James is a virtuoso on so many instruments, including the piano, Bodhran, accordion and whistle, that Van Morrison called him the “Master”.
He was born in Ireland and grew up in London.
He is classically trained on piano and piano accordion and was all-Ireland champion on the accordion, piano and bodhrÃ¡n by the age of 16.
He was a member of the Afro Celt Sound System and has worked or recorded with U2, Sinead O’Connor, Depeche Mode, Ronan Keating, Marxman, Eddi Reader, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, The Pogues, Big Country and Brian Kennedy.
In an interview published in the New York Post on July 26, 2003, James eloquently described the Afro Celts approach to music. “If we just played Irish music, we’d have our core, just as if we just performed African music we’d find a base of people who’d love it. But we try to cross-pollinate and also use electronica to allow people to actually think about their heritage and their culture as something that’s not of the past but still very important and still evolving. Our success lies in the balance; we’re not just sticking African vocals on beats and grooves – we actually move from scene to scene in our passages like a drama. We try to take people on a journey.”
James has a solo CD out called Everybreath.