It is the rare contemporary musical artist who thoroughly captures my imagination and delights my spirit. Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt has succeeded at both and more for seven albums, writing music that reflects on the soul’s journey, using Celtic and Middle Eastern rhythms. So imagine my surprise at hearing our local adult alternative radio station announce her recently as a new "Zone" artist. It seems her music video of the single "Mummer’s Dance," now being aired on MTV, has launched her into the mainstream.
McKennitt began as a folk singer, singing traditional ballads with her remarkable voice. She was instinctively drawn to Celtic music because of her own heritage, fueling her desire to connect with the past. However, her two most recent albums, the mask and mirror and the book of secrets, take us into some new territory.
Extensive journeys to places like Turkey, Italy, Greece, and Spain, as well as a trip on the Trans Siberian Express, are woven into her music. Such solo journeys allow for quiet reflection, which informs her creative work. (Fascinated by the role solitude plays in reaching God, she is particularly drawn to the monastery setting.)
McKennitt draws on the influence of a culture to give her music a feel for the place in which it was inspired, such as taking inspiration from Sufi chants. The song "Marrakesh Night Market" transports the listener to Morocco, and sparks the imagination to be able to see and feel the city. But her journeys also offer a rich wellspring for her lyrics, meditating on the metaphor of the soul’s own journeying.