Sistere is a duo comprising percussionist Jo May and singer and multi- instrumentalist Sarah Matthews. Jo was orchestrally trained but since 1996 she has plied her trade all the way from Sidmouth to Senegal and has focussed a lot of her attention on the balafon (a wooden xylophone from West Africa.) You may remember her playing with ‘Token Women’. Sarah has been a musician and educator for many years and has played with almost everyone on the Derby folk scene in that time. They came together in 2018 to explore their mutual love of good tunes, quirky rhythms and unusual combinations of instruments. Speaking of which my eyebrows went over the top of my head at the thought of Balafon and fiddle but it surprised me to find it’s a great combination.
There’s plenty on offer here from Jo’s irresistible jig ‘Mam Tor’ via schottisches and breakneck rapper tunes to ‘The Silk Mill Jig’ set which was written to the rhythm of the machinery in Masson Mills, Derbyshire. Sarah and Jo are fine singers, too. There is a very good version of Bill Caddick’s ‘The Barmaid’s Song’ using just voice and drum. My favourite track might surprise you. It’s a cover of a song from the ‘Beautiful World’ album by Take That, yes…the lot with Robbie what’s his name, ( Williams, Reviews Ed.) called ‘Wooden Boat’. Fiddle, balafon, fine vocals and a tasteful bit of what sounds to me like octave violin. It shouldn’t work but it does. It’s very sing-able. It’s delightful! Don’t waste time, girls. Put it out as a single. I bet Tom Robinson and BBC6 Music will love it!