Celtic Connections Digital Pass 2022: Dùsgadh / Anoushka Shankar’s Orchestral Qawwali Project

What to do with Celtic Connections 2022 Festival Pass, which gives you 12 hours of streamed musical action. Last year the idea of a digital festival was pretty much the only way to keep the Celtic Connections alive, but it was done so well that it should hopefully remain a major part of the festival from here on in. Not everyone can get to Glasgow & on the day I was meant to go myself, storms prevented my leaving the Isle of Arran, but luckily I had my pass.

I watch’d & rewatch’d a couple of shows, the first being Anoushka Shankar’s Orchestral Qawwali Project. She is the world-renowned heir to her father Ravi Shankar’s iconic legacy, a sitar player and composer, she has spent her career mixing her own Qawwali heritage with a great variety of styles including flamenco &electronica, collaborating with such diverse luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Patti Smith, Joshua Bell and Sting.

On this occasion she has bedded in with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which perfectly accompanined each Qawwali as it started gently & then slowly ramp up the vibes into a hypnotic reverie energizing musician & audience alike. Epic vocal sweeps from Abi Sampa, the UK’s first female qawwal, Amrit Singh’s tabla, hand claps & modern orchestral arrangements full of swirling strings together offer’d a soul-stirring & intricate journey thro Anoushka’s ouevre. A wonderful experience!

My second show was a multi-media collaboration between Scottish BAFTA-winning animator Cat Bruce, & Highland five-piece Breabach, call’d Dùsgadh (awakening). Created during the lockdown, when artists were straining to at least create something – I composed a musical myself, about Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow – something really beautiful arrived on the planet.

Its essentially a tradional Scottish folk tale set to wild celtic strains & bi-lingual narration by Margaret Bennett. You get the choice of either Gaelic or English, & despite knowing nothing of Gaelic, I preferr’d to listen to the piece in the language which sat more naturally with the music. This consisted of material from Breabach’s eagerly-awaited seventh album, due in spring 2022, as they continue to hone and develop their music’s brilliantly dynamic dialogue between tradition and modernity.

Damian Beeson Bullen

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