For the past fifteen or so years zither-player and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Cronshaw has been particularly connected with the traditional music of Finland and other Finno-Ugrian countries. Before that, and continuing influences, are the musics of the Scottish highlands, where he lived for some years, and of northern Spain, with which he has been familiar since childhood.
But he returned to English music, albeit viewed from an unusual angle, for his most recent album "Ochre", which was nominated for Album of the Year in the 2005 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, and Cronshaw nominated for "Musician of the Year" in the 2005 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
The group of musicians he assembled to make it - Syrian qanun virtuoso Abdullah Chhadeh, Greek Pontic lyra master Matthaios Tsahourides, Welsh triple harp legend Llio Rhydderch, Arabic diva Natacha Atlas, plus frequent Cronshaw collaborators Ian Blake and Bernard O'Neill, brought their own traditions to bear in a shared exploration of the exoticism of shapely English song tunes.
At the heart of Cronshaw's instrumentation is a 74-string electrified European chord zither, to which he adds other stringed, wind and percussion instruments including fujara (a 180cm long ornately carved Slovakian shepherd's three-hole flute generating shivering breathy harmonics) and ba-wu (a seductive-toned brass-reeded instrument from China).
As a result of his multi-instrumentalism and the need to understand sound technology, quite some time ago he fell into record production, live sound engineering and - finding he could spell - into music journalism (writing mainly for fRoots and the Rough Guide to World Music, but also for Sing Out, The Strad and other mags and books, largely on the musics of northern and eastern Europe and Iberia).
He's made eight solo albums; the last two, "On the Shoulders of the Great Bear" (centred on traditional Finnish runo-music) and "Ochre", are on his own label, Cloud Valley.
There's plenty more about all that on www.andrewcronshaw.com
...but his current obsession is two related projects with Serbian traditional village music:
One is a CD, to be released in early 2008, of a group of wonderful and extraordinarily resilient traditional singers recorded in their village, Zegar, in the rocky hill country of Dalmatia, "ethnically cleansed" during the war of the 1990s and still very depopulated.
The other is a new touring and recording group consisting of great Serbian traditional singer Svetlana Spajic (who's also in the Zegar group and was the prime mover in the recordings there), Armenian duduk master Tigran Aleksanyan, Australian-based multi-instrumentalist Ian Blake, and Cronshaw. This group will be performing worldwide in 2008, and a CD is likely - a CDR of some live tracks is available to promoters on request now.