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Arborea: Tiny Desk Concert

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16 min 11 sec

May 17, 2012 While clearly rooted in acoustic traditions, the folk music of Arborea stands out for its calm beauty and rough edges. The duo incorporates harmonium, electric guitars played with an EBow, and a Ban-Jammer — a hybrid instrument that's part banjo, part mountain dulcimer.

I discovered Arborea amid a sea of 1,300 songs that I heard in preparation for South by Southwest. The music stood out for its calm beauty, its rough edges, and the duo's ability to speak eloquently of life's precious moments, about the sea, and about wonder.

Shanti and Buck Curran came to NPR with their two children, their guitars, a harmonium, and a Ban-Jammer — a sweet little hybrid that's part banjo, part mountain dulcimer. And, while their music is clearly rooted in acoustic and folk traditions, Arborea's songs can roar with an electric guitar, sustained indefinitely courtesy of an electromagnetic device known as an EBow.

I first heard the duo perform at St. David's Bethel Hall in Austin during this year's South by Southwest music festival. That gorgeous church was the best imaginable place to hear this music, short of a visit to the couple's cabin in the western mountains of Maine. Unfortunately, only a small number of people attended that St. David's show — maybe 40 or so — but a large percentage I recognized as music writers and DJs who were fortunate enough to know not to miss Arborea.

It's always special to hear musicians play to the space they're in. The Currans are not only superb players, and Shanti Curran a lovely singer, but, as this Tiny Desk Concert indicates, they're equally good listeners — always in tune with their surroundings.

Set List:
  • "Song For Obol"
  • "Forewarned"
  • "A Little Time"
Credits:

Producer and Editor: Bob Boilen; Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Doriane Raiman/NPR

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