Beijing-based Blackwater joined us on Saturday for a rousing gig with gigs, reels and more. With Desmond McGarry (vocals), Daniel Brustman (guitar), Zoe Wang (accordion) and Nico Torrese (tenor banjo and mandolin).
Before the event, guitarist Daniel Brustman spoke with us about
Who is Blackwater? Can you tell us more about the members of the group?
The four members of Blackwater come from four different countries. Our singer Desmond McGarry is Irish. Nico Torrese, who plays banjo and mandolin, comes from France. Our accordionist Zoe Wang is Chinese. I am from the United States. We all met each other here in Beijing.
With such an international group, how did you meet?
Nico, Zoe and I have played together in the group No Name Trio for many years. The two of them used to have an Irish instrumental group called the Dublingers. Around the same time, Desmond led Irish jam sessions around town. It seemed only natural to merge the two. They invited me along.
How do you pick which music to play?
Desmond has an encyclopedic knowledge of Irish music; he grew up around it. Usually, he comes to us with the songs he’d like to sing and we make an arrangement together.
What is Blackwater known for and how do you find Beijing audiences?
As far as I know, Blackwater is the only traditional Irish group inChina. We’ve had a pretty good reaction from audiences so far. Even when people can’t understand the lyrics, they seem to respond to the music. I chalk that up to the timelessness of folk melodies. These songs have been passed down generation to generation for hundreds of years, by musicians who did not necessarily have a way to precisely notate them. Over time, only the catchiest and most intuitive songs survived. These melodies were distilled to their essence in an almost Darwinian process.