In 2019, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of one infamous wall being torn down, we live in hope that history will teach, even those who generally refuse to listen, that dividing walls exist only to be ultimately overcome by a collective spirit way stronger than bricks and mortar.

East West is a brand new song by Shooglenifty that celebrates values of solidarity, respect, friendship and humanity that we are much in need of in 2019. This original composition by the band is fused with a traditional Galician love song brought to the recording studio by Tanxugueiras. Seaia is named after the tiny coastal village in Galicia where it was collected.

Back story

In August 2017, the Shoogles were invited to Santiago de Compostela by local impresario and long-time friend Vitor Belho to play at the Feito A Man Festival (literally the ‘Handmade Festival’). Unbeknown to the band, Vitor had made a promise our late fiddle player Angus some 18 months previously that he would bring Shooglenifty back to Galicia. The band’s connection with this ‘home away from home’ goes back to the 1990s, spans many tours, and sparked many friendships. It also inspired two of Angus’s most famous tunes, 250 To Vigo and Nordal Rumba.

The band had no regular fiddle player at the time, but Jon Bews, an amazing fiddle player from Edinburgh, agreed to come to Santiago de Compostela with us.

Meeting Aida, Olaia and Sabela from Tanxugueiras when they played with Banda das Crechas at Shooglenifty’s tribute to Angus at Celtic Connections earlier in 2017 was an inspirational moment amongst the emotional reminiscences that night. The Shoogles, and indeed the audience, were blown away by the sheer energy and incredible power of these three young voices.

Once we knew that Shooglenifty would play at Feito A Man, we looked for a way to record with Tanxugueiras while we were in Galicia. Xabier Olite of Banda das Crechas offered his studio in the gorgeous village of Rois, a short drive from Santiago and we were all set.

The new song’s live debut was warmly received by the band’s Galican fans at Feito A Man, and East West has been wowing audiences ever since. The Shoogles were reunited with Tanxugueiras in August 2018 when both bands performed for the closing of the European Championships in Glasgow, and will be back together at Glasgow Barrowlands for Celtic Connections on Friday 25 January 2019. The single will be released for download and streaming on the same day.

Get your tickets for Shooglenifty with Tanxugueiras at  Celtic Connections here >>

Shooglenifty

Ewan MacPherson | Mandolin
Garry Finlayson | Electric banjo
James Mackintosh | Percussion
Kaela Rowan | Vocals
Malcolm Crosbie | Electric guitar
Quee MacArthur | Bass

with

Jon Bews | Fiddle

Tanxugueiras

Aida Tarrio | Vocals
Olaia Maneiro | Vocals
Sabela Maneiro | Vocals

Recorded by
Ben Seal and Xabier Olite in Rois, Galicia.

Mixed and produced by
Ben Seal and Shooglenifty

Mastered by
Calum Malcolm

Managed by
Jane-Ann Purdy

Cover design by
Ewan MacPherson

Photography by
Douglas Robertson

Video by
Magnus Graham and Simon Hay (camera)
Alistair Ferguson (editor)
Don Coutts (director)

Funders

This single was made with the assistance of Creative Scotland, the Feito A Man Festival and Cosima Von Saros.

Thanks

Many thanks to Vitor Belho for enduring friendship, unbelievable hospitality and his invaluable contribution to this recording.

Angi Porto and Noa Díaz and all at Feito A Man Festival, Santiago de Compostela.

Manuel Amigo and all the guys from Banda das Crechas.

Aileen Carmichael, Belen Angueira and Lucia Carmichael Vantsis for local assistance and translation.

Antonio and all the staff at Casa das Crechas, and all at Dezaseis Restaurant, Santiago de Compostela

Cat no: SHOOGLE 19019

East West was composed by Ewan MacPherson, Jon Bews, Kaela Rowan and Quee MacArthur. Seaia is traditional Galician.

The track was arranged by Aida Tarrio Torrao, Ewan MacPherson, Garry Finlayson, James Mackintosh, Jon Bews, Kaela Rowan, Malcolm Crosbie, Olaia Maneiro Argibay, Quee MacArthur and Sabela Maneiro Argibay.

