When I was a 14 year old (and very “gothic” at the time) I stumbled across “celtic” music by accident. I fell in love with the pure sound of the music, the mystical atmosphere, the connection to Nature, and the image of a magical place called Ireland. It was a form of escapism from the very non-mystical landscape of my hometown Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
One of the “pagan folk” bands I listened to, Omnia, mentioned the music of Anúna. As soon as I heard the first song (I believe it was “Fionnghuala”) I was immediately sold. I spent the next weeks listening to almost every Anúna song ever made, analysing every detail. The drones, the haunting melodies, the harmonies, the rhythm, and how every song seemed to be both complex and simple at the same time.
Although I wasn’t a singer myself, I attended one of the group’s vocal workshops in the Netherlands. I loved the sense of singing ‘together as one’, and the lack of a conductor meant that the singers needed to interact with each other like members of a band would.
After the workshop I was asked to join Anúna, which felt like a dream come true but also the scariest thing I’d ever done. All the way through my first tour in the Netherlands I didn’t understand why I was in the group, because I wasn’t a singer. After a while I realised that Anúna is not made up of singers - it’s made up of musicians who use their voices as instruments, and every member of the group has their own specific strengths. We’re not all the same, but we’re all doing the same thing, many individuals coming together and creating ‘the’ sound.
The biggest turning point was during a tour in the Netherlands where I sang the solo of Siúil a Rúin every night. Michael said something that completely changed my approach to singing: “The song is not about you, so stop thinking about yourself. Allow the woman who the song is about to speak through you.” The more I became aware of this, the more my confidence as a performer grew. Instead of being focused on the sound of my voice, I started to focus on the music itself, telling the story, interacting with the group, and interacting with the audience.
It’s been five years since I joined the group and became a “singer”, and it’s changed my life in many ways. I now have my own bands outside of Anúna (a rock band and a folk band) and I use what I’ve learned in Anúna all the time – about music and performance in general, but especially what Anúna has taught me about myself. And vice versa I use my ‘band experience’ when I’m on stage with Anúna, and I feel that because of this synergy I keep developing myself into the artist I want to be. And because all the singers in the group come from different backgrounds and have different experiences which they bring into the group, we can all learn from each other.