Traditional music is a living, breathing thing. It must evolve or become a relic, but it must also maintain a strong connection to its core identity. With CyberTrad, innovative roots musician Matthew Olwell pays homage to his heritage while breathing new life fusing into Irish and Breton music against a backdrop of Beatboxing and electric bass. Tradition is at the core of Matthew’s playing, but his love of more contemporary musical styles is apparent on CyberTrad. Listening to hip-hop, world music, and funk has informed both his playing and his composing. One early influence on Matthew’s approach to combining traditional music with modern sounds was Québecois band Matapat, who frequently toured the U.S. in the late 1990s.
With CyberTrad, Matthew had the opportunity to collaborate with Matapat’s bass player Simon Lepage, and also Shodekeh Talifero, a groundbreaking beatboxer & vocal percussionist who pushes the boundaries of the human voice. They are joined by Aimee Curl on vocals and upright bass, Jaige Trudel on cello, and Joey Abarta on uilleann pipes. Although Matthew has often served as an accompanying percussionist for other Irish and Old-Time instrumentalists, it is his melodic sensibilities that hold the varied ingredients of CyberTrad together and create a sense of continuity on the album.
Growing up, Matthew’s family lived almost completely off the grid except for one solar panel that powered a lamp and a boombox radio, on which Matthew listened to his parents’ eclectic tape collection, as well as radio programs like NPR’s The Thistle and Shamrock. His father Patrick Olwell is a well-known Irish flute maker and both his parents and brother played the flute, so there were always musicians around. The family was active in the East Coast folk music scene, regularly attending the Washington D.C. Irish Festival and Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia. This rich community gave Matthew an appreciation for many traditions, including Québécois, old time, and Cajun music. Matthew’s music festival education continued when he met Eileen Carson-Schatz and The Fiddle Puppet Dancers at Augusta and was eventually recruited into the later incarnation of that group, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. From 1994 to 2004 Matthew performed with Footworks, travelling internationally and setting him on a path to a career in music and dance.
CyberTrad is released November 18th