Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Dublin, history scholar and musician Mustafa Khetty feels Michael Collins in his very soul. So much so that his new record, ‘Torn In Love, Torn Apart’, is built entirely around Collins’ romantic world.
His love of the independence-era hero dates right back to his school days. “I was taught by an amazing history teacher, Michael Halliday whose description of the personalities who made history were far more interesting than facts and narrative,” Khetty recalls.
“Michael Collins was an enigma. His daring, mischief, wit and stealth were the stuff of movies. He was Dennis the Menace, James Bond and Houdini combined. I also liked the David and Goliath aspect of Michael Collins and his band of a few hundred merry men and women taking on a mighty empire.”
“About two years ago, Facebook highlighted the Michael Collins Society in Dublin and the Midlands, which rekindled my interest and research. Along the journey, it dawned on me to render the tragic romance of Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan in music.” Kiernan, of course, was scheduled to be married to Collins before his death in 1922.
In particular, Khetty’s music is based on around 300 letters written between Kiernan and Collins, extrapolated and manipulated to put the story to music.
“The letters embody the emotional highs and lows, aspirations, uncertainties, anxieties, wishes and dreams [of the two],” Khetty says. “It is an insight into their thoughts. Kitty is explicit although Michael is more businesslike; nevertheless his devotion and commitment to her is unequivocal despite Kitty being uncertain. This was a sophisticated romance during the most dangerous period, when Michael was the most wanted man in the country from mid 1919, to the negotiations of October 1921 to December 1921, until his last month, August 1922.”
“Each track traces through that period. ‘Will You Dance With Me?’ is the introduction of Michael to Kitty in April 1919. She was a socialite and loved to dance. ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ is a rap/ funk track with Michael daring the British Intelligence with his Houdini escapades.”
“We know much about Michael but less about Kitty. The letters are deep insights about Kitty, and the music and lyrics reflect that. This album is celebrating one of Ireland’s great tragic love stories and Kitty, the woman who captured the heart of one of the 20th century’s greatest leaders.”
“There are similarities to Neo-classical and prog rock, which are two of my favourite genres,” he continues. “The challenge was writing Irish traditional and folk styles, and of course the Requiem, a traditional choral, was a first for me.”
“There were flashes of inspiration, and each track reflects a particular mood and moment in history. A good example is ‘Take Me To Paradise.’ in which Kitty’s awareness of the danger to Michael’s life is portrayed. She would have gone to hell and back for him, and yet gave him space to achieve his goals. But that meant internalising her own darkness, fear, loss, sorrow, emotional torment, and upheaval. The opening is a Debussy-like piano intro which transitions to metallic rock and then into a modern aria. Unfortunately, there was no Paradise for her. She never got over him.”
Mustafa Kitty’s ‘Torn In Love, Torn Apart’ is out now.
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