Varo are singers and fiddle players Lucie Azconaga (from France) and Consuelo Nerea Breschi (from Italy) who perform Irish traditional songs and tunes with arrangement influences from the Folk, Baroque and Classical traditions, weaving around the melodies with harmonies, drones and countermelody. The duo met in 2015 having moved to Dublin to pursue their love for Irish traditional music, and immediately started a fruitful collaboration. They travelled to Ireland along different musical paths, Lucie from jazz, classical music, and French folk, Consuelo from Irish trad, folk, and world music.
The duo released their debut self-titled album earlier in January of this year, garnering praises from critics across Ireland and the UK, with The Irish Times describing the record as “delicious austerity of the baroque intertwined with the current Dublin traditional music scene”, Hot Press saying “Varo do magic things to traditional tunes […] is it too soon to talk about albums of the year?”, and Folk Radio UK stating “It is an exciting time for Irish folk music, and Varo’s accomplished debut should position them at the forefront of the scene.”
Today, they have shared a new video for a traditional song featured on their album, ‘Streets of Forbes’.
Varo tell us the backstory of this tune:
“We learned this Australian Folk song from June Tabor’s album ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ (Topic 12TS360). It tells the tragic story of Ben Hall, a farmer who was welcoming to bushrangers by providing them with food and a place to sleep when needed.
When the police heard of this, they arrested Ben Hall and while in jail, they burned his house down. When Ben got out of prison, he was made homeless. Left with nothing, he became one of the most well-known and beloved Australian bushrangers of the 19th century, until he was shot dead by police in 1865. It is believed that the lyrics may have been written by Ben’s brother-in-law John McGuire, who witnessed Ben’s corpse being paraded by police through the Streets of Forbes.
When we first heard this song we were immediately struck by the vivid imagery portrayed by the lyrics.
We’re particularly interested in these traditional songs, denouncing injustices from centuries ago but still somehow relevant today.
We were very moved by what happens to this man, whose home is stolen and destroyed, as well as by the police brutality described in it, especially when looking at current stories and analogies that can be made throughout these events that happened 150 years ago and what you can see in the news today.
As the song is about the last few days of his life, telling how he was planning an escape to a better life but ends up going slowly towards his own death, when arranging it, we went for something quite atmospheric and slow to emphasize the dramatic journey of the story. We added an instrumental part with vocal hummings as he falls asleep thinking he’s about to sail away but wakes up to the guns of the police.”
‘Streets of Forbes’ is track 6 on Varo’s debut album released January 2020, recorded by Christopher Barry (Ye Vagabonds, Junior Brother) from Ailfionn Studio, and mixed by John Spud Murphy (Lankum, Landless, Crash Ensemble) from Guerrilla Sounds.
Listen/buy the album at at: https://varodublin.bandcamp.com/album/varo
VARO have recently launched a fundraising campaign for an ambitious collaboration project, which will culminate in a series of live music videos, and a new album, featuring 12 of Ireland’s most exciting and exceptionally talented traditional and folk musicians on the scene: Ian Lynch (Lankum), Anna Mieke, Junior Brother, Landless, John Francis Flynn, Niamh Bury, Branwen, Slow Moving Clouds, Inni K, Alfi, Cormac Mac Diarmada (Lankum) & Ruth Clinton, Lemoncello. Support the project at https://www.varodublin.com/collaboration-project