Dumnonia

by Jim Causley

The kingdom of Dumnonia was the ancient home of the Dumnonii, the Celtic tribal people who lived in this part of the South West peninsula before, during and after the period when the Romans popped by to visit for a chilly winter holiday. It is where the modern county of Devon derives its name and a large amount of its cultural identity.
This album is an expression of Devonshireness as I feel it; with people who were around me at the time, no border checkpoints, nobody pushed out, just what it is.

You’ll notice that all the famous Devon songs are suspiciously absent. I’m talking The Bell Ringing, Out Stepped Mother and Me, When Mother and Me Joined In, Tavistock Goosey Fair, Bampton Fair, Rounding the Horn, Mortal Unlucky Old Chap, 21 Years on Dartmoor, Childe the Hunter, Craftsmen of the Moor, Arscott of Tetcott, The Wife of Dunkerswell and of course the national anthem; Widecombe Fair.
I love all of those songs very dearly but I feel that they have been extremely well represented on many recordings and currently require no further leg up!

The intent of this album is to shine a light on some lesser known Devonshire songs and bring them together under a single umbrella to add to the awareness of the rich county we are in terms of our traditional music. Some of the songs are very specific, local and individual to a particular place whereas others are versions of songs that have been found all over the British Isles (and beyond) and represent the fascinating way in which songs migrate, morph and become localized on their travels.
I’ve tried to represent all parts of the county as best I can but songs have their own free will and they come from wherever they decide. I do not apologise for my East Devon bias!



Jim Causley – Vocals, Accordion
Jeff Gillett – Guitar, Mandola
Mark Bazeley – Vocals, Melodeon
Jason Rice – Vocals, Accordion and Step Dancing
Rob Murch – Vocals, Banjo
Mike Bond - Vocals, Gob Irons
Nick Wyke – Vocals, Fiddle, Viola, Cello
Becki Driscoll – Vocals, Fiddle, Lyre
Pete Flood – Pakistani Tabor, Tar, Tambourine, Symbols, Iraqi Bendir, Darabucka, Triangles, Bells, English Tabor , Snare Drum
Vocals - Tom Brown, Barbara Brown, Jackie Oates, Doug Bailey, Jennie Bailey, Joe Sartin

 

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll perform as a duo. Becki’s lyre was made by Alan Leah.
Mark Bazeley, Jason Rice & Rob Murch perform as Moor Music Trio and are also the core members of the Dartmoor Pixie Band. Rob also performs in The Watch with Gareth Kiddier and Dan Quinn.
Mike Bond performs whenever there’s anyone to listen!
Tom & Barbara Brown perform as a duo
Jeff Gillett performs in a duo with Ron Taylor
Pete Flood performs with Bellowhead

When I was Young is from Songs of the West by Baring Gould and it always struck me that this song is not as well sung as it should be. It ought to be one of those big Devonshire songs for obvious reasons. I learnt it from the singing of Paul Wilson, that incorrigible man, without whose influence I certainly would not being doing what I am now doing.

Little Ball o’ Yarn is one of my favourite songs, it is well known throughout southern England and appears to be particularly popular in Devon. Charlie Hill and Henry Scott of Drewsteignton both had/have versions of it. This one is collated from several pretty similar variants. Thank you to Will Duke, Dan Quinn and Mary-Anne Haynes for the large first verse.

Georgie While there are basically no minor key dance tunes in the current Devon repertoire (I blame melodeons) the songs Baring Gould collected tell a very different story. Although this song has been collected from Scotland to Kingdom Cum, the tune of this version is most unusual. I think of the scale it sits in as being ‘bottom half minor; top half major’. A very accordion way of thinking!

Old Uncle Whiteway I learnt from the singing of John Shepherd who was the ‘mayor’ of Whimple, an ironic title in my village, invented to poke fun at the Big City of Exeter. I cannot overstate how important and loved John was. He was a large part of the social cement in Whimple and he did a huge amount to encourage a sense of community in the village not least igniting the Whimple History Society, the opening of the Heritage Centre/museum and reviving our wassailing tradition. I first met him at play group which he visited annually under the guise of Father Christmas. He had an impressive repertoire of songs; many well known, some unique. Baring Gould published this one as “Cyder Cure”. I suspect this title was John’s own twist on the tale but it works very well and totally sums up his ethos of engraining local history.

