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06.03.2024, Words by DMY Staff

The 10 Best Harp Tracks according to Nailah Hunter

"These are the tracks that make me feel lucky to be a harpist every time I hear them"

LA-based multi-instrumentalist and composer Nailah Hunter's debut album 'Lovegaze' uses the harp to entrancing effect.

As the daughter of a Belizean pastor, Nailah Hunter began her musical journey in the church where she played drums and guitar and sang in the choir. She continued to study music at CalArts, where she studied vocal performance and was given her first harp lesson. Associating the instrument with fantasy, psychedelia, and dream worlds, Hunter became an immediate devotee, locking herself in a room for six hours a day to practice the instrument.

To make 'Lovegaze', Hunter decamped to a small coastal city along the English Channel where she began recording demos with a borrowed Celtic harp. After being introduced to London-based producer Cicely Goulder, Hunter returned to England a year later to further develop the songs.

Lovegaze is an enthralling album that draws listeners into her enchanting cosmology. The whole album was written during a time of both global and personal strife for Hunter, and while Lovegaze captures some of that sense of distress, it’s also a willful reminder of the beauty of Earth’s natural processes. As Hunter says: “Nature remains; we’re the passing thing.”

Inspired by Nailah's harp playing on 'Lovegaze' it seemed appropriate that we asked her for her ten favourite harp tracks. "These are the tracks that make me feel lucky to be a harpist every time I hear them" she says.

1. Mary O’Hara - Quiet Land of Erin

"I adore the ancestral yearning in these lyrics and the simple elegance of her celtic harp arrangement. Her ability to work with the stillness in the room is mesmerizing."

2. Joanna Newsom - Only Skin

"This is a song that I’ve been able to sing in its entirety since 2007, although I’ve yet to approach playing these intricate harp parts. Each and every key and meter change feels purposeful and world building, some of my favourite songwriting and arranging for harp."

3. Laura Allen - As I Am

"I only came across this record in the last few weeks but I am completely taken by Laura Allen’s POV. Sounds like a pristine combination of Laaraji, Iasos, Joni Mitchell, with a dash of traditional Celtic harp."

4. Caprice - Elves of Rivendell

"Harp, voice, and Tolkien lore - what more could you want? I remember listening to this song on my clear orange CD player in my backyard as a kid."

5. Elena Polanska - The Baroque Harp

"Found this vinyl for 99 pence at a record store in London. This style of harp is what convinced me that I wanted to take up the instrument all those years ago."

6. Dorothy Ashby - There’s a Small Hotel

"Dorothy Ashby solidified harp's place in the realm of jazz. This is a great example of her unrivalled harp technique and rhythmic feel."

7. Harold Budd - Rosetti Noise/ Chrystal Garden And A Coda

"These changes are so satisfying to play on harp ~ so many twists and turns through an all pervading, haunted & ethereal fog."

8. Andreas Vollenweider & Friends - Pyramid - In the Wood - In the Bright Light

"Andreas Vollenweider, serving New Age innovative harp realness. Everything from the title to the tone of his harp in this song embodies his whole ethos, I’m a huge fan."

9. Bjork - Generous Palmstroke (Live at the Royal Opera House)

"One of the greatest examples of the singular magic of live harp and voice interacting."

10. Andy Aquarius - Chapel

"My favourite modern singing harpist by far. Andy Aquarius really takes it there.

Listen to Nailah Hunter's album 'Lovegaze' here and watch the video for the single 'Bleed' below.

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