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THE ROWAN TREE - Kolar’s Gold 

THE ROWAN TREE - Kolar’s Gold 
Private Label 

For some, Chicken Tikka Masala is a rare dish. Kolar’s Gold is a musical masala that delivers in every way. Fusion music has a chequered history, sometimes a joy and sometimes a cacophony; in this case a joy from start to finish!

The Rowan Tree is a group of five musicians based in Cornwall and since the band’s inception three years ago, it has burst upon the international folk scene like a flavoursome musical fusion of tandoor and pasty. However, to label the work as ‘fusion’ does not do this project justice. It is well known that Cornish miners have been poached for centuries to work the mines of the world, sometimes necessity was the allure, and sometimes fiscal gain. This periodic exodus has been well documented, but I suspect Cornish miners working in the Kolar Gold Fields of Bangalore, India, is an area ripe for future study. In some respects, Kolar’s Gold is a musical documentary album that traces the human emotion and pain of separation, the joy of reunion, the excitement of embracing new cultures, and proud achievement.

I particularly like the manner in which the music develops throughout the album. To begin with, a Celtic quality infuses the texture of the music, naturally enough. As the CD gathers pace and momentum, more and more Indian musical references are introduced, melding into an organic vibrant sound. The inclusion of 10,000 Miles is apt, but is particularly striking in its treatment. With so many covers of this song, it is difficult to make an impact, but splitting the vocal line from ‘miner’ to ‘wife’ and adding the renowned Camborne Town Band is moving and inspirational. One And All was first sung in 1883, but I suspect far removed from this version, with Indian drumming and singing style, and yet there is also room in the arrangement for a penny whistle. If you close your eyes and open your mind you are transported from Cornwall to India - very clever!

This is a very successful album that brings together the spice of India and the ‘Stargazey pie’ of Cornwall, with a touch of cream tea thrown in, jam followed by cream of course!

John Oke Bartlett


This review appeared in Issue 134 of The Living Tradition magazine