Aniar (pronounced “A – Near”) means “from the west”. It also means and exciting new band from the South West of Victoria, Australia. Aniar perform traditional Celtic tunes with new arrangements and a modern feel.
They also bring a variety of original tunes that immerse the listener in personal stories and social comment.
Aniar feature the beautiful and haunting vocal of Gemma Belfrage, the exciting flute playing of Airlie Tait, and a driving rhythm section (Don Stewart – guitar and bouzouki, Andrew Hallett – acoustic bass, Gemma Belfrage – djembe). Aniar can have you dancing in the aisles one minute and shedding a tear the next.
Aniar – Shoot the Sky
CD review by Tony Smith
TN440-2 – $25
TN157 Aug 23
This album of 12 tracks has a Celtic flavour but with some distinctly Australian features.
The songs that are originals are mainly the work of Don Stewart, who also produced, recorded and mixed the tracks.
While Stewart wrote words and music to most of the songs, on one track he used lyrics by W.B. Yeats.
With Stewart (guitar, Celtic bouzouki, vocals) are Gemma Belfrage (djembe, vocals, percussion), Andrew Hallett (acoustic bass guitar, vocals) and Airlie Tait (flute).
Don Blair added small pipes to ‘When the Ducks Arrive’ and bagpipes to ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’.
The traditional tracks include slip jigs (Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight/ The Kid on the Mountain/ Caitlin NiAedha/ the Butterfly/ Disused Railway/ Comb Your Hair and Cut It), reels (Forfar Hunt/ Sally Kelly/ Comely Garden), polkas (Ballydesmond #2,/ Maggie in the Woods/ Ballydesmond #3) and hornpipes (From Galway to Dublin Town/ The Wicklow/ Poll Ha’penny).
Mostly, these tunes are carried by Airlie’s exceptional flute playing.
Some have the expected traditional rhythms, while in others, the guitar backings give a slightly jazz-like interpretation.
The songs for which Stewart wrote words and music are ‘My Country’, ‘Monday Night in Edenhope’, ‘Shoot the Sky’ and ‘When the Ducks Arrive’. ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ is the Yeats poem set to music by Stewart.
Andrew Hallet wrote words for the ‘Forfar Hunt’ and Stewart set the words of G. Hancock to music in ‘Bird of Ending Laughs’.
The songs mostly tell modern stories and are mainly literal, but they evoke some fine Australian images, especially where exploring the notion of belonging.
Stewart’s love for the land is obvious in his yearning to belong and in his ability to learn from the inhabitants.
He asks: “Where is the ground that I belong?
“What language must I speak?
“What culture must I know?”
Meanwhile, Gemma gives her voice an ethereal quality which is a good fit for the Yeats verse and adapts it to an Australian setting.
Overall, the album has a good balance between songs and instrumentals.