Link to Living Tradition Homepage





BAGAD KEMPER - Collection (CD & DVD)

BAGAD KEMPER - Collection (CD & DVD)
Keltia Musique KMCD 174

Breton music is an acquired taste, and bagad music is probably the best way to get to know it. Bagad Kemper, the Quimper pipe band, has been at the top of the tree for two decades. As well as their flawless arrangements of Breton songs and dance music, they are famous for mixing the tradition with other styles. This second compilation album draws on the band's releases since 1995, plus tracks from albums by Denez Prigent, Dan Ar Braz and Hevia. Guests include Johnny Clegg, Susana Seivane, Marthe Vassallo and Suhail Seghini. Marthe Vassallo delivers several Breton songs on the accompanying DVD too.

Collection opens with a bouncy modern composition and the defining sound of the Breton bagad: pipes, bombardes, and drums. Hep Diskrog, the title track of their 1999 album, is a more sombre piece which contrasts starkly with an Arab-toned version of Emotional Allegiance: those bombardes are closely related to the shawms of Asia and North Africa. Apparently Sally was sung by someone called Carmel in the '80s: never heard of her, but Bagad Kemper's arrangement is irresistible. Susana Seivane's Galician gaita takes centre stage for the next track, then it's back to modern Breton melodies with guitar and bass backing led by Gilles Le Bigot. Denez Prigent's song E Trouz Ar Ger gets a drum-heavy arrangement, and leads into a lovely Greek melody called Ela Ela.

Hevia guests on Tanzila, another Arab-Breton blend, with the distinctive sound of electronic Asturian bagpipes. Eliz Iza is the title track of Bagad Kemper's 1999 recording: it's a very old and well-known air used by Dan Ar Braz and others, but here it glides over a hypotic dance motif on the big Breton pipes. Suite Gallo-Vannetaise combines melodies from Southern Brittany and elsewhere in France, using the traditional baton-passing technique between pipes and bombardes. The obligatory drum solo has become drum'n'bass in T'En Va Pas Max, but it's back to Breton basics for Suite de Gavottes des Montagnes with Marthe Vassallo's meaty vocals added to several of these lively jigs. Mas que Nada comes as a total surprise: Brazilian samba transferred to the pipes, not for the first time, great fun and a very hard act to follow. Fortunately, Bagad Kemper has an even bigger sound for the final track: Call to the Dance, one of the showpieces from Dan Ar Braz' Heritage des Celtes concert album. After 72 minutes, when the last echoes of applause have died away, there's nothing to do but put on the accompanying DVD and watch 75 minutes of Bagad Kemper in concert in Lorient. And then start again.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.