The Old Threshing Mill Jason learnt this song from Geoffry Annaford who was a fine singer and a regular performer at the Devon Nights put on throughout the year in little villages, organised by the Pennymoor Singaround. We enjoy singing it for the gooey sentimentality it conjures in the listeners!

The Earl of Totnes is a tale of two Lords of the South Hams with more money than sense. One of them gets his just-deserts in the end but for the other it only serves to bolster his ego further! I’m not a great one for ballads but this track is for some of the reviewers who reckoned I should make an entire album of them. God forbid! It is also dedicated to the last Earl of Totnes; Sir James of Dumbelton, Devon misses you.

Royal Comrade is from the singing of Amy Birch, a highly respected West Country  romany singer who lives in the village of Exford. Amy has a huge wealth of important songs in her repertoire and is among the foremost exponents of the English traveller style of singing. This song is a well known story in many cultures but Amy’s telling of it is quite unique. Again it has become localised and like so many of the travelling people’s renditions of traditional song, it rings with the emotion of human experience that so many of the broadside ballads simply do not convey.

Exeter Town is a version of the well known ‘Flash Lad’, ‘Adieu Adieu’, ’Salisbury Plain’ family of songs. I myself was born in Exeter Town. I have never worked at the saddler’s trade although I did spend most of my teenage years toiling devotedly (for free) in a nearby riding stables. More specifically I was born in Heavitree which is most famous for being the site of the Exeter Gallows where the last “witches” in England were hanged in 1682. A big thank you kiss to Chris Coe for giving me this one.

She Moved Through the Fair / Germany Clockmaker This is really a tune set that happens to have words involved. Waltzes are rather popular in Devon folk sessions and tunes in minor keys simply do not exist! Now and then a song is allowed to be popped in and these are popular choices. The first is a local version of the well known tear-jerker and the second is a cheeky little song popular throughout the West Country. Check out Charlie Will’s version on Voice of the People for an extremely cheeky rendition!

Tamar Valley Reqium Here is a song by Cyril Tawney that tells of the loss of the tin mining industry in Cornwall and Devon and also highlights the ancient bond between our two counties. Mike Bond told me that his father’s Cornish pals were called ‘Cousin Jack’ and they in return called him ‘Cousin Jacker’ which I think is a lovely greeting/custom that I personally intend to revive! On behalf of Devon I would just like to apologise for failing to fight off those pesky Anglo-Saxons. Although in truth the Dumnonii weren’t so much ‘driven out’ as conquered by inter-breeding!

Exmoor Anthem Exmoor is another of those areas that is its own entity and ignores authoritative boundaries. Half of Exmoor is in Somerset, the other in Devon. It is where the river Exe begins, Exe being an old Celtic word meaning ‘water’. Wasn’t life simple back then! Exmoor and Dartmoor are a big part of the Devon consciousness and very magical places. Hunting songs are prevalent in these parts and although controversial, they give a fascinating window into a lost slice of English culture. This song is littered with local place names, many too small to feature on most maps but the lady I learnt it from knows them all on a very personal level. Her name is Margaret Palmer, a farmer from Brendon on Exmoor and although she is not nationally known as a “source singer” she is well respected locally and was recorded by Sam Richards in the 80’s. She is the real deal and her repertoire beautifully mixes old trad songs with music hall numbers that are, lets face it, the nu-trad!

Honiton Lace was written by one of my heroes; Martin Graebe. I first heard him singing and reciting on a CD by the Wren Trust called Songs of the West, all about the song collecting work of Baring-Gould. Martin and his wife Shan have done a huge amount of work researching, transcribing and cataloguing the handwritten manuscripts of Baring-Gould and the folk world is forever indebted to them for it. Martin wrote this brilliant song and the story is taken from a letter he found in the Rougemont Museum written by a real life Honiton Lace worker detailing her daily life in 1897.

