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Ireland's Spillane, Lunny Stay True to Their Roots

Spillane, Lunny Stay True to Irish Roots

September 04, 1998|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Davy Spillane and Donal Lunny are two of the great names in contemporary Irish music. Together with Christy Moore, they founded the seminal group Moving Hearts in 1982, and both have new albums out this month. Spillane has emerged as one of the most-heard players of the now-popular Uilleann pipes (the instrument heard prominently on the "Titanic" soundtrack), and the inspiration for the music of "Riverdance" (which featured him in the initial London and U.S. runs).

Spillane's album, "The Sea of Dreams" (on Covert Records) spotlights, in his description, "much slower tunes than I usually do. I haven't really represented myself much as a traditional musician, but the nature of this music, because it's slower, brings out the more traditional sounds, especially in the ornamentation of the melodies."

There are, in addition to the passionately piped ballads, two tracks performed by Sinead O'Connor--"The Dreaming of the Bones" (with music by Spillane and words by O'Connor) and the traditional "Danny Boy."

"I wanted to get Sinead involved in 'Danny Boy,' " says Spillane, "because I had a vision of doing a version that would be very tender, and because we're talking about working on an album of hers done in somewhat the same style.

"But 'The Dreaming of the Bones' was the song that really amazed me. I told Sinead that I had this melody and wanted to see what she could do with it. Then, in the middle of the album, my father died, and she picked up on it, without saying anything to me about it, and wrote these very moving lyrics."

Spillane is well aware of the marketing aspects of the current Irish music boom, but he feels that another motivational factor may be present as well.

"I think it's something very deep," he says, "something that reaches down into what people have needed, historically, for centuries, back to pre-Egyptian times. And maybe now it's Ireland's turn to fulfill that need, to let people know that there is a rich culture there, far beyond the 'Glocca Morra' image."

Lunny, a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in the Irish bouzouki, also has been an enormously successful producer (Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart, Indigo Girls, etc.). Perhaps more than anyone else, Lunny has brought Irish music into the mainstream (U2's Bono refers to him as "the sound man"). But he has done so without losing contact with the music's traditional roots.

His new Blue Note album, "Coolfin," crosses genres easily, bringing a kind of gentle pop sensibility to songs that feature vocals by Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and Hungarian diva Marta Sebestyen.

Bollywood in L.A.: It's no secret that the Indian film industry, largely centered in Bombay (or "Bollywood"), is one of the most prolific in the world. Dominated by musical pictures, it has produced a seemingly endless array of attractive male and female stars for the hundreds of romantic films that pour out of the studios.

Four of those stars make a rare appearance in this country on Sept. 20 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in "Mega Stars 1998." The presentation, one of two scheduled by Super Entertainment (vocal legend Lata Mangeshklar appears at the Universal Amphitheatre on Oct. 4), features Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Juhi Chawla. The names may not be familiar to Western audiences, but their presence in a venue as large as the Sports Arena testifies to the power of their celebrity among Southern California's substantial Indian and Pakistani population. Information: (310) 829-2985.

Global Quick Takes: "World Music at the Warner Grand" opens its inaugural season in October at San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre. The series' five concerts include programs by Cubanismo (Oct. 1), Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano (Dec. 10) and the Irish group Solas (March 18) Information: (310) 833-4813. . . .

A new world beat-oriented label, Siam Records, has been founded by Mike Landy (who has produced or engineered albums by David Bowie, George Benson, Kevin Eubanks, Chick Corea and others). Initial releases, due in October, feature Bakithi Kumalo, bassist on Paul Simon's "Graceland," and a pairing of Steve Khan and Rob Mounsey. . . .

Tumi Records, with its large catalog of Latin American recordings, including releases from Chucho Valdez, Candido Fabre and Orquesta Aragon, as well as dozens of CDs of indigenous music, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a series of new recordings, among them a four-CD boxed set from Orquesta America and the Cuban All Stars.

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