© Shooglenifty Ltd. | Ⓟ Shoogle Music Ltd.


Our new album, official release 9 November 2018, is finally ready. Read all about it below …

Introduction

Scotland 2018 feels like a long way from Nirvana. I’m not referring to the political situation, but the veggie restaurant in Jodhpur where the Shoogles first talked about recording an album at the Mehrangarh Fort with Dhun Dhora, the Rajasthani band they had been collaborating with for the preceding few years.

That was October 2015 and no one was sure it would even be possible. Often referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ the Fort is the erstwhile seat of the Maharaja of Marwar-Jodhpur and home to one of the most significant museums in India. However, with the help of Divya Bhatia of Jodhpur Riff, a festival that takes place in the Fort each year, we were able to get the green light from the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and HH Maharaja Gaj Singhji. Funding was sought and secured. And a plan was put in place for recording with Dhun Dhora in October 2016.

We should have been delighted. But it was becoming increasingly obvious that our fiddle player Angus R Grant was very unwell, and a couple of months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer he died. This was October 2016, just at the moment when we should have been recording with him in Rajasthan.

The sands were shifting beneath our feet, and plans for this album put on hold as the band took time out to grieve. Then in February 2017 we received word that Dhun Dhora’s effervescent dholak player Roshan Khan had been killed in a road accident. Now completing the album took on a new significance and a new momentum, with both bands recognising the need to add fuel to the fire that Angus and Roshan had started.

So, in September 2017 the Shoogles finally arrived at the Fort with producer Ben Seal and myself in tow. Dhun Dhora had also made it to Jodphur from their desert home. Both bands brought tunes and songs and over a period of two weeks they played together, experimented, laughed, debated and recorded.

The studio was rigged in the 17th century Chokelao Palace, formerly the Maharaja’s guest quarters, in a room painted in stunning floor to ceiling murals. Not your average recording space.

Suffice to say there were many challenges. Not least the 40 degree heat that was melting us, the instruments and even some of the Indians.

Shooglenifty had to work with adjusting their instruments to singer Dayam’s ‘sa’ – a tuning that suits the resonance of his voice. This meant that they had to tune down just over a quarter of a tone, making the instruments behave and sound unusual. For Dhun Dhora, the experience of shortening their tunes to fit with the recording was curious, but something they very quickly adapted to.

The Shoogles know that they just took a few steps into the very deep well of Rajasthani music and provided Dhun Dhora with only an introduction to what they know of their own traditions and influences (it would probably take a lifetime to do otherwise and we just had two weeks). As Ewan says ‘Dhun Dhora’s music contains many facets. There’s chaos and beauty, bravado and respect, moments of ear splitting madness, deep universal understanding, and extreme calm. It’s wild, free, bright and bold.’ I could easily describe Shooglenifty’s essence in similar terms.

Looking back, these were beautiful, magical days, full of humour and learning, but when we left with the hard drive of tunes and songs, no one was really sure what had been captured. Meticulous editing, and inspired mixing by Ben Seal and the Shoogles, has revealed an incredibly special and unbelievably moving work. It’s a skilfully balanced collaboration where I think both bands are faithfully represented. And if you listen carefully, you’ll know that Angus and Roshan are in there too.

I’m not often moved to superlatives, but as I listen to the last note of Written in Water drifting away, I find a wee bit of nirvana remains. And this time I’m definitely not talking about a veggie restaurant …

Jane-Ann Purdy, Shooglenifty’s manager | June 2018

About the tracks

BOVAGLIE’S PLAID
Trad Scotland

After some 40 hours of travelling – four flights followed by an eight hour drive across Rajasthan – we arrived at the Mehrangarh Fort. This was October 2015 and we were going to play at Jodhpur Riff Festival. In a cool, peaceful courtyard at dusk with the swifts flying overhead, Angus stopped us in our tracks with this beautiful tune. We were very lucky to be recording, especially when Dayam answered him by singing a brief two-line poem in the form of an alaap. A very special moment.

