Sandgate Town Hall was set alight with captivating performances by Scott Cook, The Poozies and Maru Tarang as part of the second day of the annual Music By The Sea Festival (January 8th – 10th 2016).
A precursor to their monthly concert series, Music By The Sea’s annual world music festival has been delighting residents of the local area with an array of musical selections set to satisfy even the fussiest listener for the past 14 years. This year’s event, which included artists of national and international repute, was no different.
This festival was my first introduction to Canadian folk singer and storyteller Scott Cook, and honestly I didn’t really know what to expect, especially when he appeared on stage looking more at home on the beach than performing to a packed crowd in the historic town hall on Saturday afternoon. But once he stepped up to the microphone, I was captivated by majesty of his storytelling, as he weaved together tales of life on the road to missed chances and losing those you love.
There were many highlights of Cook’s performance but Pass It Along, which took out the 2013 UK Songwriting Contest in the Acoustic and Folk Category, Use Your Imagination and Go On, Ray were standouts for me. Certainly this is an artist I will be looking out for in the future, as well as exploring his back catalogue of albums.
The conclusion of Cook’s set brought a change of pace for festival goers, with an appearance by UK folk group, The Poozies, who entertained the audience with their unique combination of the accordion (played by Mairearad Green), fiddle (Eilidh Shaw), acoustic guitar and harp (played by founding members Sally Baker and Mary Macmaster respectively). From the moment this quartet began to sing – their version of a Gallic composition from their homeland – we knew we were in for something entirely different.
Though some of these more obscure tunes didn’t really stand out for me, there was no doubt that they were popular with other audience members, with rousing renditions of Black Eyed Susans, and a set of polka tunes. My personal favourites came in the form of Southern Cross, the tale of a pirate and his love of the sea, Ghost Girl and their rendition of The Bee Gees To Love Somebody, where The Poozies own 2014 The Voice UK finalist (Baker) took the lead in a song specifically chosen for her by mentor Sir Tom Jones.

My experience at the Music By The Sea Festival was topped off with a lesson in fusion of cultures, with an enthusiastic performance by Maru Tarang. Having seen Jeff Lang slay the slide and acoustic guitar at one of Music By The Sea’s monthly concerts last year, I was eager to see what this alliance would have in store for me, and I was certainly surprised. Maru Tarang is a band whose members come from different backgrounds, inspired by both the traditional songs of Rajasthan and Australian blues and roots.
Though this unique collaboration takes a bit of getting used to, especially for those unfamiliar with the more traditional songs played by the group, they certainly impressed concertgoers with their obvious love of their respective instruments and the music they were playing. Particular highlights for me were the group’s version of one of Lang’s originals Two Worlds. While the song is fantastic when played by Lang alone, the involvement of the other band members leads to the song feeling somewhat fuller than the original version. Definitely an unusual take on a track I love.
The thing I was most taken by in Maru Tarang’s set was not only the skill of the band as they worked as a unit, but their individual talent, which makes it hard to find highlights among the songs on offer. Bobby Singh especially pounded the tabla which I have never seen before, duelling with both Bhungar Manganiyar on khartal, Asin Langa on Sindhi sarangi (and vocals), as well as their special guest, percussionist Ben Walsh, who joined them for the last song. This was a definite highlight of their show, if only for the enthusiasm of the band members and their guests.
As a whole, Music By The Sea Festival is a showcase of diverse musical leanings, shining a light on those underrated artists who are worthy of more time in the sun. If this year’s acts are anything to go by, organisers of the concert series are in for a stellar year.
Music By The Sea’s Concert Series kicks off on February 6th 2016, with legendary entertainer, Eric Bogle. On February 20th 2016, jazz band The Necks will perform in celebration their 30th anniversary. To find out more about either of these upcoming events, visit .

Written by Jackie Smith

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