Mouth Music In session – October 7, 1993 – BBC Radio 1 –
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Mouth Music in session to start off the week. Sometimes referred to as a combination of Celtic fusion, folk, worldbeat, world music, pop and electronica, Mouth Music did a lot to turn music around in the 1990s.
Mouth Music has featured a variety of musicians over the years, with songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Martin Swan as the only consistent member (and de facto leader). Other musicians who have passed through the project include singers Talitha MacKenzie, Jackie Joyce (aka Helicopter Girl), Martin Furey, Jaq Ferry, Mairi McInnes, Ishbel MacAskill and Michaela Rowan, plus fiddler Alison Crawford, Capercaillie/Shooglenifty drummer James Mackintosh, and pipe/flute/fiddle player Martyn Bennett.
Mouth Music was initially an equal collaboration between Martin Swan and singer Talitha MacKenzie.
At the time of the band’s formation, Swan (born in Sheffield, England, but of Scottish descent) was an Edinburgh-based composer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist with diverse musical interests including traditional Scottish folk, jazz, funk and electronic dance music. MacKenzie (born in New York) was a talented Scottish-American singer, pianist and ethnomusicologist who had taught herself Scottish Gaelic during her teen years. Conservatory-trained, her history and interests included teaching, Eastern European music and choral music: she had released a solo album called Shantyman! in 1986 (under the name of Talitha Nelson), had briefly been a member of the Boston-Irish band St James Gate and had toured America as a solo act or performing puirt a beul with Scottish traditional music bands. Having previously visited Scotland to make field recordings of folk music and research her own Scottish cultural heritage, MacKenzie moved to Scotland in 1987 and promptly joined the Scottish folk music ensemble Drumalban (in which she worked with unorthodox bagpipe and violin virtuoso Martyn Bennett).
Swan first encountered Mackenzie in 1988 when she was performing traditional Gaelic tunes at a concert in a village hall in South Uist. He persuaded her to collaborate with him on a new project fusing Gaelic music with contemporary technology and a developing world music sensibility (at least partially inspired by Fourth World music experiments such as David Byrne and Brian Eno’s 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts). Working with arranger and engineer Chic Medley, the duo began to record together. Mackenzie brought in most of the early Mouth Music repertoire in the shape of traditional Gaelic songs which she had discovered while studying Scottish and Gaelic cultures in Edinburgh.
Many personnel and direction changes, as well as disbanding and regrouping, Mouth Music was last seen in 2005, but the individual members have been working on other projects.
In the meantime, here is a session they did at the BBC on October 7, 1993.
Crank it up and enjoy. Don’t let the first minute or two fool you – it goes places, lots of places.