Vocal Chords – Hear the Voices


Hear some of the sounds of the globe with these clips compiled on the journey exploring the human voice and world music.


Maria Pomianowska

Part of our journey to uncover the phenomenon of the human voice led us to Warsaw and the Cross Culture Festival there. Maria Pomianowska, artistic director of the festival and world renowned multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer sat down to talk to us about her connection to music and the voice. Here is an exclusive personal acapella performance of Maria when we visited her home.



Sutari Live from Warsaw Cross Culture Festival

Sutari are a three piece Polish band who sing and perform traditional folk music, using traditional instruments (violin, basetla and drum) but also making use of everyday objects and explore their potential as musical devices (for instance, a hand mixer, grater, bottles and a wrench). Here’s a clip of their live performance from our visit to the Warsaw Cross Culture Festival


Photo credit: A. Oleksiak

Nobuntu Mpahlaza

Singer Nobuntu Mpahlaza, who played the role of Queenie in Cape Town Opera’s performance of the highly acclaimed musical ‘Showboat’, talked to us about her experience as a singer from South Africa and how singing is a major part of all their celebrations and rituals. Here, she gives us an example of one such ritual and the kind of celebration song they sing.



Treasa Ní Mhiolláin

Iarla and one of the Vocal Chords producers Michael Gallen visited Treasa at her home on the beautiful island of Inis Mór, Co Galway. Here, Treasa a renowned sean nós singer and winner of the sean nós Cois Life award teaches Michael, who is the lead singer with band Ana Gog, the art of sean nós singing.

Photo credit: Iarla Ó’Lionáird


Polina Shepherd’s Singing Workshop

Polina Shepherd is a stunning Yiddish and Russian singer/performer. Polina is also the choir leader of the award-winning Russian Choir, Brighton & Hove since 2007 and The London Yiddish Choir and The London Russian Choir since 2013. Polina plays piano and also teaches workshops in Russian and Yiddish singing and songs. Our Vocal Chords producer Robert Hope met her recently during one of those sessions in Halle (Saale), Germany.



Polina Shepherd on Modes of Yiddish Song

Polina Shepherd is a stunning Yiddish and Russian singer/performer. Polina is also the choir leader of the award-winning Russian Choir, Brighton & Hove since 2007 and The London Yiddish Choir and The London Russian Choir since 2013. Polina plays piano and also teaches workshops in Russian and Yiddish singing and songs. Our Vocal Chords producer Robert Hope met her recently during one of those sessions and here is an exclusive sample from inside one of her private workshops. Polina talks about the modal system of Yiddish song and how to use it in performances.

Photo Credit: © Paul Bogomazov


Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolin

I Fagiolini is a British solo-voice ensemble specialising in Renaissance and contemporary music founded and directed by Robert Hollingworth.
Robert also runs the only full-time solo-voice ensemble course in the world at the University of York and teaches both undergraduate and masters students how to develop and hone the skills of solo-voice ensemble singing in western classical music (sacred and secular).
One of our Vocal Chords producers, Michael Gallen went to visit Robert Hollingworth at the University of York to talk about the voice and the phenomenon of ensemble singing. Here is an exclusive sample from inside a I Fagiolini rehearsal in London which Michael was lucky to attend before they travelled to a performance in America that night.


Photo credit: Eric Richmond, courtesy of Percius


Jaime Jones on the voice in Carnatic and Hindustani cultures

Ethnomusicologist, specialising in North Indian Music, Jaime Jones talks to us about the importance of the voice in Carnatic and Hindustani cultures and even shares with us the unique vocal experience she has while on a trip to India

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jamie Jones


Cwmbach Male Choir

The Cwmbach Male Choir have been a part of the well known the miners choir tradition of Wales from their initial formation in 1921. Based in Aberdare but travelling far and wide to sing, the choir have since won numerous choir competitions and performed with world famous artists such as Patricia Kern, Stuart Burrows and Dame Gwyneth Jones to name a few. The choir in fact also has a long standing and fascinating history with Paul Robeson and sang with him for a concert for Africa Freedom Day in 1960. Recordist Micheal Gallen went to meet the choir and attended one of their concerts.

Photo credit: Lauren Owens Photography


Vocal Chords: Conductor of Cenestra Male Choir sings ‘The Holy City’

Themba Madlopha is a singer, composer, arranger and also the conductor of the Cenestra Male Choir from South Africa. Recordist Michael Gallen went to meet the Cenestra Male Choir during their frequent visits to Wales where they often sing with local Aberdare choir – ‘Cwmbach Male Choir’. Both choirs have a longstanding history together
here’s a clip of Themba singing one of his favourite hymns for Michael – ‘The Holy City’ – Amazingly beautiful and haunting. The power of the voice.


Photo credit: Cwmbach Male Choir/Cenestra Male Choir


Grace Toland of the Irish Traditional Music Archives sings ‘The Four Marys’

Grace Toland is a singer from Inishowen, Co. Donegal and works in the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin. She is also involved in the Inishowen Song project which aims to archive digitally, via books, video, audio, and photographs, the songs and people behind the singing tradition in Inishowen.
Grace tells us about one of her all-time favourite singers Dan Mc Gonigle, who has been a huge influence in her singing life and sings an extract from a song he once sang called ‘The Four Marys’.