The Game of Cards is a well known song throughout the British Isles and is definitely one of the instantly recognisable titles on this album. I have exercised my 21st c liberty here and combined the text from Charlie Wills of Somerset with the tune from Queen Caroline Hughes of Dorset. But before you call me a dissenter I would just like to present that the lyrics do feature Devon place names and the Marshwood Vale area which covers the three counties is well known for having its own sense of identity regardless of the county borders.

Sidbury to Stockland Set

(Rew’s Waltz/Down the Sides and Up the Middle/Plain Schottische)

The best known musicians from Devon are undeniably Bob Cann, Jack Rice and of course the current incarnation of the Dartmoor Pixie Band which Bob Cann started back in the 70’s. The manuscripts Baring Gould collected of Dartmoor fiddler William Andrews have seen quite a resurgence in recent years due the excellent work of Wren. But in East Devon we were equally blessed with tunes collected from fiddler Fred Pidgeon of Stockland and concertina-ist William Rew from Sidbury. Nick & Becki and I have combined two tunes from Mr Rew followed by one from Mr Pidgeon.

In the Sidings I read a poll in a well known newspaper concerning Britain’s most despised characters in history. Obviously Mr Hitler was high up there but not too far below was Dr Beeching! His axing of the railway branch lines affected the whole country and the West Country was particularly hardly hit. This song is by the wonderful Cyril Tawney and is written from the point of view of a station master who has recently been made redundant. We are fortunate in Whimple to still have our train station on the Waterloo line but I do feel slight venom towards Beeching that I now have to catch a scab-tram (bus) to get to Sidmouth Folk Festival every summer!

Larkbeare is a beautiful little hamlet between Whimple and Talaton. I’ve got a soft spot for hamlets since I grew up in one (Slewton Combe) and they often don’t get the same spot in the limelight as villages do so I wrote this tune for lovely little Larkbeare.

The Tythe Pig I think Baring Gould must have had a good sense of humour to publish this song unedited seeing as it takes the pith out of a parson, which is one of the little jobs he undertook in his spare time when he wasn’t busy writing books about werewolves.

Wailey Wailer (the Whimple Carol) is another song from the singing of the late John Shepherd. Obviously it’s a Christmas carol and it is a lovely example of the times when the Indigenous and the Christian religions walked hand in hand.

When I Was Young
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Little Ball o' Yarn
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Georgie
Old Uncle Whiteway
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The Old Threshing Mill
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Sidbury to Stockland Set
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The Earl of Totnes
Royal Comrade
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Exeter Town
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She Moved Through the Fair/Germany Clockmaker
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Tamar Valley Requiem
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Exmoor Anthem
Honiton Lace
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The Game of Cards
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In the Sidings
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Larkbeare
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The Tythe Pig
Wailey Wailer
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Bright Young Folk

Mary Stokes

Devon is a country full of traditional song, some well known, some less so. With Dumnonia Jim Causley strives to shine a light on the county's hidden treasures.

When I Was Young is a who's who guide to the highways and byways of Devon. In no particular order the protagonist takes on the various jobs associated with different parts of Devon (and Somerset), and this acts almost as an introduction to the county.

In many of these songs, the tales are told in the first person (or as near to it as possible), and it's truly astounding how effortlessly Jim is able to switch between the various characters who crop up throughout the album. Almost like an actor, his voice truly brings the characters to life, whether they be ridiculous like the parson in the Tythe Pig or tragic like the swimmer in Royal Comrade. He is a true master at work.

The Sidbury to Stockland Set gives Jim and his fellow musicians, including Bellowhead's Pete Flood on percussion, a chance to let rip musically.

Variety on this album doesn't just come in the type of material Jim has chosen for this album, but also in the age of the songs themselves. Devon's railways were devastated by Dr Beeching's railway cuts in the 1960s, the reality of which comes to life in one of the more modern offerings contained within this 18 track album. In the Sidings speaks from the perspective of a station master about to lose his job. 'Come shake hands with an overhead' he sings, a feeling that is still hugely resonant today.