HICHKI
Trad Rajasthan

This track starts with the Shoogles’ version of a traditional Rajasthani tune, then we let the experts take over… Hichki means hiccups!

JOG YER BONES
Avalu (Trad Rajasthan) / Jump Yer Bones (Laura Jane Wilkie)

Jog Yer Bones is based on a recording of Roshan Khan singing Raag Jog ‘Sufi-style’ into Ewan’s iPhone (listen out for him in the mix). It’s paired with a great new tune, Jump Yer Bones, written by Laura to gee up her fiddle class. Already a firm favourite with live audiences and readers of Songlines!

A’BHRIOGAIS UALLACH
A’Bhriogais Uallach (Trad Scotland) / Raag Des (Trad Rajasthan)

A’Bhriogais Uallach is a humorous ‘puirt a beul’ (mouth music) originating in 19th Century South Lochboisdale in South Uist. It mocks ‘the trouser’ as it tells the story of getting a pair made by the tailor. The wearer found them so big and ridiculous that he disappeared inside them! Kaela is joined on this track by Dayam and Sardar singing Raag Des.

DEAD END GLEN
Dead End Glen (Ewan MacPherson) / Saawariyo Parinaam Meera Ka (Trad Rajasthan)

Ewan wrote Dead End Glen for the narrow valley of Balquhidder where the wonderful music sessions at Mhor 84 take place. Transported to the desert by Dhun Dhora it blends with a Shooglified version of Saawariyo Parinaam Meera Ka, a song about Meera Bai who was a mystic poet in 16th century Rajasthan.

DHORIYE
Milleadh Nam Bràithrean (Trad Scotland) / Dhoriye (Trad Rajasthan)

Kaela learned Milleadh Nam Bràithrean from the singing of the late Ishbel MacAskill. The story is told through the eyes of a woman whose beloved is murdered by her own brothers. She has been betrayed by her sister, whom she curses. Its Rajasthani counterpart Dhoriye, sung by Dayam, is also a lament. It is the story of a newly married girl who is missing her family and way of life, having had to leave her desert homeland.

NIGEL’S ESCAPE
Nigel Escapes The Fort (Ewan MacPherson) / Gypsy’s Dance (Donald MacLeod)

Here’s to you, Nigel Richard! Nigel has been travelling to India to play with master musicians for years before we followed in his wake. This tune is dedicated to one of the most exhilarating lifts home Ewan ever had. Nigel was driving! The second tune, by Pipe Major Donald Macleod, was learned from Jim Brown in Balquhidder, and given the full dhol drum treatment by Dhun Dhora.

WRITTEN IN WATER
Written In Water (Ewan MacPherson) / Saawan Aayo (Trad Rajasthan)

This is one for Angus whom we all keep seeing out of the corners of our eyes:  smoking by the water at Glenfinnan, driving a 2CV on Skye, walking by the road in Fort William, sitting in corners of crowded bars, visiting us in our dreams and keeping our souls full of happy memories. It’s followed by Saawan Aayo which was Dayam and Sardar’s response to hearing Written In Water. It says, “Look, beloved, the rains have come …”

All tracks arranged by Shooglenifty, Dhun Dhora, and Laura Jane Wilkie.

All titles copyright Shoogle Music Ltd except Jump Yer Bones (MCPS/PRS) and Gypsy’s Dance (MCPS/PRS).

© & ℗ Shooglenifty Ltd 2018. All rights of the producer and copyright owner reserved.  Unauthorised copying, re-recording, broadcasting, public performance, hiring or rental of this recording prohibited.

