Treelan is a trio made up of three extraordinarily talented, versatile and chilled-out musicians: Éamonn Cagney on percussion (djembe etc.), Martin Tourish on piano accordion and Niwel Tsumbu on guitar (acoustic, mostly), some percussion and chanting. Éamonn and Niwel have been working together since 2004 and have recorded a number of times together. Martin, TG4 Young musician of the year 2008, began working with Éamonn and Niwel in 2009 as part of Cagney’s Convergence Ensemble.
With a view to finding ground where “world music”, Irish traditional music and African rhythm could grow together, the three musicians stole themselves away for a week last year, under an Arts Council Deis award, with the sole aim of making new music together, facing each other across a room in a triangle of enthusiasm, openness and creativity. (The process was documented online in a series of video blogs shot by videographer Colm Walsh.) What comes across is how, starting out from the pre-composed aspects of the music their development as full pieces involved considerable improvising.
With characteristic self-deprecation, Martin had this to say about the experience:
Experiencing these guys play music and their compositions turns a lot of the way I was brought up thinking on its head, which is the best thing you could hope for [in such a process]. One of the biggest realisations for me was [how] you can have both the technical side and the spirit side together to such an extraordinary level.
And, having seen them live recently in a double-bill gig with Ensemble Ériu in Whelan’s, I am delighted to say the resulting music retains that beautiful in-the-moment feel to it, there’s confidence in the shape of the pieces, there’s fireworks in the solo playing of all three, and even though they are now facing an audience rather than each other they continue to communicate brilliantly on the stage.
With Cagney central to the dynamic and writing most of the base material, the music has rhythms at its heart, but there is a wide range of moods in it from contemplative and moody to groove-driven and free. The writing is very strong in both the pieces that seem to have started out in melody and those that were born from beats. One of Niwel’s compositions was inspired after hearing and being “blown away” by Iarla Ó Lionaird. I think he calls it ‘Kind of Sean-nós’, and it’s a really beautiful and engaging piece even on first hearing, and in turn inspired Martin to write a rich and satisfying “kind of jig” to go with it.
They have been chosen for inclusion in a very special Kaleidoscope night next Thursday at the Sugar Club to mark five years of the salon, alongside The Robinson Panoramic Quartet, Ergodos musicians and the Gregory Walkers.