In contrast The Tythe Pig was collected by Baring Gould in the 1800s, and adds some humour to the end of the album. We have all been warned of the ills of being too fussy, as demonstrated by the parson in this narrative. It's a hugely catchy tune, and it's clear from listening to the song that Jim takes delight in recounting the parson's mishaps as he attempts to collect his tithe in the form of a suckling pig, which makes it all the more listenable. Brilliant!

A massive undertaking, but a fabulous result, Dumnonia is a credit to Jim's understanding and sympathy with traditional song, but also of his home county of Devon. It is a fascinating insight into the treasures hidden within, but also of how songs change from region to region within the UK. The album is an absolute gem.

Folking.com

PETE FYFE

At least young Causley is thinking outside the box, even if it is by reflecting in song his local county of which he is justifiably proud. Come to think of it let's have a show of hands for those of you who agree. As he states in his sleeve-notes he's steered clear of the more established Devon songs and in doing so brings a wealth of lesser-known material to his audience. I'm pleased to say that he's not averse to giving credit where credit's due and opens with �When I Was Young� passed on through the aural tradition by Paul Wilson. As he rightly states, this pleasant ballad should take its place among the more popular of the 'established' songs and, who knows, if enough tradition bearers latch onto it, it will. Surrounding himself with an august bunch of musicians including Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll, Tom & Barbara Brown and The Dartmoor Pixie Band his vocals are mostly unmannered unlike a plethora of recent artists whose names immediately spring to mind. There is much to admire in his diligent research and much to thank for his inquisitive nature in putting together a selection of songs that through the passage of time may well become as popular as the standards he has tried to avoid. http://www.jimcausley.co.uk/

Shire Folk

Tony O�Neill.

Dumnonia was the ancient home of the Dumnonii, a Celtic tribe who lived in the area now known as Devon during and after the Roman occupation and this CD presents a collection of lesser known Devonian songs and tunes, some local and specific to particular places and others versions of material to be found elsewhere.  The overall feel of the CD is, however, very evocative of Devon.

Although I was familiar with the name I have never heard any of Jim's performances before so I approached this CD with a little trepidation which was allayed on the first hearing, I have found it a very pleasant experience. I'm pleased to note that a comparatively young member of the Folk fraternity is taking some of his material from traditional sources.

In terms of value for money for this CD, this is a bargain, there are a whopping great 18 tracks!  Which makes it all the more difficult to select any to comment individually on but if I had to pick a favourite it would be 'The Earl of Totnes', despite the slightly derogative comments about Ballads in the notes by Jim himself!

The CD presentation is striking with a fussy front cover featuring a map of Devon (Dumnonia?) with cream teas, cider, pixies and other Devonian trivia.  However this fronts a booklet of informative notes by Jim presented in a  fairly lighthearted way.  The package can be obtained from Wild Goose's website at www.WildGoose.co.uk and of course, from Jim at his gigs.

EDS

Clive Pownceby

The present-day county of Devon derives its name, and more widely its cultural identity, from the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia, and the mission statement of this release from Jim Causley, originally from Heavitree near Exeter is 'to shine a light on some lesser-known Devonshire songs.'

Here they are then � the famous ones omitted and centre stage given to little-heard or local versions of others: 'The Flash Lad' appears as 'Exeter Town', 'The Lakes of Cool Finn' as 'Royal Comrade'. Jim's sources are many and varied � modified and adapted on occasion, but always with a strong sense of heritage and his native county.

Early exposures to Sidmouth Festival, the church choir, Exeter College and ubsequent Folk and Traditional Music degree course at Newcastle are the seascapes that floated his boat and with this third solo album, there is a real assuredness to his voice. Ah the voice! It's always referred to as being full and rich � the very stuff of Gardeners' World vocabulary, and such adjectives indeed epitomise the timbre of Causley's vocals, with his flowing accordion-playing invariably totally complementary.

