Musician of the Month – Branwen Kavanagh | Cassandra Voices

Musician of the Month – Branwen Kavanagh


I recently sweated in a dark, low tent.  Fifty other bodies squatted close to mine. Rich, pitch black darkness surrounding us. I sweated until I nearly passed out. Sometimes singing, sometimes close to vanishing in the damp air. Every now and then I glimpsed the faint glow of hot basalt stones steaming in the pit. An occasional foot might brush off my leg. Heavy breathing and steaming water a constant song. A voice emerging from the darkness might offer some profound words and they would sweat their way into my subconscious. All of us in there together, forgetting everything but that moment and the lilting heat. And that very rare collective vulnerability and trust and intensity.

That experience spoke to the deepest part of me. I didn’t realise how much I needed to be a part of a space like that. I realised that Art for me is an attempt to create that space. A sense of being met exactly as you are, where you are. Feeling that you are allowed to relish in your humanity for a moment, blind to all of the mental projections and madnesses of modern living, To feel surrounded by understanding and compassion when you are in the darkest of places. To accept and allow ourselves to see those twisted thoughts and broken parts and feel safe enough to do so. Just for a moment. Art is a little voice of guidance in the darkness and for me the role of the Artist is to be there in a symbolic solidarity in those darkest and most intimate of moments.

I can’t deny that I have always been attracted to the beauty that can be found in ugliness, things beyond their purpose, re-imagined ideas of how things come alive. And I have always been attracted to unearthing the truth. It’s different for everyone, but there is something collective about the search. I know that the path towards truth is a tough one, filled with brambles and thorns and long, slow moments of seeing who we really are and what we are really doing, and most people don’t want to do that. But that’s what art is for. Little glimmers of things we have discovered and want to share. And the fun part is finding new ways to express those things so that they are abstract enough to feel universal and specific enough to hit us where it resonates. A good dose of the ridiculous is always great to shake things up! Someone recently told me that a performance piece I did was like the Blair Witch Project in a bouncy castle! This will be appearing as a tagline on everything I make henceforth!

Sometimes I am surprised by what comes out of me, and sometimes I work with the grittiest of revelations because they are the most challenging and often the most interesting.  Art is not there to be liked or disliked, to be deemed good or bad. It’s just there and we nurture it if we chose to. Samhain is upon us and the darkening of the year. And there is the eternal task of transformation, turning darkness into light. Seeing the beauty in what appears to be ugly.  Fifty sweating bodies, anonymous in the darkness was one of the most beautiful and profound experiences of my life.

I emerged first, a quick breathless burst into the freezing, late October air, too hot to stay for the last moments. I threw my body down on the cool grass and watched the dry leaves fall from their trees, the smell of smoke and wet earth delighting my senses. Some kind of ritualistic rebirth. Like every song, it arrived to greet me. Asking for a living form. I am not afraid of where music and art might take me, because I know it’s doing something that has nothing to do with me. And life is far more interesting when we acknowledge that we are not in the driver’s seat. That we have very little control, so we might as well let those beautiful, strange, subconscious expressions lead the way! It’s certainly brought me to the most magical, surreal and delightful of places. If there is one thing in life that I don’t ever doubt, it’s my commitment to art. As my shirt was steaming in the cold air, after one of the most intense experiences I had ever put my body through I knew that to be absolutely true. And to quote my mother I hope that the things I create can be ‘postcards to a darker hour’. Maybe my songs or performances will sweat in the dark with you sometime! Hah!


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