Celtic Connections 2017: Director Donald Shaw picks 10 highlights

More than 2,000 artists will perform in Glasgow over the next 18 days as part of Celtic Connections.

Artistic director Donald Shaw has picked out some of his highlights:

Calexico and Guests: Across the Borderline with special guests

"A big part of the festival is shows that are unique," says Donald Shaw. "These are shows that will never come together again, one-off moments musically."

He says Calexico and guests is one of the many shows that fall into that category.

The band, who are named after a California/Mexico border town, straddle musical boundaries but there is a "distinct roots element to what they do", says Donald Shaw.

The Celtic Connections show, Across the Borderline, is about women's experiences of crossing borders.

"Some of the guests include people like Guatemalan Latin Grammy winner Gaby Moreno and US songstress Pieta Brown," the artistic director says.

"It is the opposite of Trump's plan to build a wall between Mexico and the US. It is about musically how there are artists on both sides of the border influenced by each other.

"I think it will be a special night. It will be one of those typical celebratory nights."

Shooglenifty and Special Guests: A Night for Angus

"Shooglenifty are no strangers to Celtic Connections," says Donald Shaw.

"They are one of the great troubadours of fusion-trad music, a Highland band who have toured the world and played in venues like Sydney Opera house and Borneo World Music Festival.

"Very sadly their fiddler Angus R Grant passed away this year through cancer. So it's a very special night. They are bringing in a lot of well-known fiddlers who have been inspired by Angus's playing and by the band.

"I think there is something like 60 or 80 musicians involved.

"They are a band that would have been playing in the very first years of Celtic Connections, they would have been part of the scene, so it is an important night."

Le Vent du Nord & De Temps Antan with Session A9

Image copyright Guillaume Morin

2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canada coming together as a state.

"One of the shows we are doing is with Le Vent Du Nord and De Temps Antan, who are actually two Quebec bands", says Donald Shaw.

"As part of the night they will raise a hand in solidarity to the great country that they live in."

Mr Shaw adds: "The music they play, Quebecois traditional music and work songs, has been a big influence on the change in folk music in this country.

"A lot of the songs are in French but the melodies have been inspired by Scottish and Irish traditions that were there 200 or 300 years ago.

"It is a fascinating region musically."

Trilok Gurtu and Evelyn Glennie: "The Rhythm in Me" and Jarlath Henderson

"It is the 70th anniversary of independence for India and we have a special show for that," says Donald Shaw.

It features Trilok Gurtu and Evelyn Glennie.

He says: "Glennie, of course, is one of the top percussionists in this country and Trilok is one of the great Indian percussionists, who has worked with all sorts of people, including Bjork, Jan Garbarek and Salif Keita.

"It is going to be a fantastic meeting of minds and probably one of the more unusual gigs we put on."

Feis Rois & Lauren MacColl: The Seer with TMSA Young Trad Tour

Artistic director Donald Shaw says: "Celtic Connections, which has been running since 1994, shares a similar timeframe with the Feisean movement.

"This is the Gaelic festival movement that was set up nearly 30 years ago and is one of the reasons why traditional music and Gaelic song has experienced such a strong renaissance.

"The Feisean movement was set up with the idea of having weekend festivals and masterclasses to teach young people traditional music and Gaelic song.

"It is a very simple idea but that built up over the years and through that movement we found a way to reach a new generation."

He adds: "One of the shows we have is Fèis Rois, one of the Feisean groups from Ross-shire, who have created a show with fiddler Lauren MacColl.

"She has written music inspired by the Brahan Seer, the 17th Century 'Scottish Nostradamus' who lived near Dingwall.

"I think it will be pretty compelling in terms of musicians involved."

'Dirt Road' featuring Dirk Powell & Special Guests with Jon Cleary Trio

"Dirt Road is a book by the Scottish author James Kelman," says Donald Shaw.

"It is a fantastic book that was released in the last year, all about the southern heartlands of the US and its zydeco and Appalachian music.

"The book is basically a love story between a father and son on a travelogue. They end up in Louisiana and their lives are transformed by the music there."

He adds: "One of the festival's great musicians is Dirk Powell, who has toured with people like Jack White, Joan Baez and Eric Clapton.

"He's coming with his own show, along with one of the great Louisiana singers Jon Cleary.

"If you like a bit of deep south Americana music, that will be one to check out."

Shirley Collins

Image copyright Eva Vermandel

"Shirley Collins was a big name in the 1960s folk revival," says Donald Shaw.

"She had amazing experiences collecting songs in the 1960s with Alan Lomax.

"In the 70s she lost her voice and she has not done anything for 35 years. This is her returning to the live stage for the first time.

"It is a pretty special moment. She has special surprise guests with her and I guess she is very revered in the English folk scene. She is one of the great singers and great collectors of folk songs."

Slododan Trkulja and Balkanopolis

"Balkanopolis is something a bit out of the ordinary," says artistic director Donald Shaw.

"Slododan Trkuja is a great Serbian singer and multi-instrumentalist. He has a band, who are known as a 'circus', called Balkanopolis.

"The whole night is a celebration of Balkan music.

"If you have never experienced a night of crazed Balkan music, it is worth checking out."

La Banda Europa and Xabier Diaz e Adufeiras do Salitre

Image copyright Victor Albrow

Slododan Trkuja is also involved in La Banda Europa.

Donald Shaw says: "It is almost like a political statement. It is a band of 35 musicians from all over Europe coming together."

Edinburgh composer and producer Jim Sutherland is behind the project and will premiere the new music he has written for it.

Donald Shaw says: "It is about saying 'whatever rhetoric we get from the politicians, it is very much ignored by the musicians'.

"Musicians need free movement to survive, otherwise the traditions won't evolve at all.

"The original music commissioned back in 2008 was inspired by the unusual musical instruments from the European folk communities and this is an update with a brand new piece called We Are An Ocean.

"It'll be a pretty majestic night."

Roberta Sá with Baby do Brasil

Two of Brazil's finest female performers - Roberta Sá and Baby do Brasil - are to play together as part of the festival's special link with the South American country this year.

Donald Shaw says they are two divas of Brazilian music. "They are two fantastic, soulful female singers in the one gig."

Celtic Connections has brought six Brazilian stars over to Scotland this year in conjunction with the Mimo festival in Brazil.

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