Credits

SHOOGLENIFTY

Angus R Grant | Fiddle (track 1)

Ewan MacPherson | Mandolin, tenor banjo, jaw harp

Garry Finlayson | Acoustic and electric 5 string banjos, EBow

James Mackintosh | Drums, percussion, bass (track 8)

Kaela Rowan | Vocals

Malcolm Crosbie | Guitars

Quee MacArthur | Basses

with

Laura Jane Wilkie | Fiddle (tracks 2 – 8)

DHUN DHORA

Chanan Khan Manganiyar | Dhol, dumbek

Dayam Khan Manganiyar | Vocals, harmonium

Ghafoor Khan Manganiyar | Khartal

Latif Khan Manganiyar | Bhapang, morchang

Pyaru Khan Manganiyar | Dhol

Roshan Khan Manganiyar | Vocals (track 3)

Sardar Khan Langa | Sarangi, vocals

Sattar Khan Manganiyar | Dhol

Swaroop Khan Manganiyar | Dhol, dholak

Recorded by Ben Seal at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
And in Craigrothie, Scotland

Additional recording by Shooglenifty

Recording of Angus R Grant by Ewan MacPherson at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Mixed and produced by Ben Seal and Shooglenifty

Mastered by Calum Malcolm

Managed by Jane-Ann Purdy

Photography by Don Coutts, Douglas Robertson, Ewan MacPherson, James Mackintosh.

Cover design by Lewis Bilsland

Supported by Creative Scotland, Jodhpur RIFF, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Cosima Von Saros.

Catalogue no: SHOOGLE 18018

Our mandolin player Ewan MacPherson (pictured above with Latif Khan Manganiyar) on the background to our forthcoming album …

In 2012, I played a showcase gig with Kaela Rowan and James Mackintosh at Celtic Connections. After the show we met some representatives from a festival in Rajasthan who had missed our gig, but wanted to hear Kaela’s music. They invited us to go and play a few songs back at their hotel. I couldn’t make it as I had to go to play another gig. As luck would have it Kaela and James went and played for them and were surprised and delighted to be invited out to play at Jodhpur Riff in October 2012. I couldn’t go…

I went round to visit them after they got back and they were bursting with excitement about their trip. I was handed spice mixes and tried pickles they had brought back. They showed me some exotic new rugs on the wall and some stunning photos of north India.

A year later they were invited back, but this time they took myself and Patsy Reid too. After three extraordinary days meeting, playing music and drinking delicious sweet chai with some of the most incredible musicians from the Thar desert we walked on the main stage to perform a brand new collaboration.

The Jodhpur Riff stage is located in the main courtyard of a 500 year old Rajput fort. It’s called Merangarh (or sun fort ) and it sits 400 feet above the blue city of Jodhpur, on the hill of the birds. It was there under the full moon, with the local maharajah in the front row,  that we played one of the most extraordinary concerts I’ve ever been lucky enough to take part in.

Rajahstani folk musicians don’t really have the word ‘arrangement’ in their musical vocabulary; they are the most in the moment players I have ever known. They give 100% whether they are in a small rehearsal room in the outskirts of the city or on the main stage in front of 2,000 people. It’s chaos and beauty, bravado and respect, moments of ear splitting madness and extreme calm. We all felt the full effect of their heritage. Our own music felt square and regulated, whilst theirs was wild, free, rough, bright and bold. These people are giant musicians and we were very much awestruck by their musical mastery.

We learned a few of their tunes and songs (they sing in their local language Marwari). We tried to teach them some of our tunes and songs. And we discussed a variety of ways to collaborate without being able to play each other’s music, whilst understanding the underlying soul and intention. We watched in amazement as they argued and laughed about which uncountable, super complicated break should happen here, which alap should go there and who should call the tehai. It was organised chaos: beautiful, magical days, full of humour and learning. And there were moments of sober realisation about what we were actually doing.

We walked on stage with a rough collection of Gaelic songs, Scottish tunes and some Marwari song names written on our set list, not really knowing what was going to happen.

We needn’t have worried, I usually get a little nervous before gigs, but despite everything, travel, heat and trying to get our heads around this new music, it was one of the most gently powerful, beautiful and moving gigs. We felt so calm, almost meditative and in the moment with our new friends.

The next year we went back with Shooglenifty and did it all over again … and again the next year. In 2015, over a few beers in a rooftop restaurant, appropriately called Nirvana, we decided to record an album in Jodhpur with a group of eight of these amazing Marwari musicians. By this point they had organised themselves into a band going by the name of Dhun Dhora, meaning literally ‘music of the dunes’.

