Losses to the music world, and my work with Celine Dion 

It’s been a bad few weeks for losses to the music industry, with the passing first of Scott Weiland, then Natalie Cole, Lemmy, David Bowie and now Glenn Frey.

It was also sad to hear today of the death of Rene Angelil, Celine Dion’s husband and manager. In 1999 I worked with Celine and Rene’s crew on the tour she did to promote the huge ‘Titanic’ theme song ‘My heart will go on’. The studio where I worked at the time specialised in ISDN audio transfers; a then-cutting edge technology which allowed the sending of CD quality audio down phone lines in real time, anywhere in the world.

Most of the work we did was sending individual songs from one studio to another, or from a mix studio to a record company for approval. But we also did live link ups, and the Celine Dion project was one of these. Rene was ill back then, and wasn’t able to tour with Celine and therefore wasn’t able to see her performances live every night. They needed an ISDN set up so he could see and hear her shows as they happened every night. They had been let down by a supplier of ISDN equipment for the European leg of the tour, and desperately needed to get this sorted out in just a few days. They contacted us, and we provided the ability for him to have the audio of every show in real time, while Sony provided the video feed. Rene could stay at home (in Geneva I remember) and review the shows, in real time.

As a thank you, Celine’s team sent me and my colleague to the final show at Wembley Stadium. Back then it was the old stadium, complete with its iconic twin towers. You didn’t have to be a huge Celine Dion fan to be impressed by the scale of the show. We had VIP seats immediately overlooking the stage, and were only a couple of rows away from Sir George Martin. At one point the show stopped, and Celine made a special thank you speech to Sir George. The lights and cameras all turned to exactly where we were sitting, and as I looked at the screens, there I was just next to him. It was quite a night.

This project was one of a number of bits of high profile work I did early on in my music career. I learned a lot, and it was good to be involved in something which was obviously of personal benefit to those involved. It was clear even from the tiny part I played that this team looked after people, and placed a lot of value on that. This was a good lesson to learn early on.

So while not perhaps the loss to rock ‘n roll that Bowie, Lemmy, Weiland and Frey may have been, Rene Angelil is a loss all the same.

Celine Dion - Charlie's invitation

Celine Dion - Let's Talk About Love World Tour ticket

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Toumani & Sidiki

I’m enjoying the album of traditional Malian kora music from father and son kora maestros Toumani & Sidiki. Recorded in London in 2014, it’s only the third album of kora duets ever made. The father is a long standing Malian kora player, while the son is a hip hop artist in his own right, and his stuff sounds very different to this (check out Iba One and Sidiki for more). When I graduated from SOAS, the gaps between different degrees being awarded were filled with people playing different instruments from around the world. The gap before my degree award was filled with a kora player, which was the first time I’d heard the cheerful and intricate sounds made by this instrument, when in the hands of an expert.

It’s out now on World Circuit records, here

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