FolkWorld #76 11/2021
© Jane Brace PR

The Rhythms of Migration

Eliza Marshall

»Think Afro-Celts, Riverdance, maybe even the Grit Orchestra - this is folk on a grand scale, in that vibe between Celtic and Eastern, drawing on jazz and classical...« (Alex Monaghan)

Artist Video

Ranagri, 2018

Artist Video Ranagri @ FROG

Eliza Marshall spearheads a migratory musical odyssey. Eight top-flight folk, classical and world music artists weave a spellbinding cinematic soundtrack to an ever-topical story.

A swallow awakens in Africa, its journey northwards knows no borders.
A green shoot bursts from the ground, reaching upwards towards the sky.
A child leaves home, seeking safer shores.
The rhythms of migration have no boundaries.
Freedom to roam is nature.
Our humanity, wildlife and biodiversity undeniably interconnected.

Eliza Marshall

"Freedom to Roam: The Rhythms of Migration", Goatskin Records, 2021 (

Migration has and always will be with us – whether the enforced migration of people or the seasonal migration of creatures. Humanity and the animal kingdom are capable of making astounding journeys and sacrifices in a bid to find safety, freedom or greener grass.

But how do you reflect that shifting story in music? In The Rhythms of Migration an octet of top-flight folk, classical and world music exponents pool their talents at a global watering hole to create an outstanding cinematic soundtrack alive with motion - charting both the harshness and euphoria of migration coupled with compassion and hope for a sustainable planet Earth. Beautifully crafted, its 14 all-original tracks create an immersive, hour-long sensory experience, traversing themes from climate change to conflict, empathy and displacement.

The inspirational, thought-provoking album is spawned from the humanitarian/environmental Freedom to Roam project - the brainchild of classically-trained Eliza Marshall, flautist in the acclaimed Anglo-Irish alt-folk band Ranagri, who is also currently principal flute player in The Lion King in London’s West End. Eliza has an enviable pedigree having worked with the likes of Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, the Divine Comedy and Peter Gabriel and featured as a soloist on numerous film soundtracks from The Lord of the Rings, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Great Gatsby and David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. Her haunting flutes, whistles and Indian bansuri underpin this captivating release.

It is a project originally conceived during a visit to the Isle of Coll in the Outer Hebrides but born out of COVID lockdown and lost freedoms. Says Eliza: “Little did I know how poignant the Freedom to Roam title would become with the pandemic. Being unable to perform one’s job was really difficult and led to questions of ‘What can I offer?’ ‘What can I do?’ As musicians we learned to use new tools and began to work in completely different ways. Collaborating across the internet when we were unable to gather together in recording studios demonstrated that online there are literally no borders.”

“I wanted to join the dots between the free migration we see in the natural world and the increasing difficulty faced by many who would like to move across borders to better their lives. In its broadest sense I hope it might inspire people to each do something to redress the balance of what we’ve done to our planet. I have been amazed and humbled by the support of so many to help get Freedom to Roam off the ground. This album is the starting point of an all-encompassing project that aims to help change our understanding of nature, wildness and our pivotal role in the future of life on this planet.”

Eliza gathered some exceptional musicians to fulfil the album which sees folk meeting classical, melding African, Celtic and Indian musical influences. The album is enriched by the exquisite playing of Welsh harpist Catrin Finch. Add to the mix the string players - Jackie Shave of the Britten Sinfonia on fiddle, Lydia Lowndes-Northcott on viola and the distinctive Robert Irvine on cello - and you already have something special, further enhanced by the brushstrokes of percussionist Joby Burgess, the haunting vocals of Dónal Rogers and the tablas of Kenyan-born Kuljit Bhamra, a pioneer of the British Bhangra sound.

The Artists joining Eliza Marshall

Catrin Finch - Harp

Former Royal harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales, Catrin is one of the most accomplished harpists of her generation. Her signature harp renditions of Bach’s Goldberg Variations entered the UK Classical charts at number 1. She hit the top spot again with Blessing, her collaboration with composer John Rutter, while in 2019, together with Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita she won the Best Duo title at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. She says: “When Eliza approached me I immediately jumped at the chance as I thought it was something we all needed. Suddenly there was time to think, be inspired and to create.  We could turn to nature, think about how to care more fully for the planet.  I was inspired by the themes of openness and freedom at the heart of this project and to work with these wonderful musicians.”