Photo credit: Courtesy of the Irish Traditional Music Archive



Anna Maria Hefele on ‘Overtone Singing’

Anna Maria Hefele from Germany is fast becoming one of the most well known and popular overtone singers and her instruction video for overtone singing has over 7 million views. Our Vocal Chords recordist, Robert Hope sat down with Anna Maria and spoke to her about this magnificent vocal technique. In this clip, Anna Maria explains what Overtone singing is, and even gives a sample of how it sounds.



South African Singer Bafana on the Wailing Tradition

South African Singer Bafana Nhlapo was born into singing and music as his father noted member of the famous King Star Brothers. While staying true to his roots by singing mostly in his mother tongue isiZulu, Bafana is also a known wailer, a singing culture which stems back to a form of communication to send messages across mountainous areas. In this clip Bafana gives us a sample of wailing in song and explains where this tradition began.

Photo credit: Goeun Bae © Oslo World Music Festival


Steve Byrne ‘Dig where you stand’

Scots singer and Ardbroath native Steve Byrne talks to us about the importance of staying true to your roots and learning the songs and histories of the places we come from and remember. His mantra ‘Dig where you stand’, is one he adopted from a good friend and fellow singer Francy Devine. That mantra is the theme of this exclusive Vocal Chords teaser where Steve gives us a sample of an Ardbroathian song and explains the value of respecting your culture and passing it to the next generation.

Photo Credit: Ines Mayfarth


Vocal Chords: Ze Luis from Cape Verde

Vocal Chords recordist Robert Hope got a rare and very special opportunity to meet Ze Luis, a musician and singer from Cape Verde. Ze Luis, who released his first album in 2013, began singing as a hobby after he returned to his homeland in 1969 following a long exile. His voice, like Cesária Évora, is a perfect expression of Cape Verdian music and singing style.
Here is a clip from Ze Luis in an impromptu singing demonstration at the Warsaw Cross Culture Music Festival.


Photo Credit: Joe Wuerfel

Niillas Holmberg of Nordic Namgar talks about Sami people and Joik

Niillas Holmberg is a Sami singer from Finland. When he was growing up, Sami people (the indigenous people of Scandanavia) learned to sing as part of their upbringing. Their traditional form of singing is called the Joik and in this clip Nillas explains a little about the song tradition and gives an improvised example.

Photo Credit: Liv Inger Somby/NRK

Elena Bozhkova sings ‘Eleno’

Elena Bozhkova is a bulgarian singer and one of the main soloists of ‘Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares’ (Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices) women’s choir run by conductor Asst. Prof. Dora Hristova. The Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares have worked with producer Marcel Cellier on many albums and have even received a Grammy Award. Elena also runs her own folk choir where Vocal Chords recordist Robert Hope recorded her singing this very beautiful Bulgarian song ‘Eleno’

Photo Credit: Robert Hope

Sinead O’Connor – What singing means to me

Sinead O’Connor is a globally recognised Irish singer-songwriter who is well known for many of her original songs and iconic covers such as Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. Our Vocal Chords presenter Iarla O’Lionaird and recordist Michael Gallen talked to Sinead in her home about music and singing and the significance of it in her life. In this short clip, Sinead describes what singing means to her.

Photo Credit: Iarla Ó Lionáird


Yualarai Woman Nardi Simpson sings and plays the clapsticks

Nardi Simpson, member of Australian band ‘Stiff Gins’ is a Yualarai woman, an indigenous group from the north west of New South Wales in Australia. Vocal Chords recordist Catherine O’Mahony met musician and storyteller Nardi in Sydney where she talks about the flat plains, river and fresh water people of her aboriginal culture and the music that is important to them. In this clip hear Nardi sing a song in her language, with an aboriginal percussion instrument called the clapsticks, about the sacred Opal stone.

Photo Credit: Catherine O’Mahony


Julie Fowlis on Puirt a beul, a Gaelic Song Tradition

Acclaimed Scottish singer Julie Fowlis talks to Vocal Chords presenter Iarla Ó’Lionáird about Scottish/Gaelic singing traditions, where they came from and what they mean to her, as well as giving us an insight into what it was like to perform on the soundtrack of the award winning animated film ‘Brave’. In this short clip, Julie gives Iarla a sample of one such Gaelic singing tradition, Puirt a beul (mouth music), and explains what it is, and how it’s composed.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Amy Millar

The Voice Squad

Gerry Cullen, Phil Callery and Fran McPhail make up the members of the unaccompanied singing ensemble ‘The Voice Squad’. As part of the Vocal Chords journey, we travelled to the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Co. Dublin to hear their incredible 3 part harmonies and repertoire of traditional folk songs. Here is a recording of their LIVE performance of ‘The Rambling Irishman/Lough Erne’

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Amy Millar
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