The Afro Celt Sound System is a musical group which fuses modern dance rhythms (trip-hop, techno, etc.) with traditional Irish (Celtic) and West African music. It was formed by Grammy-nominated producer-guitarist Simon Emmerson, and is considered to be something of a world music supergroup, often featuring a wide range of guest artists on their albums.
Their albums have been released through Peter Gabriel's Real World Records, and they have been cited as the second best-selling band on the label, exceeded in sales only by Gabriel himself. Their striking live performances have often been the highlights of the WOMAD concert festivals. They signed a contract with Real World for five albums, of which the 2005 release Anatomic was the last.
After a number of festival dates in 2007, the band went on hiatus. In 2010, they regrouped to play a number of shows (including a return to WOMAD ) and announced a new album, Capture .
The inspiration behind the project dates back to 1991, when Simon Emmerson, a Grammy Award-nominated British producer who would become the group's guitarist, collaborated with Afro-pop star Baaba Maal. While making an album with Maal in Senegal, Emmerson was struck by the similarity between one African melody and a traditional Irish air. Back in London, Irish musician Davy Spillane told Emmerson about a belief that nomadic Celts lived in Africa or India before they migrated to Western Europe. Whether or not the theory was true, Emmerson was intrigued by the two countries' musical affinities.
In an experiment that would prove successful, Emmerson brought members of Baaba Maal's band together with traditional Irish musicians to see what kind of music the two groups would create. Adding a dash of modern sound, Emmerson also brought in English dance mixers for an electronic beat. "People thought I was mad when I touted the idea," Emmerson told Jim Carroll of The Irish Times. "At the time, I was out of favour with the London club scene. I was broke and on income support but the success was extraordinary".
Jamming in the studios at Real World, musician Peter Gabriel's recording facilities in Wiltshire, England, the diverse group of musicians recorded the basis of their first album in one week. This album, Volume 1: Sound Magic, was released by Real World Records in 1996, and marked the debut of the Afro Celt Sound System, an energetic global fusion the likes of which the music world had not yet seen.
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