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Music That Soars

© Elizabeth Jaxon

Harpist Catrin Finch and kora player Seckou Keita will appear at The Apex in a stunning exhibition of world-class musicianship on 28 November. Celebrating the remarkable affinities between the Welsh harp and the West African kora, the duo have built a formidable reputation for extraordinary performances.

Catrin Finch, a celebrated classical harpist, has won accolades for her virtuosic performances with some of the world’s finest orchestras. A fearless performer, she has also worked with Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté and Colombian band Cimarrón, and switches from Bach’s Goldberg Variations to traditional folk or Colombian joropo music with apparent ease.

Born into the world-famous royal Keita and griot Cissokho families, Seckou Keita from Senegal has earned worldwide acclaim for his ground-breaking kora playing, and recently won Songlines Best Africa and Middle East category for his solo album ’22 Strings’. Seckou has played with Youssou N’Dour and alongside Paul Weller and Damon Albarn on the Africa Express ‘Orchestra of Syrian Musicians’ tour.

Despite Catrin coming from a classical background and Seckou unable to read music, they’ve found a huge amount of common ground and draw on their diverse traditions, transforming them with remarkable synergy; Mandinka rhythms mix effortlessly with Welsh tunes, with improvisations from both in a set which is at once exhilarating and mesmerising.

Their second album ‘SOAR’ takes inspiration from the osprey, which makes its annual 3,000-mile migration from the coasts of West Africa to the estuaries of Wales, in an epic journey of endurance. ‘SOAR’ explores themes of migration and journeys and continues the duo’s intrepid exploration and celebration of the parallels and differences between their two instruments and cultures. One track, ‘Téranga Bah’, touches on the importance of hospitality and welcoming strangers, while ‘Listen to the Grass Grow’ is gentle and peaceful.

Those who have seen the duo play live will recognise the electrifying piece ‘Hinna Djulo‘ (Soul Strings). Catrin explains “Over the last three or four years it’s morphed into this really brilliant song. Every time we kept playing it, we played it slightly differently and it’s become such a charged piece now.”

‘Bach to Baisso’ is the result of blending two highly revered pieces from two very different classical traditions. “That aria [an excerpt from Bach’s Goldberg Variations] is probably one of the most famous pieces of music out there,” says Catrin. “Bach himself was someone who was always experimenting. That’s the reason he’s respected in the way he is.” Bach on the kora? “I’m not sure it’s ever been done before!adds Seckou.

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita are at The Apex on Wednesday 28 November at 7.30pm. Tickets are £18, with £5 tickets available for those aged under 25. Ring the box office on 01284 758000 or see www.theapex.co.uk for more information or to book.