Kíla, a band with a mutable line-up around the core of the Ó Snodaigh family has been around since the late 80s, with a prodigious output of band and offshoot projects over that time. Last year, the band released a live album, Beo/Alive to include some of their less-performed tracks and Pota Óir (Pot of Gold) is its accompanying DVD. Shot in atmospheric black and white by director Anthony White (a stylist in the mould of the great Anton Corbijn), it intercuts band talking heads with live and backstage footage.
Mercifully, that’s about where any relationship to a bog-standard music DVD ends. A faintly sinister opening section with a droning musical track over choppy edits of band members, like an outtake from a ‘found footage’ horror film, invites the bold viewer in. Kílaland is then gradually revealed as a curious, liminal place of tall tales and shifting perspectives, where even the band’s name is open to conjecture.
Right from the first track, ‘Matatu’, Rónán Ó Snodaigh seizes the eye with his intense physicality, ferociously pacing the stage with his bodhrán. Standing like a flamingo in ‘Pota Óir’ or brooding on his knees in the beautiful ‘Babymouse’ (Dee Armstrong’s stunning melody paired with Colm Ó Snodaigh’s tender lyrics), he’s a truly elemental presence.
There’s no real conscious ‘showmanship’ here, just a breathtaking intensity of performance between musicians working it out in real time. Guest vocalist, Polish singer Kayah, adds a rich throatiness to the intricate ‘Seo Mo Leaba /Am Reel’ as different parts and musical lines cross and intersect in a constant dynamic flowing stream. The band’s influences are prolific: there’s a jazz looseness, there’s funk in the bassline, soul and rap in the vocals, there are world influences from Africa to the Middle East – everything gets caught up in the Kíla tornado.
The film really captures the idea of music being a living entity, from its origins and gestation into a working piece, to feeding off the audience in order to attain spontaneity and transcendence in performance.
‘Raise The Road’, a rare song in English and a guide to growing up, features the line “don’t be afraid, be courageous and shine”. Sung largely a cappella, it’s a goose-bumpy moment but it also seems to sum up the band’s philosophy. There’s a casual bravery in their risk-taking, their willingness for things to be imperfect or under-rehearsed, as long as they create an energy. Kíla, then, is not so much a band, more an unstoppable force, cheerfully straddling chaos in order to craft magic.
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Artists’ website: www.kila.ie
‘The Derry Tune’: