4 shows to check out at this year’s Celtic Connections festival

Celtic Connections is one of the most important music festivals in the UK. Taking place in Glasgow each January over a period of three weeks, it brings together music from across the Celtic nations and beyond, and often features unique collaborations and one-off concerts that make it a regular and unmissable event for the many thousands of people who travel to Scotland for the festival.

This year’s programme features several Real World artists, including the a performance by The Grit Orchestra, which honours the legacy of the late Martyn Bennett, who changed the face of Scottish folk music when he released is album Grit in 2003. Here are four events we recommend festival-goers should check out:

The Grit Orchestra perform at a sunny WOMAD Festival, 29 July 2016.

1. The Grit Orchestra – ‘Martyn Bennett’s Grit & Bothy Culture’

SATURDAY 18 JANUARY, BARROWLAND BALLROOM

To complement their opening-night première of bespoke new cross-genre compositions, the 80-piece Grit Orchestra, a hand-picked array of Scottish folk, jazz and classical artists, revisit the music that first made them, that of the late and much-lamented Martyn Bennett. Founding conductor Greg Lawson’s extraordinary live realisation of Bennett’s eponymous final masterpiece was their inaugural towering achievement, at Celtic Connections 2015, followed three years later by his orchestration of 1998’s Bothy Culture, which filled the Hydro to the brim with euphoria. Amid the über-conducive ambience of Scotland’s best-loved rock’n’roll ballroom, we mark 15 years since Bennett’s passing, while celebrating his continued legacy, with the first back-to-back performance of both works.

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9Bach at Kings Place, London 14/10/19. Photo credit: Tom Oldham.

2. 9Bach + The Little Unsaid

Friday 24 JANUARY, DRYGATE BREWERY

Longtime vanguard insurgents in Welsh music’s uphill/underdog battle within the wider Celtic scene, 9Bach followed up 2015’s landmark Best Album win at the Radio 2 Folk Awards for Tincian with brooding yet passionate third LP Anian. Fusing original Welsh-language folk, downtempo grooves, dirty guitar riffs and Greek/Middle Eastern influences, it also features guest contributions from Rhys Ifans and Peter Gabriel. In 2019, the band re-released their debut self-titled album to mark 15 years together as a band, and will present new drummer Andy Gangadeen (Chase & Status, Faithless) in a show which will cover material from all three studio albums.

If they were Scandinavians, they’d be selling out arenas soon—MOJO

Signed to Reveal Records (home of Lau, Eddi Reader, Kris Drever, Joan As Police Woman) The Little Unsaid have been busy creating ‘Atomise’,  their new studio album due for release in May. Led by Yorkshire-born songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Elliott, The Little Unsaid have a rigorous work ethic and a genre-spanning approach to song-writing that embraces elements of electronica, folk, jazz and alt-rock. Their live shows are highly emotive unique experiences, a world class band not to be missed.

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Les Amazones d'Afrique at Greenbelt Festival, August 2019. Photo credit: Oran Mullan

3. Les Amazones d’Afrique

Friday 24 JANUARY, TRAMWAY

Les Amazones d’Afrique will launch their eagerly-anticipated second album Amazones Power at this sold-out show in Tramway. Described as ‘a rousing and defiantly modern revolution in sound‘ by Q Magazine, the new album features a younger generation of singers from Africa and the diaspora alongside original members Mamani Keïta and Rokia Koné, all united for the common cause of fighting violence towards women and gender inequality. Produced by Liam Farrell (a.k.a Doctor L), the album blends pan-African styles with elements of hip-hop, electronic music and psychedelic funk.

Before the band’s set, as a showcase finale to the new Celtic Connections in the Community programme (a partnership with BEMIS, Scotland’s support body for the ethnic minority voluntary sector, backed by UNISON and the Scottish Government), festival artists and groups from five Glasgow communities will present specially-created performances, celebrating the city’s contemporary diversity of cultural traditions.

sold out

The Breath live at Trinity Centre, Bristol. Photo credit: York Tillyer.

4. The Breath (+ Ewan McLennan)

THURSDAY 30 JANUARY, TRON THEATRE

Alt-folk duo, The Breath —guitarist Stuart McCallum and singer/flautist Ríoghnach Connolly— make their debut Celtic Connections appearance hot on the heels of Connolly’s win of Folk Singer of The Year and nomination for Best Duo/Group at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Revered for Ríoghnach’s deeply intoxicating, jaw-dropping voice, Stuart’s understated brilliance and their exquisitely crafted, heartfelt songs, The Breath have built a reputation for the remarkable connection they share with their audiences and their compelling live shows.

From a BBC Folk Award to his work with Transatlantic Sessions through to his recent critically-acclaimed collaboration with the author George Monbiot, Ewan McLennan has come to be known as one of the finest troubadours, singer-songwriters and balladeers of his generation. As well as some of the favourites from his previous albums, tonight will feature tracks from his forthcoming album Borrowed Songs.

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Coming soon

  • Amazones Power

    Les Amazones d’Afrique

    Released 24 January 2020

    A creative force that embraces international voices; sweet, strong harmonies that summon the rights of women and girls; a meltdown of heritage and new gen talent… Les Amazones d’Afrique are back with Amazones Power, the sequel to their widely acclaimed 2017 debut album, République Amazone.

By Online Editor

Main image: 9Bach's Lisa Jên Brown performing at Kings Place, London, last year. Photo credit: Tom Oldham.

Published on Thu, 16 January 20

Further reading

Les Amazones d’Afrique’s new single ‘Queens’ is an anthem for everyday women in Mali

The band have shared the video for the new single to mark International Women's Day 2020.

NTS Work In Progress 2020 selection announced

Real World partnered with NTS Radio to support this artist development programme.

18 voices on the new album by Les Amazones d’Afrique

Amazones Power, their second album, features voices from Africa and the diaspora.

4 shows to check out at this year’s Celtic Connections festival

The annual music festival takes place in Glasgow every January over the course of three weeks.