There is much to applaud here � the sauntering 'Little Ball o'Yarn' is collated from several variants but you can't see the joins, and it's essayed with relish with an easy vitality to the band pieces (he's joined by, among others, Jeff Gillett, Becki Driscoll and the Dartmoor Pixie Band on some cuts) such as 'Honiton Lace.' This Martin Graebe composition with a couple of Cyril Tawney's songs reside naturally here among their elders!

It might seem somewhat patronising to call this record a throwback but with so much of twenty-first century folk music mired in a colourless, light-tone vocal style, enthusiasts for the real thing should hear this. These engrossing songs have the capacity to draw you in, to transcend time and Jim Causley's love of the tradition is embedded in this disc. Inspiring.

Folk Roundabout

David Kidman

Fancy a round of Call My Bluff?: Dumnonia is neither an incurable affliction involving a total loss of voice, nor a term denoting the essence of elephants, but instead the south-western kingdom of the Dumnonii, a Celtic tribe from around and after the time of the Roman occupation, from whom the modern county of Devon derives its own name. It aptly betokens Jim's aim to shine light on lesser known songs from Devonshire: an entirely laudable aim, and one which he fulfils with consummate ease and an engaging, easy maturity. Jim's timely return to �home territory� has been marked by recent touring with fellow-south-westerner Steve Knightley of course, but his stints with Mawkin and the Under One Sky combo have also clearly informed his performing stature in the intervening years, and his vocal and instrumental confidence seem to have grown apace in terms of identifying exactly the right amount of sensitivity with which to lace his interpretation of his chosen songs. A stunning example of this is his treatment of a pair of deeply reflective Cyril Tawney songs, In The Sidings and Tamar Valley Requiem, where he displays an intense empathy with the plight of the displaced workers that belies his tender years. Traditional balladry is also fast becoming Jim's forte, as his superbly pointed delivery of The Royal Comrade (effectively done to just a simple accordion drone accompaniment) demonstrates; in fact, here and occasionally elsewhere too, I was reminded of the poised assurance of Tony Rose in Jim's delivery, his own brand of what I might call genial gravitas. A different kind of assurance shines through Jim's treatment of Martin Graebe's wonderful composition Honiton Lace, also the familiar ballad of Georgie, which sports a rather unusual minor-key tune, while Jim's way with lighter material like Little Ball Of Yarn is most fetching (helped along nicely by the jolly skitterings of The Dartmoor Pixie Band, who also contribute suitably authentic rustic �squeezing, plucking and vocals� to a handful of other tracks including a supremely cheeky waltz-time account of She Moved Through The Fair and a sprightly, footloose account of Exmoor Anthem). Elsewhere on the album Jim enjoys further fine support from Jeff Gillett (guitar, mandola), Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll (fiddle, viola, cello, lyre and vocals) and Pete Flood (percussion), and some lusty chorus singing from Tom & Barbara Brown, Jackie Oates, Joe Sartin and Doug & Jennie Bailey (notably on the acappella Old Threshing Mill). Mention of so many comparatively familiar songs thus far should not deflect from my observation that the bulk of the remainder of Jim's selection delves into the more obscure local byways of West Country song, including many collected by Baring Gould. Jim's liner notes amplify some of the stories behind the songs, focusing also on the fascinating way the songs had migrated, morphed and become localised on their travels, and the attractive artwork is typical of the label's approach in its astute reflection of the disc's contents. A thoughtful and well-presented collection that will I'm sure prove a milestone in Jim's career.

fRoots

Colin Irwin

After his recording and touring adventures with Under One Sky, Mawkin and David Rotheray, Jim Causley returns home musically and figuratively to celebrate the music of Devon (the Dumnones were a Celtic tribe who lived in the south west between the Iron Age and Saxon times).

It's a project that's clearly close to his heart and, singing in a more relaxed and varied manner than on any of his previous work, it shows. His remarkable delivery of the tragic Royal Comrade over his sinister accordeon drone �reminiscent of the devastating

simplicity wielded by Tony Rose on a big ballad is evidence alone of a new strength and maturity only hinted at on his previous solo albums.