We had planned to go to Rajasthan in 2016, but then our esteemed compadre Angus Grant fell ill and plans were put on hold. We looked at ways to record the album in Scotland, but before the wheels could be put in motion we lost Angus, pretty much at the exact time we would have been back in India with Shooglenifty for a third year.

Unsuprisingly everything was upside down for a while, but slowly we came to the realisation that we had to go back and finish what we had started with Angus. There had been loss on the Rajasthan side too, one of our new friends, an amazing man called Roshan Khan, who played a mean dholak, died in a car accident a few months after Angus.

So, in October 2017 we found ourselves once again back in Rajasthan about to record an album which had taken on a whole new meaning. We had some amazing days recording in the royal guest rooms in the fort and staying within its awe-inspiring walls.

The recording wasn’t without its difficulties, however. The heat damaged instruments, some of the band fell ill and weren’t available to record all the time, and there were computer crashes. When we had finished the last day, we were not sure what kind of an album we had in the can. It was only when we got it back home to the studio that we would know how everything was hanging together.

Last week we were in Fife finally making a start on mixing the album at Ben Seal’s studio. It took many days of work to get this recording in some shape, but what a shape it is! Working on the music has brought back a lot of amazing memories for all of us and the album is starting to sound bloody great. Even Angus and Roshan make their presence felt.

The result is something we couldn’t even imagine three years ago. And I can’t wait to share it with you.

Huge thanks go to Divya, Namrata, Govind, Sharon, Jane-Ann and everyone who made this possible.

Fingers crossed we’ve a few gigs in England and Scotland with our Rajasthani friends over the summer and there will be a documentary too following on. What a journey!

We have a few more days to raise funds to pay for the manufacturing of the album. Pre-order your copy here

Not so long ago, we sent all the Shoogles a questionnaire to fill in. To welcome Eilidh to the band we wondered how she would manage with our existential questions (pretty well as it turns out). Read on …

Why are you joining Shooglenifty?
It’s an honour to be asked! (And would be rude not to!)
What are you looking forward to most about being in the band?
Doing lots of high-energy, foot-stomping gigs.
What should audiences expect from the band’s forthcoming gigs in Edinburgh and Shetland?
Pyrotechnics.
What is your favourite Shoogle tune and why?
Venus in Tweeds. Angus and I were flatmates at the time the album came out and I got slightly obsessed with that tune, to the point where I had a dream in which it was being played by a full classical orchestra.
What is your favourite gig outfit?
Anything sparkly.
What would be your fantasy gig location?
Anywhere with sun, sea, sand and a party crowd.
Who would play you in Shooglenifty: The Movie?
Jimmy Crankie
 
Shooglenifty will headline Edinburgh Tradfest on Saturday 28 April and the Shetland Folk Festival – 3–6 May 2018. Tickets are available here >>

We are overjoyed that Eilidh Shaw has agreed to join Shooglenifty. Of course, some of you will have seen her playing with the band already … she lit up the stage at our Night For Angus last January, wowed the audience during a short English tour last May, and brought a spark to the proceedings at our good pal Mattie Foulds’s wedding in September. Best of all she is a West Highland fiddler with a playful, infectious energy who was taught by Aonghas Grant (our Angus’s father).

2017 was a very difficult year for us as we worked on recording projects started with Angus, but obviously missing his physical presence. However, as we get into 2018 and those projects are getting close to completion (more news to come on those soon), we’re feeling a lot more positive. Best of all we’re really looking forward to getting into some serious touring with Eilidh this year and next (see below for some gigs coming up soon). For those of you who’d like to know more about our newest Shoogle, here’s a potted bio to keep you going …

Eilidh Shaw is originally from the Argyllshire village of Taynuilt, where she was the youngest of four in a relentlessly musical family (her older brother is Donald Shaw of Capercaillie and Celtic Connections fame). Throughout her teenage years she played in the family dance band and was introduced to a wealth of west coast musicians, many of whom had gravitated to Edinburgh, and Eilidh soon followed suit – joining the fantastic session scene just as we were getting the band started.

