l l K
t I g Celtic Connections is ten this year. In that time it has changed the face of music in Scotland, and has helped nurture both its audience and the artists who feed it.
Words: Kenny Mathieson
he ten-year landmark was very distant prospect
when Celtic Connections launched itself onto an
unsuspecting music scene in 1992. Like the (ilasgow Jazz Festival before it. it was cooked up out of nothing as a full-scale international event. Then as now, it was an independent production. directed by Colin l-lynd and funded as a commercial operation by the Concert Hall.
Most amazingly. it was plunked down square in the middle of the month unanimously considered to he the dead zone for the arts (and just about everything else). January was largely a no-go area. People were skint alter Christmas and New Year. the conventional wisdom ran. and January is a long stretch to the next pay-day. liverybody was fed tip with celebrating. the weather was rubbish. and nobody was interested in going out to hear Celtic music or anything else.
If Celtic Connections had achieved nothing else. they could pride themselves on blowing that theory out of the water. The festival has not merely survived. it has been a real success story. and has expanded in size and scope. That success has led to a knock—on willingness from other people in different areas of the arts to try things. and the dead zone is now looking pretty lively.
It has done much more. however. It has brought top international Celtic. folk. Americana and even rock artists to (ilasgow in previously unthinkable numbers. The programming is inevitably repetitive. but it is also consistently good. and each year brings variety alongside the returning big names (who tend to continue to draw big audiences in any case — fans are less
42 THE LIST 2' “. .J;r"1"r’,1l
It has brought top international artists to Glasgow in previously unthinkable numbers
i f .‘. .ii I": a
Where else piper Fred Morrison, Anglo-Scandic outfit Swap and singer Emily Smith co-exist so happily?
troubled than critics by regular exposure to their
It has established beyond any doubt that there is huge audience for Celtic music. which remains the core of the festival. even if they are free and easy about definitions. The early criticism that Celtic Connections was just a series of concerts rather than a real festival has also been addressed. both in the programming and in the growth of workshops. talks and education activities.
Their massive presence and relative financial clout has been less favourable for the viability of other folk music events. Both the (ilasgow and lidinburgh Folk l‘estivals have disappeared in that decade. and while neither failure was attributable to Celtic Connections. the dominance of the festival has made it more difficult to share its territory.
Musically. though. Celtic Connections has staked its claim to be considered as one of the handful of elite world festivals of Celtic music. That does beg the question of what we mean by Celtic music >— these days. it tends to refer to a diverse layering of musical styles. both national and international.
A glance at the festival line-up confirms that diversity is getting ever more diverse. The traditional music of Scotland. Ireland. Wales. Brittany. (ialicia/Spain and Cape Breton (and the Celtic Diaspora in the USA and elsewhere) remains the core. but now thrives in all manner of exotic fusions with jazz. rock. dance music. and the ethnic musics of liurope. Asia and Africa.
Celtic Connections has not only chosen to celebrate that diversity across its first decade. but has succeeded in putting the music back on centre stage. Its breadth. range and sheer quality has never been higher. and the influx of exciting new talents shows no sign of drying tip. Celtic Connections has played a big part in that resurgence.
Celtic Connections is at various venues in Glasgow from Wed 15 Jan-Sun 2 Feb. See listings for details
It’s looking black in 2003. Rejoice!
t Amerrca's demented
semr-srmran leader tarts rn
hrs objectrve to catapult the planet into catastrophrc global conflict. we c0uid be rn for quite a good year.
In the muSrcal world there are a multitude of records on the brrnk of release. whrch should hopefully bring some joy to Our war-torn planet. 2003 should see eagerly awarted new albums from Cat Power, Stephen Maiknius. Arab Strap. Smog and Bonny Prince Brlly. Ot thrs selection rnone of whrch I've heard a pip from) I thrnk that the Arab Strap and Smog albums grve ntost cause for excrtement.
When Arab Strap played wrth Mogwar rn Australra and at trrpTych they played a bunch of new songs ail of whrch were trernendoos in therr own rrght. It was also great to see Male back on the nuke not havrng sung with the Strap srnce therr debut. The Week Never S tarts Round Here. The song he sang had a lrne abOut not having a job but not Srgnrng on. something that I can detrnrtely empathise with. One of the Scotland on Sunday's most elrgible bachelors. Ardan Mottat. has also endured some heartbreak Srnce therr last album which though bad for Ardan can only be good to for the recoch buyrng public as nobody wants to hear songs by some cheery Cunt going on about how great hrs lrte rs.
Someone who rs about as Irkely to srng abetrt how great hrs lrte rs as I am likely to join the yOung conservatrves rs Smog. aka Brll Callaghan. For almost a decade now Smog have been releasrng tantastrc lrt rnconsrstent) albums whose combrnatron ot stark misery and rncredrbly dry humour elevate them above the slurry of depressive alt.country on otter. The last two Smog albums have not been hrs best and rt rs because of this I reckon the next one to be a classrc. Roll on 7003 and all rts nirserresl