Passing by The U.K.-based folk group Kan believe life is all about new dreams and fresh beginnings, just like their music itself
Every once in a while life presents us with an opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning or a chance to turn over a new leaf. While for most of us this may pose a challenge, for UK-based folk and traditional band Kan, new beginnings are a part of everyday life.
The four-piece band, comprising Brian Finnegan on the flute, Aidan O’Rourke on the fiddle, James Goodwin on the drums and Ian Stephenson on the guitar, believe life is all about new dreams and fresh beginnings, just like their music itself.
The name comes from an indigenous Mexican calendar and stands for a yellow seed signifying new beginnings. The band says: “2010 was the year of the Kan and since we got together the same year, it seemed appropriate that we call ourselves Kan. It also seemed right for the diverse musical backgrounds we come from.”
What Kan tries to bring on stage is an amalgam of Irish and Scottish traditions focused on intricate, groove-entwined melodies whilst embracing Breton dance, Asturian jigs and jazz influence.
Aidan says folk music in Scotland, Ireland and England is at an all-time high. “You hear a lot of folk music on mainstream radio now. A lot of purists would like the music to remain a museum piece, but I think it has and always will evolve. More people are digging deeper and listening to the raw folk music that's becoming available through online archives and other forums. This is an exciting time for the type of music we play and we're embracing it,” he adds.
Kan also has their share of collaboration with Indian artistes. Aidan says,
“I worked with Trilok Gurtu and Shankar Mahadevan at the Celtic Connections festival in 2010. I've also collaborated in the past with master violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava.” Brian pitches in and says members of the band have also shared stage with A R Rahman, Rajendra Prasanna and Sunil Kant Gupta.
On Indian music, Brian feels India has some of the richest and most diverse music in the world. “Classical Indian music features some very elaborate set patterns with a strong emphasis on improvisation. Bhangra is a well-established influence on contemporary UK culture and is very popular among younger generations. The sound of Bollywood is familiar to everyone in the UK and Ireland. Folk music less so and that should change! We're hoping to discover more of this while we are here,” he says.
Sleeper , their debut album, bears the first fruits of the band’s intention to create what they call “a homogenous quartet of lead instruments”.
Sleeper’s uniqueness lies in how well Kan has managed to capture a live performance energy into its making. “We went to a studio in Edinburgh and felt the sound was right for us to perform together and make an album that sounded as live as possible,” says Aidan.
On stage, Kan always performs in an arc with no lead musician as they believe that each instrument is as important to the melodic content of their performance as the other.
To what Kan may be doing 10 years down the line, the musicians say: “We put a lot of energy into our performances so we hope we're still doing what we do with the same energy. In 10 years, we want to be coming back to India, every year!”
On an encouraging note, Kan feels they find some of the most interesting music comes from people who haven't got rules and boundaries, so their advice to composers is to break some rules and try different things.
Kan is touring India as part of British Council's Folk Nations which aims to support folk music from India and the UK.
ALLAN MOSES RODRICKS