Scotland

Celtic Connections: Director Donald Shaw picks 10 highlights

Celtic Connections musical director Donald Shaw highlights 10 of the most interesting events from the 18-day festival.

Buika - Tuesday 21 January

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The Mallorca-born daughter of political refugees from Equatorial Guinea, grew up absorbing local flamenco traditions alongside her parents' jazz and African records.

Donald Shaw says: "I would have heard her first about 10 years ago at a festival in Paris. She is just one of those amazing, soulful world voices that you can't put your finger on where she comes from.

"She is very Latino and it is an uplifting vocal sound. She has a very African jazz sound to what she does. I often think there are certain voices in the world where if you get the opportunity to hear them you should take it. She is one of those very special singers and you won't hear another singer like her in the world."

Amadou and Mariam - Wednesday 22 January

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One of Africa's most popular and successful musical exports over the last decade, the Malian husband-and-wife guitar/vocals duo of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia famously met at Bamako's Institute for the Young Blind in 1977.

Donald Shaw says: "Over the years when we started to dip our toe into world music at the festival the main two countries that we looked at musically, where there was a real connection between Roots music and Blues music, were Mali and Senegal. Over the years we have had artists like Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour.

"I have been hoping to bring Amadou and Mariam to the festival for a number of years because they are very much rooted in the tradition of African roots music but they have really connected with contemporary rock and blues music to bring that to a worldwide attention.

"I think it will be a very groovy show with a very cool vibe. They are one of the top world music acts around at the moment."

The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc - Friday 24 January

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The kinship between Norwegian, Swedish and Shetland music is demonstrated by The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc - Olav LuksengÄrd Mjelva, Anders Hall and Kevin Henderson.

Donald Shaw says: "When I saw them play in Ireland, it was one of my favourite gigs of the past two years. What comes out from this gig is how close the traditions of Shetland fiddling and Norwegian music are. Kevin Henderson is one of Scotland's greatest fiddle players. It is just a beautiful sound. Three fiddles for different registers and it is a magical combination. Very otherworldy and quite Nordic, as the name suggests."

International Burns Concert - Saturday 25 January

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Robert Burns's birthday is celebrated in style at Glasgow's landmark new national music arena.

Donald Shaw says: "In many ways this shows how far the festival has come, in a sense that we are putting on a very high profile, multi-bill show in the Hydro arena, such a large venue. It is a real international night. We have artists such as the Mahotella Queens from South Africa and Raghu Dixit from India, so there is a real mix.

"We are showing the influence of Burns, as a poet and humanitarian, on the Commonwealth nations. It is an exciting night. There will be lots of collaborations. We are always trying to find new ways to express Burns songs because they are so incredibly powerful lyrically and musically."

Trampled by Turtles - Saturday 25 January

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Originally formed as a bluegrass side project, by a group of rock musicians, Minnesota five-piece Trampled By Turtles have hit great success in their chosen genre.

Donald Shaw says: "Within the festival we are always looking at what is happening Stateside with a lot of the new bluegrass bands. Trampled by Turtles are kicking up a storm in the States with their very high energy bluegrass. Although they started out as a rock band they evolved eventually into what is essentially a rock 'n' roll bluegrass band. It will be one of those very cool Americana nights."

The Cauld Wind Blaws Big - Sunday 26 January

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A collaboration between Shetland fiddler Chris Stout, Glasgow piper Finlay MacDonald and the ScottishPower Pipe Band.

Donald Shaw says: "This is a typical project you see at Celtic Connections where there is a real explosion of styles and genre. Basically Finlay McDonald, the piper, and Chris Stout, renowned fiddle player, have created this project which involves a number of traditional fiddle players and pipers and a 24-piece string group. So it has an orchestral element to it along with traditional music. It is very powerful with fantastically innovative arrangements.

"The first half of that concert is a brand new commission called Undivided with Neil Yates, the jazz trumpet player from Manchester. I am describing it as Duke Ellington meets Ceilidh music. It is fantastic mix of big band arrangement with Trad music."

Bobby Womack - Monday 27 January

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Soul survivor Bobby Womack has collaborated in the past with great such as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Sly Stone.

Donald Shaw says: "A great old Motown survivor. Someone who has collaborated with all sorts of people right through to his last record with Damon Albarn. It is one of those very special occasions when we bring in an artist you are very unlikely to see and it will probably be the last chance to see Bobby. He is already at an age when he is getting frail and not touring an awful lot. A classic voice and I never make any apologies for having a great singer at the festival."

James Vincent McMorrow - Thursday 30 January

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Donald Shaw says: "He's probably typical of a new strand of singer-songwriter that has come out of the folk scene in the past 10 years. Very edgy. Beautiful contemporary song-writing that has its roots in old-style folk like John Martyn. He's on that contemporary side of the festival which is a really important part of what we are trying to do."

The Music of AR Rahman - Thursday 30 January

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This first Scottish performance of Rahman's music features the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with vocal students from the composer's own music conservatory, along with Indian instrumentalists including Rahman himself.

Donald Shaw says: "This year we have a strong Commonwealth theme. AR Rahman is probably India's best known and best-loved film composer, having done amazing soundtracks including Slumdog Millionaire. Also he himself has a great love of folk music. He runs a conservatoire in Chennai where they study folk music and some of those students are coming over to perform at the concert. It is a really interesting marriage of styles and just one of those really special occasions."

Stockton's Wing - Friday 31 January

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Donald Shaw says: "Stockton's Wing are one of the great Irish folk fusion bands from the early 80s. Stylistically they have a very funky rhythm track against old-style Irish fiddle tunes. They are much-loved within the folk scene and they have not really been around for 10 or 15 years. Again it is one of those special occasions, bringing them out from hiding."

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