She spent her twenties immersed in the musical melting pot of that time, sharing a flat (and many, many tunes) with none other than Angus R Grant. She joined The Poozies, with whom she still plays, formed eclectic alt-folk band Harem Scarem and prog-ceilidh innovators The Squashy Bag Dance Band, and was involved in a huge number of projects with musicians across the genres.

Although her fiddling style has remained firmly rooted in the West Coast of Scotland she plays regularly with Scandinavian, African, Breton and French musicians. Now living in West Lochaber she teaches fiddle, plays for many local dances and sessions, and runs the annual festival, Fèis na Mara, as well as various other fundraising events.

Interesting fact: as mentioned above Eilidh was taught by Angus’s dad, the legendary left handed fiddler and teacher, Aonghas Grant. Aonghas makes red tassels for the fiddles of his most outstanding pupils. Angus’s sister Fiona tells us that her dad’s first tassel went to Angus, and he made the second for Eilidh …

Our first gigs with Eilidh are at Edinburgh’s Tradfest on Saturday 28 April and the Shetland Folk Festival from 3-6 May. Hope you can join us then. There will be a party (all week long!).

Last June we got some great news. We had received funding from Creative Scotland to help us make an album with our Rajasthani collaborators Dhun Dhora at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, and to also produce a documentary about the process. We should have been in celebratory mood, but our collective gut told us that there was something not quite right with our fiddle player Angus. Just over a month later we got the news we had been dreading. Angus was very ill indeed and the prognosis was dark: he wasn’t going to get better.

Shooglenifty gigs were being cancelled all over the place, our India trip was put on hold, and everyone was rallying round Angus and his family. When he died in October the outpouring of love from Shoogle friends and fans all over the world was quite overwhelming.

Thanks to Donald Shaw and everyone at Celtic Connections, we were able to focus our grief and the appetite for public tribute into a concert for Angus at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in January. 62 musicians – all people who had played with Angus at one time or another – came together for a gig that has already attracted legendary status.

Our manager was warned from the start that the concert should not over-run, and she had neatly programmed the show to finish at 10.30pm knowing that with the cast of characters on the bill, this was about as likely as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards travelling to a gig in the same car.

With half an hour to go there were parties going on in every dressing room backstage, fiddlers sessioning, mandolin players rehearsing, pipers warming up, Rajasthanis jamming with Galicians, and stories of Angus being shared in every corner. The documentary production crew, who had re-focused their energies into recording the gig, were squeezed into a backstage cupboard, and camera operators were taking position in the auditorium. Everything and everyone was where they should have been pre-show. And then, the fire alarm went off. So, at the time when the gig was due to start more than 2,000 people were standing in the street outside the Concert Hall.

Luckily gut wrenching time was kept to a minimum thanks to swift work by the fire brigade and everyone was back inside the building by 8pm. The joke of the night was that it was the ghost of Angus having a fly fag in one of the toilets that set off the smoke alarms.

The show finally began with an uncharacteristically seated Shooglenifty playing Adam Sutherland’s heartfelt new composition The Wizard, a tune inspired by Angus. The first half also included performances from our late fiddler’s niece Eva, his dad Aonghas, sister Fiona, representatives from various sessions he had been involved with over the years, and bands who wanted to pay their respects. The Shoogles and Duncan Chisholm closed the first set with a heartrending pair of tunes: Farewell to Nigg and Sileas. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. But from the moment the second half kicked off we were into party mode and there was just no stopping that juggernaut once it had started. As anarchic as the man himself, and every bit as spellbinding, the show finally ended with everyone on their feet chanting Angus’s name at 11.30pm. Numerous people missed their last train home, but since the after party went on all night this didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. It’s what he would have wanted …

Shooglenifty: A Night For Angus is available to stream or download on Vimeo on Demand. Proceeds from the video will contribute to the completion of a documentary about Angus and the band, with a percentage from each transaction going to Cancer Research’s work into prevention and treatment of oesophageal cancer.