He's gone out of his way to avoid the usual populist material associated with Devon and he's done a thorough job of it too, coming up with some little known beauties. The great West Country song collector Rev Sabine Baring Gould is well represented from the engaging opening track When I Was Young to the knockabout story The Tythe Pig but, as with Royal Comrade, there are also unfamiliar localised versions of well known songs. There's a beautifully restrained, slightly eerie Georgie; a waltzy frolicsome She Moved Through The Fair which segues into Germany Clockmaker; a surprisingly thoughtful Game Of Cards which gives a completely different emphasis on what is usually a bawdy gallop; and a gently infectious version of the carol WaileyWailer, singalong chorus and all.

More plus points include a couple of songs by one of the region's greatest songwriters Cyril Tawney  Tamar Valley Requiem and In The Sidings  both highly charged reflections of loss (on the decline of the tin mining industry and the despised Dr Beeching's infamous axing of railway branch lines respectively) handled by Causley with commendable sensitivity. There's also a lovely Martin Graebe song, Honiton Lace, an upbeat unaccompanied The Old Threshing Mill and a couple of bouncy bankers with the drinking song Old Uncle Whiteway and the mildly contentious hunting ditty Exmoor Anthem.

What really lifts it, though, is the heavy involvement of the Dartmoor Pixie Band, whose close associations with the tune and dance traditions of Devon not only lend the album authenticity, they strike exactly the right chord of rugged charm and understated energy which brings the best out of both Causley and the material. The boy done good.

The Living Tradition

Kathy & Bob Drage

Dumnonia the ancient home of the Dumnonii, who lived in what is now known as the county of Devon. Jim makes no apology, nor should he, for only including Devonshire songs, albeit the less well known ones. Jim has the kind of voice that suits all types of songs, be they happy or sad. The overall impression of the CD is joy and vivacity, although it does have its more reflective moments.

Little Ball Of Yarn is collated from several sources. Old Uncle Whiteway, also called Cycler Cure is collected from John Shepherd the "mayor" of Whimple. Royal Comrade, a localised version of Lakes Of Coolphin is a Romany song from Amy Birch. She is the foremost exponent of the English traveller style of singing. Tamar Valley Requiem tells the story of the loss of the tin mining industry. Sidbury To Stockland Set is full of feel good music. The Tythe Pig has notes that refer to Sabine Baring Gould's book about werewolves. The CD finishes with Wailey Wailer or The Whimple Carol   a lovely example of indigenous and Christian religions walking hand in hand.

Joined on some tracks by fellow Wildgoose stable mates   Jeff Gillett, Nick Wyke, Becki Driscoll   their contributions all compliment Jim's accordion playing. The cover design, which is excellent, has been created by Karen Cater of Hedingham Fair.

A friend remarked that this is the best CD he has heard for years and played in four times in the space of a few hours. It does become addictive listening, simply because of the joyfulness of the sound. A brilliant piece of work from one of England's finest singers.

R2

Dai Jeffries

After his adventures with Mawkin:Causley, Jim has returned to his Devon roots with an album of predominantly traditional

material from his native county.

He has consciously avoided the really obvious songs but much will be familiar even though the versions may be new. 'The Earl Of Totnes', for example, is very different from the Dransfields' take and 'Royal Comrade' is known by many titles and even more variants. Two songs are by Cyril Tawney and one by Martin Graebe, almost as specific and local as the traditional ones, and Jim contributes a tune for 'Larkbeare'.

With a supporting cast of local musicians and singers including members of The Dartmoor Pixie Band and Tom and Barbara Brown there's a jolly, almost homespun feeling to much of the record. 'Little Ball O'Yarn' evokes memories of The Yetties while the waltz time version of  'She Moved Through The Fair' is straight from the tradition of the Traveller community. 'When I Was Young' is a delightful song I haven't heard before and practically a gazetteer of Devon.

I imagine that some critics will turn their noses up at the back to basics style of Dumnonia. Ignore them. This is where the roots of folk music remain.

R2 3 Great Albums from 2011

Oz Hardwick

Oz Hardwick

Three great albums from 2011

����..closer to home, Jim Causley's Dumnonia further cemented his reputation as the finest singer of his generation.