Celtic Connections Kicks Off in Spectacular Style

Celtic Connections will celebrate 20 years as a cornerstone of Scotland’s cultural calendar with a stellar programme of musical riches over the next 18 days. Some of the biggest names in folk, roots, world, traditional, indie, blues and jazz will perform in Glasgow between today and the 3rd February.

On the steps of the Concert Hall this morning Vicente Amigo, Spanish flamenco guitarist, gave a memorable performance with the rest of his band. Vicente will be performing his new album Tierra in the Main Auditorium of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall tomorrow night with some Celtic Connections regulars including Michael McGoldrick, Ewan Vernal, Donald Shaw and John McCusker.

The 20th Celtic Connections festival will have a retrospective feel looking back over the success of the last 20 years and the ethos and artists that helped shape it. The festival will begin tonight with the 20th Anniversary Opening Concert that will epitomise this with an array of artists taking part who have performed over the past number of years. As the festival has grown, many of the featured artists have grown up with it, or reached new audiences via its stages.  Over the years they have joined the intricate, ever-expanding and increasingly globe-spanning network of musical relationships forged and renewed each January. This celebratory concert also reflects back on the Scottish and traditional-based sounds that have always been Celtic Connections’ primary inspiration. Performers include Sheena Wellington, Eddi Reader, Julie Fowlis, Capercaillie, the newly reformed Flook, Cara Dillon, Chris Stout, Dick Gaughan, Finlay MacDonald, the Scottish Power Pipe Band and a specially-convened festival string ensemble helmed by Greg Lawson.

Donald Shaw, Artistic Director of Celtic Connections, said: “This January Celtic Connections turns 20 and we’ve got a superb line-up of musicians to help us celebrate the occasion. Many artists performing over the next eighteen days have been involved in the festival for a number of years but there is also an array of fresh new talent being showcased. Every year we explore the connections between Celtic music and other musical genres, as well as with cultures across the globe. This year the programme is the most diverse yet. As always we’re delighted to be bringing some astounding world music acts to Glasgow such as Salif Keita and also three fantastic artists from Mali’s different musical cultures for the Sahara Soul Project.”

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Celtic Connections has established itself as one of the leading lights in Scotland's cultural calendar. It celebrates its 20th anniversary doing what it does best, bringing artists and audiences from all over the world to Glasgow to enjoy unique performances and collaborations that will live long in the memory.”


There have been a number of brilliant new support acts announced for this year’s festival.

Don’t miss one of the most highly acclaimed folk/bluegrass bands in the UK today Southern Tenant Folk Union who will support Hothouse Flowers at the Old Fruitmarket on Thursday 31st January.

Adam Holmes’ haunting songcraft will undoubtedly prove to be a popular opening for The Dardenelles in the Art Club on Sunday 27th January.

Multi-instrumentalist Tim Edey  will perform with his trio to support Solas “Shamrock City” at the Old Fruitmarket tomorrow night.

Danny Kyle Open Stage winners Wingin’ It are sure to deliver a fiery, energy filled performance when they support Preston Reed at the Art Club on Wednesday 30th January.

The Be Good Tanyas have announced that due to ill health Sam Parton will not be joining the band for their concert at Celtic Connections. Replacing Sam will be special guest musician Caroline Ballhorn who is a multidisciplinary artist and musician based in Vancouver BC. Caroline contributed vocal harmonies to Frazey Ford’s 2010 release “Obadiah”

Highly-acclaimed Friday Street DJs will be performing with The Beatstalkers at the Arches on Saturday 2nd February.


Billed as the indie Transatlantic Session, Roaming Roots Revue with Amy Helm, Beth Orton, Lau and Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire as house band is a concert not to be missed at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 20th January.

Hip-hoppers Stanley Odd & The Electric String Orchestra will bring force and grandeur to panoramic soundscapes at the Old Fruitmarket on Wednesday 23rd January.