Watch it here …

The video of the concert includes 90 minutes of Shooglenifty’s performance from 21 January and also features the following players:

Fiddle
Adam Sutherland
Charlie McKerron
Duncan Chisholm
Eilidh Shaw
Gavin Marwick
Laura Wilkie

Mandolin
Iain Macleod
Laura Beth Salter
Nick Prescott

Bass/percussion
Conrad Molleson

Percussion
Donald Hay
Mattie Foulds
Tom Bancroft
Aida Tarrio
Toby Shippey

Horns
Michael Owers
Toby Shippey

Pipes/whistles
Fin Moore
Manuel Amigo

Vocals
Dayam Khan Manganiyar
Heather Macleod
Olaia Maneiro

Morchang/percussion
Latif Khan Manganiyar

DJ
Dolphin Boy

For all those of you who are wondering what the Shoogles are up to right now and what the band’s plans are for the future, finally a little enlightenment…

The questions we’re getting asked the most are: ‘who is going to replace Angus?’ and ‘are you carrying on?’ The answer to the latter question is a simple one, ‘yes’. But right now, we’re not ready to replace Angus. He was someone so close to us and so immutable that to parachute someone directly into his shoes does not seem fair: to us, to those of you who love our music, and to that person. No matter how amazing they are, they will be instantly at a disadvantage in comparison to Angus, who was so much more than just our fiddler.

But in the interests of carrying on and some rather large items on our ‘to do’ list (see below), we will continue to work with special guest fiddlers. Those of you who made it to our Night for Angus concert at Celtic Connections will have seen some quite epic performances and, schedules allowing, we will continue to work with some of those extraordinary performers and a few others. To be quite clear though, we are not carrying out an extended audition process to find a new fiddler, rather collaborating with members of the extended Shoogle family to produce new work and delight our audiences.

This rather neatly leads us on to the aforementioned massive ‘to do’ list. Just before Angus found out that he was ill we had put in place, and received Creative Scotland funding for, plans for making a brand new album in Rajasthan with our friends in Dhun Dhora (the band we collaborate with at Jodhpur Riff), and to make a documentary about that process. All this activity was to have taken place in October 2016, and the album was to be launched at Celtic Connections in January. Those plans were put on hold and rearranged several times as we learned just how serious Angus’s condition was, and there was the slight matter of James ending up in intensive care for several weeks at the end of August. From July to October we were living on shifting sand.

We all wanted to make the album, but efforts to get Angus to record some of the new tunes he was working on were overtaken by his illness. He got to the point where he felt he couldn’t play fiddle well enough to be recorded. We knew he was playing about with garage band on the new iPad that we bought him, and could still work on his tunes on the mandolin, but at that point he hadn’t let anyone hear his new compositions.

October was fast approaching. No one wanted to travel to India without Angus and he really wanted to be well enough to go with us. But in the end it was not to be. Our friends at Jodhpur Riff made rapid contingency plans to replace the band at the festival, and Angus passed away on 9 October 2016.

So our show at Celtic Connections became a tribute to our much loved and admired fiddler, and we used some of our funding to film the gig. This footage will form a stand alone video of the concert and will also be used as part of the documentary. It will take a more winding path now than originally planned.

As for the album it is our hope to complete it this year. There are lots of tunes that we were working on with Angus that we want to include. We got hold of his iPad after he died, but sadly the tunes he was composing could not be found. It seems that he had not figured out how to save his work.

As part of the wider album project we will travel to Santiago in Spain in August to play some gigs and most likely do some recording with our friends from A Banda das Crechas, whom we have known and played with since the early days. And we will finally get to Rajasthan in October to play with Dhun Dhora, whom we hope will be very much part of our future. We will also record with them, as planned, in the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

Our immediate plans are to finish the mix for the video of our performance at A Night for Angus and release it on Vimeo. We know many of you are looking forward to seeing it. The proceeds from the video will help us complete the documentary, and also act as a fundraiser for Cancer Research.

We will continue to play live too – you’ll see that we already have some gigs scheduled in England with Eilidh Shaw in May. Playing live is extremely important to us and we’re really looking forward to this short tour with Eilidh, and some other dates that are still in the planning stage. It’s crucial for us to feel the reaction of you, the audience, to our new material and to hone it in that setting. The last thing we want to become is a tribute band to ourselves, just hammering out the old favourites (but don’t worry we’ll still be playing them!).

