language that me or Jakub created. That idea is something that goes back a long time, even before we started Furda. Whenever I would make a song I would quite often improvise some intuitive, made-up language, supposed to just match the song; the vibe or the feelings of that song.
It is not something that is really think through in that sense I don’t t usually write the made-up language lyrics out beforehand. Usually they come to me on the go and then transcribe them afterwards.
An interesting thing I noticed is that whenever I transcribe made up languages there seem to some similarities between them. Like some words that will come up often among these intuitive lyrics. Sometimes I try to piece it all together and create like a full on language created by me. I am not the only on in Furda doing that. Jakub created some intuitive phrases created as well, one example is the song Skeya Rokha.’

So Ney Haro and Skeya Rokha have ‘intuitive’ lyrics?
– ‘Yes Bojany, Ney Haro, Skeya Rokha, Ski’la va, Furdana they all have made-up lyrics although on Furdana there is not a lot of lyrics there beside ‘furdandandandandanda’ -laughs- which is just a twist on the bands name. Jakubs inspiration behind these ‘lyrics’ were the buddhist meditation chants, were they monks often use throat singing too. Those chants become very trans like because of the repeated phrases for a long period of time and we tried to recreate that in our own way.
We do have some polish lyrics as well. There is Lisek, which is based on this Polish nursery rhyme and then there is Zwiędły, which is written by me a couple of years back. These are the only two songs in polish on Bojany, but there is more to come on the next album.’

Oh cool! A new album! how far away is that?

– ‘The next album is quite far away actually. Jakub was very eager to play as many concerts as possible and if you play a lot of gigs you don’t have a lot of time to record new music, but we are planning to start recording some new songs. But we are not going to do it in one session again. We will do it one song at a time this time. Currently we have around four new songsketches for new album tracks that we perform live. With two of them we are almost done recording them.
I can already tell you these new songs will be a bit different. They are more acoustic driven. We want to go for a more live feel this time. The songs on our debut album Bojany are mostly quite slow paced and very atmospheric. When we play them live they become much more dynamic, more dancy. With the next album we want to go for this more dynamic more energetic approach as well. So the new album is gonna be a bit more wild then the first one. Do we already have a release date? No not yet. We hope to have the album out before next season if all goes well.’

Furda has its very own quite unique sound. Which bands would you say inspired you both?
– ‘ Our musical inspirations? For me that would obviously be OMNIA and quite certainly Heilung as well. We were both actually quite heavily inspired by Heilung at the beginning stages of Furda. Jakub’s main inspiration was an electronic music project called Lorn.
That’s where he took the idea for the deep bass sound that is present in a couple of our songs from. So in other words Furda is a mixture of a bit of ruff ambient sounds mixed with nice folky melodies and some electronic bass and percussion.
Something I didn’t mention before and maybe is not that obvious is that those very deep bass sounds like in the end of Skeya Rokha are actually not electronic sample or synthesizer sounds, It is actually the sound of the suka biłgorajska, put through a bunch of different guitar effects.

The fun part is we do try to use these ‘electronic’ sounds, especially in our live gigs, but we do it by manipulating the sounds of the different acoustic instruments we use with effects. That’s a big part of our sound it live gigs I would say, improvising and playing around with sounds.
With Furda what we just try to make music that stands out. It is somewhat rooted in folklore but what we go for is creating music that is open for interpretation. We don’t want to make music focused on a specific style or genre or cultural region or anything. So our music is a pretty crazy amalgamation of different ideas, cultural references and musical inspirations.
But we do try to make it feel a bit, ahm, ‘antique’. We do this with our choice of instruments and with the way we approach our music. It is pretty raw and played on a concert very improvised. When we play live we do have the general framework of how a song is supposed to go. However we do go for improvisation quite a lot. In my opinion this is the fun part of being a musician. That you get to create things and improvisation is just pure creation. We love doing it because it is just a lot of fun and makes every concert unique.’

Are the songs on Bojany also improvised then?
– ‘Well as I said most of the songsketches come from that first improvised jam session and are based on these improvised loops and song ideas we had. There is certainly some degree of improvising during recording. We normally don’t, you know, write our music, like – laughs – we don’t plan it out a lot. Usually we get a quick idea and we hop into recording and see what comes out. So our workflow is– laughing- very much impulse driven. We just have a crazy idea, we hop into the studio, work on it and see what happens.’

It sounds like fun is a big part of the band. I even saw you say you play ‘scarecrow’ with Furda according to your Facebook page?
– ‘Yes I do have ‘scarecrow with Furda’ written on my Facebook page and yes this band is certainly about having quite a lot of fun. We try to not take ourselves, and our music to serious. Everything with a little humor.
Obviously the scarecrow is a reverence to the Bojany video where we put on these crazy scarecrow costumes that Jakub made.’ He laughs: These costumes weren’t very comfortable to walk in actually. It was barely possible to move around in them but we were able to pull of the music video and survive for the day so all was good in the end.’

The official music video for Bojany by Furda

You already told us about that ‘first’ gig that didn’t go so well. What was your coolest gig then?
– ‘Then our first real gig as Furda comes to mind. It was in 2022 at Grajdół Festiwal, a very interesting Polish folk festival in the mountains.Very unusual actually as it is located on top of a mountain! It is pretty much impossible to get there as it is such a remote location. The only way really is by foot, climbing up this mountain. The organization have some very strong jeep-like trucks to stuf to the top of that mountain and they used those powerful Jeep trucks to get all our instruments and ger up there. Its a very nice festival organized by a very nice group of young competent people.

The atmosphere there was just amazing. It was one off the most magical festival experiences I had, maybe ever even, just because of how remote and wild this location is. So it was a great experience, although, the fun part is that we were scheduled to play around 24:00 at night, but as with almost every festival there were some delays in the program.
Now although I still uphold that the organization is very nice and capable, the delay was so severe we ended up playing four or five hours later! So we didn’t play at midnight but started when the sun was starting to come up. We had a hard time keeping our energy levels up till we could play the gig. Also the sound guy had a bit to much to drink and got lost in the woods so it was -laughs out loud- -an adventure. A very difficult but also really fun gig.
We played there again this year, on top of a different mountain, and this time it all went really smoothly. Definitely a magical festival to play at Grajdół Festiwal. If the CeltCast readers ever get the change they should go there.’

Furda 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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