Celtic Connections 2021: The New Scots


BEMIS presents ‘The New Scots’ in concert
16th Jan, various venues


After more footage of Glasgow, the performances from 16 January were brought to us by BEMIS, a Glasgow based organisation who promote and empower ethnic minority communities on a national level. They give voice to these communities using a mixture of music, song and storytelling.

The first act, from ‘The New Scots’ was Subrina ‘Brina’ Ward, an artist of African origin from the hills of Jamaica. Brina is renowned for her ability to uplift every audience who have had the chance to see her. Accompanied by her band (guitar, vocals, accordion), her song ‘Be Ready’ offered nothing less than strong vocals and powerful lyrics as it told of the resolution of life in readiness. Her second song, Nina Simone’s ‘Ain’t got no, I got life’ was a chance for her to offer her interpretation in her velvety tones.

Brina and all the acts were ecstatic to be involved in this year’s festival of joyous international collaborations. The third act hailed from Eastern Europe played the old and modern ‘Polka’ in a three-man band who swapped instruments including, violin, accordion keyboard so alive and celebratory. But our current circumstances were driven home. They announced that to their great distress the virus had claimed the life of their great friend and top accordion player. Their final song, ‘Doina’ was dedicated to his memory.

The joy of being involved in this year’s festival was well seen as Danny Cliff played his self-written song ‘Sunset’. With just his voice and a piano, already an endearing combination, his song reminded us of life’s more precarious moments when there is nothing to do but accept.

When Katie McGuire gratefully thanked the festival for her chance to be involved, she introduced Ceilidh music from her band, St Roch’s, who were a trio. The traditional Scottish dancing music was skilfully enacted in its swirling movements and close knit interactions.

And so, as the screen fell to Cosmic Shruti Box, the four musicians sat as a group on the floor. The performance began soulfully with the sound of Tibetan singing bowls of various sizes, enhanced by sitars and hand drums. The spiritual rhythms felt like light rainfall, warm and enthralling. There was an amazing amalgamation of cultures, Indian, African, Celtic with a portrayal of the musical ups and downs of the various societies, In the song Emma Stout’s voice blended Celtic Scots with Indian and rose to greater and greater depths as the music warmed and developed.

When you hear music like this it seems like all you are is there in the power of here and now. I sat here on my own, in my living room, with my laptop in front of me, and throughout the hour I was no less drawn to these wonderful performances and happy encounters.

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