Seckou Keita, Catrin Finch

Artist Video Catrin Finch @ FROG

Lydia Lowndes-Northcott - Viola

Lydia has worked with the London Sinfonietta, BBC Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, English National Opera, BT Scottish Ensemble, the John Wilson Orchestra, and appeared as guest principal with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. A full time member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 2007-2009, she is now a regular with the English Chamber Orchestra.

Jackie Shave – Violin

Jackie regularly guests with the London Sinfonietta and has guest-led most of the London orchestras as well as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. She is the leader of The Barbican-based Britten Sinfonia and Red Note Ensemble(Glasgow) and has just launched the Chamber Orchestra of the West of which she is director. She has collaborated with many Indian musicians and composed for various ensembles over the years.

Kuljit Bhamra MBE – Tablas

One of the most inspiring musicians in the British Asian music scene, producing over 2000 songs and responsible for the rise to fame of numerous Bhangra and Bollywood stars. Best known as one of the British Bhangra pioneers and for multiple collaborations with musicians from different genres and continents. “I’m very excited by this project and what it is asking us about freedom. What is freedom?  What does it mean to be free? It’s an important question. The music that Eliza has put together will inspire people to look deeply at that question”

Dónal Rogers – Guitars

Dónal’s lifelong love of folk music and traditional Irish folk songs can often be found woven into his compositions. Well known for “The Great Irish Songbook” recordings with Tony Christie and alt folk ban Ranagri, Dónal is a sought after multi-instrumentalist and writing collaborator.

Robert Irvine - Cello

Kuljit Bhamra

Artist Video Kuljit Bhamra @ FROG

Robert performs as a solo cellist and recitalist with both piano and guitar. He is a member of the Da Vinci piano trio and the Kyle Quartet.  Recipient of the BASCA composer award, Robert also won Best Recorded New Work for his album Songs and Lullabies and New Music Performers of the Year for his work with Red Note Ensemble.

Joby Burgess - Percussion

One of Britain’s most diverse percussionists, Joby works as a soloist, chamber and session musician. Best known for his virtuosic performances, daring collaborations, extensive education and seasoned recording work, he regularly appears throughout Europe, the USA and beyond. 

The album transfixes as it transits different moods and tempos from a shimmering, expectant new dawn in Awakenings to the percussive title track, the mournful viola-laced Arctic Lament, the soaring fiddle and electric guitar of Freedom, the echoing dreamscape of A Quiet Place, the joyous long awaited pitter-patter of raindrops and birdsong on Rain Coming and the magical melee of Green Shoots and Galaxies. The discordant and jarring Brutal gives way to the pacey flight of Run Wild, the climactic Seekers and the final jubilant ‘big sky’ number Coming Home.

Recorded at Wales’s legendary Rockfield Studios, the composing honours are shared between Marshall, Finch, Shave and Rogers while producer Andrew Morgan provided additional percussion and synth and Evan Carson features on additional bodhran.

Championed by celebrated actress and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna (known for her work with the Born Free Foundation which she founded with late husband Bill Travers), the album is part of a triptych that also includes a documentary by multi award–winning director Nicholas Jones (A Greenlander, You Are Here) and an album launch concert, hosted by (and in aid of) the Born Free Foundation at London’s Cecil Sharp House on December 18. This will be followed by a spring 2022 tour.

“This crisis we are in, which eventually we will come out of, will leave us in a very different mental and emotional state. I want it to change more than our lives, the human lives; I want it to change the way we look at animals' lives in captivity. And I hope -most sincerely and fervently -we feel differently about the confinement of wild creatures, in circuses and zoos, because they are in prison for life. They will never walk out of the cage, as I can walk out into my garden, and that’s a responsibility of ours to put right” – Virginia McKenna, MBE

Photo Credits: (1) Eliza Marshall, (2) Freedom to Roam: The Rhythms of Migration, (3) Ranagri, (5) Kuljit Bhamra (unknown/website); (4) Catrin Finch, (by The Mollis).

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