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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Eastern spice appeals to Kennedy
Aston Villa fan Nigel Kennedy
Kennedy has a reputation as the rebel of classical music
Violinist Nigel Kennedy's version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons is the best-selling classical record of all time.

But his latest album is another shift away from the classical music with which the violinist is normally associated.

Having already re-interpreted music from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, East Meets East is a further musical experiment.

The record is a performance with a trio of Polish musicians named Kroke, and is a combination of Jewish, folk and gypsy rhythms and medleys form the Arab and Eastern European worlds.

"It was a very fortuitous meeting I had with Kroke - who are just this trio, with just a squeezebox, bass and viola," Kennedy told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"It's a really spiritual sound they make.

"It sounds like an orchestra, and it's just these three guys playing."

Musical leaps

Kennedy said that he had wanted to make a record with Kroke after hearing their ability to tap into human emotions with their music.

The tone of the record at times leaps from desperate sadness to extreme joy.

Nigel Kennedy
You're speaking this language which was formed 200 years ago, but a language which is still fresh
Nigel Kennedy
"What drags me into Kroke's music so successfully is this spiritual reality they have," Kennedy stated.

"It's honesty and sincerity in their music."

He added that this had meant they had been able to produce a stripped down sound that nevertheless flowed with expression.

"Something we were all looking for was not to clutter the music up, and to just go for the honesty of the melody and let things speak for themselves," Kennedy said.

He also stated that he had found it refreshing to work with a small group rather than a whole orchestra.

"With Kroke, they're a unit, and they're a very strong band - it's not like you're having to lead all the time.

"We're swapping ideas, either verbally, but most of the time just musically.

"It's a very fine, healthy, equal relationship."

'Boring' boy bands

In a way, East Meets East - which, among others also features famed Arabic singer Natasha Atlas - is reflective of Kennedy's career, which has seen him experiment with so many types of music.

And Kennedy himself attacked current musical trends, saying they were vastly unadventurous.

"It might seem slightly anachronistic in today's musical world, but I'm very much into that kind of 60's feel, that music is an unexplored journey, and not into this kind of 2003 philosophy that music's got to be something that satisfies everyone's preconceptions," he said.

Westlife, whose cover of Seasons In The Sun was the Number One record in Britain at the turn of the Millennium
Kennedy attacked both boy bands and the proliferation of cover versions
"I think that's so boring.

"One boy band are singing exactly like the last one, and no-one can be bothered with a song they've never heard before."

He stressed his philosophy towards music was fundamentally different.

"My idea about music and the musicians I hang out with, is that we're going to open something up for any prospective audience who wants to come and listen or buy a CD.

"They're going to find emotions and feelings that they might never have had before."

He also got frustrated by being categorised by critics as a classical artist - and consequently derided when he performed pieces other than classical works, he added.

"They always treat me like a naughty boy for doing this - the type of music that I shouldn't be doing," Kennedy said.

"The reaction I get is - 'That's guy plays classical music, he shouldn't be doing the other thing, that other awful music - who does he think he is?'"

Return to Vivaldi

He said that for him, musical genres meant very little, which was why he was able to connect up so many different projects.

"I'd prefer to go into a record shop and find: Sad - Nick Cave, Mahler, and then Happy - Vivaldi, The Byrds," he said.

"It would be better to divide it up that way, if you have to divide things up at all."

Kennedy is to return to Vivaldi for his next record
However, Kennedy added he still very much enjoyed performing classical works - indeed, his next record will see a return to the name that made him famous with Vivaldi - The Album.

"It's almost like time travel in a way," Kennedy said of his classical performances.

"What is striking about these classical composers is that the language is still pertinent, and alive and vital now, 200 years after these guys have died.

"A lot of mediocre composers have been entirely forgotten, and rightly so, but some of these guys, they're just vivid.

"Vivaldi's one of these guys, Bach is another - and you're speaking this language which was formed 200 years ago, but a language which is still fresh."

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