Robin and Bina Williamson's concert at Pulse Wholefoods in Cardiff

by BardofEly

Robin Williamson came to fame as a founder of the Incredible String Band back at the end of the 1960s and following a solo career he has been working with his wife Bina.

Robin and Bina Williamson play Pulse Wholefoods

I have been a big fan of Incredible String Band founder member Robin Williamson since the sixties and am lucky enough to count him among my friends. I actually worked as his secretary for a few years back at the end of the eighties and had kept in touch whilst I was still living in Cardiff before I moved to Tenerife over five years ago.

It was one of the those magical moments of synchronicity when I discovered that Robin Williamson and his wife Bina would be playing two benefit concerts at Pulse Wholefoods store in Pontcanna in Cardiff. You see I had just published a hub all about Robin and the next day I saw a note at Facebook saying that my friend Jah Scouse was looking forward to seeing Robin and Bina perform on Saturday 4th September.

At first I thought what a shame it was that I couldn't go seeing as I am living in Tenerife, but then I realised that in fact it would be possible because I had booked a flight that would be taking me to Cardiff for a week, and the dates Robin and Bina were playing on were in that week I would be in Wales.

Robin and Bina Williamson in concert at Pulse

Robin and Bina performing
Robin and Bina performing

Robin and Bina Williamson at Pulse Wholefoods reviewed

Robin and Bina live at a Cardiff venue

Having got back to Cardiff I luckily managed to get one of the last tickets to the Sunday concert. The tickets were limited in number and sold out fast. Pulse Wholefoods is a shop not a venue for live performances but this is being changed with the setting up of a new café and stage area.

Of course, because the space inside the shop is limited, this leads to a far more intimate experience for both performers and the audience of around 40 people. Robin and Bina Williamson's set was perfect for the occasion.

I had heard Bina's early efforts as a backing vocalist many years back when she accompanied Robin on some recordings he was doing at the time but I was very pleased to discover that she has become a real professional performer in her own right both as a singer and musician.

Robin and Bina Williamson work together so well on stage because they create a perfect balance of voices that compliment each other, and with both musicians playing various instruments. Robin plays harp, acoustic guitar, mandolin and whistle and Bina accompanied their songs on bowed psaltery, auto-harp and assorted percussion.

Bina Williamson

Bina Williamson plays the bowed psaltery
Bina plays a bowed psaltery
Bina plays a bowed psaltery

Buy Robin Willamson albums

Willow

1988 Virgin release, James Horner's soundtrack to Ron Howard's 1988 fantasy epic starring Val Kilmer and Billy Barty. Eight tracks. George Lucas wrote the story & servedas execu...

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The Seed-At-Zero

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Celtic Harp Airs And Dance Tunes

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Adam and Eve

New songs by Robin Williamson

The songs were all new ones to my ear. There were none of Robin's old songs or any of the Incredible String Band ones but a whole new repertoire that he and Bina had put together that mixed original lyrics and melodies with traditional folk, spirituals, psalms, blues and a large helping of both Celtic and Indian influences. I don't remember the titles of the songs apart from one called Adam and Eve .

Robin's main instruments were very much in use with him mainly playing either the harp or his Taylor acoustic guitar. He also played the mandolin on one song and a very large whistle on another.

Bina explained that she speaks Hindi and Punjabi and both these Asian languages found their place in songs that got sung and played including a Punjabi wedding song with which the couple ended their second set. It was a perfect marriage of the East and West.

Robin Williamson has always been known for his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and ability to absorb and use many ethnic music sources and instruments into his range. The Incredible String Band had been a pioneering folk-rock group that had been one of the first to use the sitar in their recordings. Now all these years later, Bina has brought songs in Asian languages into her performances with Robin, and it seems a natural progression.

In many ways I can see Robin and Bina Williamson's performance together as incorporating the best parts of the Incredible String Band and condensing and distilling it down into a new and unique form of musical creativity.

Best albums by the Incredible String Band

The Incredibles
Original Album Series

5CD set, in card LP replica sleeves. Collects "Incredible String Band" (1966) ; "5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion" (1967) ; "Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" (1968) ; "Wee T...

Warner Bros UK
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U

Conventional wisdom has it that the Incredible String Band had already peaked by the time they released this double-LP soundtrack to their ambitious stage show ("A Surreal Parab...

Collector's Choice
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Hangman's Beautiful Daughter

Digitally remastered edition of this 1968 album from the British Folk outfit. Credited with being the first artists to fuse Folk and Psychedelic sensibilities, the Incredible St...

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Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011 title In the late 1960s, with popular culture hurtling forward on the sounds of rock music, some brave musicians looked back instead, tr...

Faber & Faber
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Mike Heron

The other main founder member of the Incredible String Band

The Incredible String Band were known for their eclectic influences and instrumentation as well as the blend and contrast of the vocals of Robin Williamson, Mike Heron, Licorice "Likki" McKechnie and Rose Simpson. The Incredible String Band also included the sitar and elements of Asian music into their compositions.

Once again we have the eclecticism, the male and female vocals and an array of musical instruments, as well as the balance and contrast of the East and West.

Robin told jokes and his talent as a storyteller came to the front in introductions to songs and between song banter, whilst Bina encouraged audience participation with singing, clapping along, and in one number she encouraged us to "go wild." We sang along,clapped and stomped our feet but there really wasn't enough room to go any wilder than that.

One song I remember joining in with had a chorus line of "hold me in the blood of Jesus." At times it felt a bit like songs at a religious revival meeting but for no particular faith or pathway. Robin and Bina Williamson transcend the dogma of religions with songs that celebrate the real mystery of life and the joy of living.

Buy albums by Mike Heron

The other half of the Incredible String Band songwriting team
The Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions: Mike Heron & Trembling Bells

Delphonic Records  / Only $2.97

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The Glen Row Tapes

Quadrant Records  / Only $26.73

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The Glen Row Tapes

Quadrant Records  / Only $24.99

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Robin and Bina Williamson on stage at Pulse Wholefoods

Robin and Bina playing in Cardiff
Robin Williamson and wife Bina in concert
Robin Williamson and wife Bina in con...

Robin and Bina Williamson - Sunny Side of Life

Robin and Bina in concert

And finally

Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant

At the end of the second set and encore Robin explained that the performances that he and Bina had made at Pulse Wholefoods were intended not only to show their personal support for the place and to raise funds for the shop but also to open the door for the future use of the space in this way. Acoustic performers, poets and storytellers will be able to appear there and Pulse will be much more than simply a shop. It will be a performance space and mini-arts centre. It already has paintings on display on the wall.

Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant has said of Robin and Bina Williamson: "What Robin and Bina do is pure beauty through simplicity." I would agree with him on that.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Buy albums and songs by Robin Williamson

Songs and music by Robin Williamson
Just Like The River And Other Songs For Guitar

Quadrant Records
Only $10.49

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The Iron Stone

ECM
Only $11.49

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Robin Williamson website

Official site for Robin and Bina Williamson

Pigs Whisker Music
Pig's Whisker Music - The Official Website for Robin and Bina

Updated: 10/04/2015, BardofEly
 
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