Burns and Beyond at the Old Fruitmarket will unite the concepts behind previous years’ Indian- and Jamaican-themed festivities, the line-up includes leading-edge stars from both musical territories including the amazing ex-Gladiator and rural reggae legend Clinton Fearon. Also performing is British-born sarod innovator Soumik Datta, with beatboxer and ‘vocal sculptor’ Jason Singh and jazz/folk singer Fiona Bevan. Also on the bill are the superb Scottish/Indian quartet India Alba and top Scottish folksong combo Malinky - back together after a couple of years’ hiatus, with a new album due in 2013.

Two inventive young African rappers Baloji and Lëk Sèn which each create their own richly multi-layered synthesis of native traditional and contemporary music with African-American and other diaspora styles in the O2 ABC on Saturday 26th January.

Folk legend Martha Wainwright will showcase her outstanding new album Come Home to Mama in the main auditorium on Tuesday 29th January.

A wonderful evening of blues will be guaranteed with the Heritage Blues Orchestra with Eric Bibb in the Main Auditorium of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 31st January.

Shetland champions Fiddlers’ Bid return hungrier than ever after their 20th anniversary at Celtic Connections 2011. In the Main Auditorium on Saturday 2nd February support will come from the outstanding traditional singer and gifted accordionist Emily Smith.

At the Art Club on Wednesday 23rd January the diverse talents of six winners and finalists from the international Burnsong songwriting competitions will be united to present The Kilmarnock Edition - Alex Hodgson, Lisa Rigby, Roberto Cassani, Fiona J. Mackenzie, Yvonne Lyon and Stu Clark - released their excellent, all-original debut album Pay It Forward in 2012, blending Scots, Gaelic, pop, world and jazz influences.


For twenty years the festival has celebrated the influence of Celtic music on cultures around the globe, with acts from as far afield as Australia, Greenland, Mexico, Mali, Pakistan, Serbia, Palestine, Senegal, Cuba, Congo, India, Cameroon, Japan, Israel, Argentina, South Africa as well as across Europe, the USA and Canada all visiting Glasgow to take part in the festival. The world music strand is just as strong during the festival’s 20th birthday with fantastic acts coming from far and wide.

Known as “the golden voice of Africa” Salif Keita will be set to impress with his cross-fertilisation of his native griot traditions and other West African sounds with pop, jazz, Latin and Islamic influences. Keita’s music has evolved from largely electric, synth-based fusions to the soulfully rootsy, organic approach of his latest acclaimed album, 2010’s La Différence.

The Sahara Soul Project is a defiantly inspiring collaboration which will unite artists from three of Mali’s different musical cultures. With his band Ngoni Ba, Bassekou Kouyaté is a modern-day pioneer of the ngoni, the banjo’s forebear instrument, boldly exploring new creative realms from his Fula tribal roots in southern Mali. From the country’s opposite end, young Tuareg outfit Tamishek have been hailed as worthy successors to Tinariwen, delivering a hypnotic blend of desert blues, dub beats and psychedelic rock, while the griot-descended Sidi Touré, from the currently beleaguered ancient northern city of Gao, interweaves old and new songs in the Songhai folk tradition.

A hugely influential giant of African music, Ethiopian multi-instrumentalist and composer Mulatu Astatke will be gracing the Celtic Connections stage. Mulatu enjoyed his original heyday during the 1960s and 70s, in both New York and Addis Ababa, pioneering the fusion of American jazz, funk and Latin sounds with his native traditional scales and melodies. Supporting Mulatu is flautist Lucas Santtana who has been hailed as a one-man Brazilian music revolution, cross-matching classic and contemporary styles with live and sampled sounds including reggaetón, electronic, classical music, indie-rock and tecnobrega.

The magnificent, otherworldly soundscapes of dissonant diaphonic harmonies of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares helped kick-start the whole world music movement 25 years ago and their performance at this year’s Celtic Connections will prove that they remain just as thrilling entertainers today.

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