Celtic Connections 2016: Director Donald Shaw picks 10 highlights

Skerryvore Image copyright Kris Kesiak

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

Musicians including Robert Plant, Bernard Butler and Karine Polwart will take part in the winter music festival as it begins its 18-day run.

Artistic director Donald Shaw described this year's line-up as "brave and bold".

He has picked out some of his highlights.

Pilgrimer: A Re-imagining of Joni Mitchell's 'Hejira' - Saturday 16 January

This gig at the Royal Concert Hall is one of several in the festival's programme that focuses on migration - a theme of this year's Celtic Connections.

Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira was written while driving home alone from Maine to Los Angeles. It meditates on what one track calls "The Refugee of the Road", with its contrasts of freedom and loneliness.

James Robertson, a novelist, poet and champion of the Scots language, has adapted the album into Scots and a Scottish setting.

According to Donald Shaw, it is one of a number of shows that demonstrate how migration has influenced the music scene.

He added: "It's a good example of a fairly ambitious project coming to life between different artistic styles and different art forms - between writing and music."

The Mike + Ruthy Band - Sunday 17 January

Image copyright Christopher Gilner

The Mike + Ruthy Band have an established pedigree on the Americana music scene.

Ruthy Ugnar is the daughter of Grammy-winning fiddler and composer Jay Ungar, and both she and bandmate Mike Merenda were members of contemporary string-band, The Mammals, alongside Pete Seeger's son Tao.

Their debut release as The Mike + Ruthy Band came last year with Bright as You Can.

Donald Shaw said their gig at the Old Fruitmarket would showcase "new Americana". "It's taking all the elements of old time, back porch music and making it more current," he said.

"You can go to a concert like that and you're watching Americana musicians but you realise there's a lot of connection to Scottish music. There's a very strong Celtic connection to a concert like that."

Toumani Diabaté with RSNO - Sunday 17 January

Image copyright Malik Sidibe

Toumani Diabaté has been described as "Africa's greatest instrumentalist" for his performance on the west African kora - a predecessor to the harp.

In a concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, he will lead an orchestrated version of his 2008 solo album The Mandé Variations.

Mr Shaw said the musician from Mali was "extraordinary".

"The very idea that a instrumental musician from Africa would be on stage with a world class orchestra would seem far-fetched 20 or 30 years ago," he said.

"It's a good indication of how far world music has come in those years."

Music from the Machair - Thursday 21 January

Image copyright Celtic Connections

Music from the Machair showcases talent from the Gaelic cultural stronghold of the Uists and Benbecula in a concert at the Old Fruitmarket.

Among the artists performing are South Uist singer Mairi MacInnes, one-woman ceilidh Rona Lightfoot and Cape Breton's Rodney MacDonald.

Gigs like this are the back-bone of the festival, said Mr Shaw.

"If you imagine that Celtic Connections is a big old flowing river, then a concert like this is a pure stream coming down the mountain."

NeXo - Thursday 21 January

Image copyright Celtic Connections

NeXo is brand new project for Celtic Connections that enables the exchange of traditions and ideas between musicians in South America, Galicia, Scotland and Wales.

Its first fruits will be unveiled in a gig at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The nine-strong line up is drawn from five countries, including Scotland's Finlay MacDonald and Megan Henderson.

Mr Shaw said: "It's almost like Celtic music meets tango so I'm looking forward to it."

Béla Fleck 'Concerto for Banjo' with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra - Saturday 23 January

Image copyright Celtic Connections

Béla Fleck is, according to Donald Shaw, "one of the world's greatest banjo players".

At Glasgow City Halls, he will perform the European premiere of his acclaimed banjo concerto, The Imposter.

It was commissioned by the Nashville Symphony and first performed in 2011 by the New York musician, who has won 15 Grammy awards.

Mr Shaw said: "He is someone we love at the festival and this will be an amazing performance to see."

Bwani Junction perform Graceland - Saturday 23 January

Image copyright Celtic Connections

The 30th anniversary of Paul Simon's landmark Graceland LP will be celebrated by Edinburgh indie/roots band Bwani Junction.

The album, which was recorded in South Africa with then-unknown singers Ladysmith Black Mambazo, led to popularisation of so-called world music.

Mr Shaw said Bwani Junction are heavily influenced by African artists and their guitar style mirrors that of musicians from the continent.

"It shows how much Graceland is still an influence on young musicians today," he added.

The gig is at the Old Fruitmarket.

Just for Gordon - Celebrating a National Treasure - Sunday 24 January

Image copyright Celtic Connections

Just over a decade since the death of piper Gordon Duncan, this gig at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall will celebrate his life and influence on the Scottish piping community.

Among those who are taking part in the concert are The Tannahill Weavers, of which Mr Duncan was a past member.

Mr Shaw said: "He was an extraordinary musician chiefly but really he's been very influential in the renaissance of piping in the country, particularly for young people."

Piaf! The Show - Wednesday 27 January

Image copyright Celtic Connections

Every year Celtic Connections has an international partner - this year it is France.

To mark that partnership and the 100th anniversary of French music's ultimate grande dame, Piaf! The Show will be performed at Glasgow's Theatre Royal.

It promises to bring to life Edith Piaf's career and character as well as the voice and songs including La Vie en Rose, L'Hymne à L'Amour, Milord and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Bert Inspired: A Concert for Bert Jansch - Sunday 31 January and Monday 1 February

Image copyright Ed Miles

Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and Blur's Graham Coxon will line up for the last gig of Mr Shaw's highlights list.

He said the festival had been "overwhelmed" by demand for tickets, and from performers keen to take part in a tribute to the late Scottish guitarist, singer and songwriter Bert Jansch.

The first night at the Old Fruitmarket has already sold out and a second performance has been arranged to take place at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Mr Shaw said: "Bert Jansch's influence has been massive on musicians for 30 to 40 years. I think it's great that an artist like Robert Plant feels that this kind of concert is where he wants to be performing."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites