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Transglobal Underground and our European Friends - A Gathering of Strangers 2021



We listen to a reimagined version of the 2010 release by Transglobal Underground, A Gathering of Strangers.

A little more than a decade ago Transglobal Underground main men Tim Whelan and Hamid Mantu traveled through Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Ireland, England, Poland, Hungary and Denmark in search of traditional songs about migration and how they related to the current time. What they found was released as A Gathering of Strangers in 2010; here the pair present the original 10 songs from that album in remixed or reimagined form. Many of the songs are not sung in English but the emotion of displacement is palpable, like on the folk-meets-soft-electronica of "I Left My Sweet Homeland" with featured vocalist Nori Kovacs. The translations of some lyrics would be a bit humorous if they were not about human despair; the lyrics to the Middle Eastern-flavored folk song "Hey You Shepherd" include the line "Fire swallowed all the village, damned camels!" "When You Hear Me Sing" with featured vocalist Eugenia Georgieva is about missing a husband who is working overseas; the song is haunting as Georgieva's vocals are filled with aching, perhaps even with fear that her spouse may not return. Stuart Staples takes the microphone and sings in English for "The Miner's Dream of Home," a self-explanatory cut that plays out over a circus-like melody. Not to be confused with the U2 song of the same name, old Irish folk song "Van Dieman's Land" is also sung in English; the cut bemoans a forced movement of certain people to Van Dieman's Land (the old name for Tasmania, Australia), a penal colony where English convicts were sent. Martin Furey and Bourama Badji are the vocalists on the cut, portraying how memories of loved ones back home sometimes come alive in dreams. The modern arrangement of the song, including some rapping, leaves only traces of the traditional original intact. "I Have Sold My Fields" is sung in Polish by the Village Kollectiv and Mantu and Whelan turn the song into a buoyant pop cut where the female vocals are extremely catchy; the cut could easily feature on alternative radio stations as well as global music stations. Whelan and Mantu remain hopeful that these songs will educate the populace, especially Europeans, piquing interest in something that should be natural and not a source of social ills. At the very least there is a lot of great music here.

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