Awards 2017 Winner

Best Group

Afro Celt Sound System
The Source on ECC Records

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After a lengthy silence, the return of the Afro Celts seemed something of a risky proposition: would the group's trademark global dance hybrid that sounded so cutting-edge when first unleashed in 1996 appear outdated some two decades on? Instead 2016's The Source found the Afro Celts reinvigorated and sounding bigger, better and bolder than ever. Since the last Afro Celts'album in 2005, a split among its founding members for a time resulted in two rival editions of the group fighting over the name. Happily that dispute has now been settled and it is the Simon Emmerson-led line-up heard on The Source that officially inherits the Afro Celts' legacy.

Click to listenWith a core membership that includes long-serving kora and balafon player N'Faly Kouyata the thundering dhol drumming of Johnny Kalsi and the Scottish Gaelic rapper Griogair Labhruidh, there is much that is reassuringly familiar in the swirling mix of African rhythms and Irish jigs and reels. But the sound has also smartly developed, the electronica of earlier incarnations more muted and the acoustic textures more nuanced as the traditional African instruments vie with the pipes and flutes of Celtic heritage, underpinned by bhangra drums, and with vocal decoration ranging from the shamanic voice of Rioghnach Connolly to Guinean devotional chanting.

By Nigel Williamson