As you would expect our collective mood is subject to wild fluctuations and there’s no doubt that this year will not be plain sailing for the band. However, just last week we received an unexpected boost when Angus’s sister Fiona found a couple of new tunes that he had been working on, stashed on her old computer. It seems he had worked out a way to save them after all.

So there’s a lot to do, we need to salvage those precious tunes from Fiona’s rickety old PC, arrange and develop tunes we’ve been working on for a while, write new tunes, play more gigs, record an album, and make a documentary (phew!). The whole year will be devoted to that effort, to working with collaborators, old and new, and to working through our grief, which is, by turns, firing up and backfiring on all this effort. It’s melting our heads at times but as Angus once said, if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.

Shooglenifty will be appearing at: Saltaire Live (Victoria Hall) on Friday 26 May, The Water Rats, London on Saturday 27 May and at Lewes Con Club on Sunday 28 May. Tickets and details are here

Shamless plug no 2: our totally retro and totally cool ACID CROFT t-shirts are now on sale. Get yours here

 

 

 

One of Angus’s former pupils, Deirdre Armstrong, offers her own appreciation of his rather individual teaching style …

Angus has been a magnificent figure in my life. I joined a fiddle class at the Edinburgh Adult Learning Project years ago in the 90s and in walked Angus. He took us off on a fantastic, glorious, unusual journey that will never stop …

What a privilege to be in that class.

He was a man of few words but what he said remained imprinted on my memory: teaching gems; a few words which summed up the history behind a tune; brief advice; cryptic jokes.

We were moved and mesmerised by his playing and laughed so much in his classes. Inspired, we longed for that tone, that power, that beauty.  We listened, practised and strived as he led us deeper into the music. Over the months in one of his mixed instrument classes the mandolin player, tin whistle players and guitarists abandoned their instruments and started playing the fiddle!

He would play a slow air for us to learn and we choked back tears; all the west coast Gaelic heritage was there and we could feel it. West Highland music shone through everything – he built on his roots from learning at home and was so open to music from around the globe. “A good tune is a good tune whether it’s from Kyle or Kiev” he would say.

Shooglenifty really got going about that time and I listened in Christie’s Bar, danced madly to them when they moved to La Belle Angele and other Cowgate clubs, and I’ve tried to catch every gig within reach ever since. More recently I would occasionally hear Angus in sessions in Edinburgh, courteous and encouraging to younger players whom he helped to blossom.

There is now a hole in my life and in the lives of so many. But alongside the sadness I am very grateful to have learned so much from him. 

I love those meandering and hypnotic tunes like Nordal Rumba, exciting rants like Delighted, dancey quirky ones like Venus in Tweeds and Crabbit Shona. We were always compelled to dance as soon as the band got going.

‘No one is going out of here without the rhythm’ he would say in the class. ‘If you’ve got a problem with the notes go back to the rhythm and you’ll get it’. And the rhythm was all about dancing and like the pied piper he could make us all dance!

As Roy in our fiddle class said “Shooglenifty should be on the NHS!” We came out of every gig glowing, euphoric, exhilarated and in love with the world. The band’s magic never failed. They all gave it everything whether there were ten people or a totally packed festival.

Angus was the best ambassador for Scottish culture without trying – infectious dance rhythms and hilarious intros to tunes said it all.

I respected the way he lived outside the system – he never got incorporated. What a generous free spirit!

For those of you who couldn’t make Angus’s send off on Tuesday 18 October 2016, we thought you might like to read James Mackintosh’s heartfelt eulogy to his brother Shoogle

Welcome everyone, all of you who has come to pay their respects to Angus and his family today, I’m sure their spirits will be buoyed by so many friends offering condolences and support.

Aonghas Snr has asked me to say a few words about our dear old pal, and it is my privilege to do so, on behalf of myself, and the rest of the band.

Firstly, I must pay tribute to his sisters, particularly Fiona, who ever since his illness became apparent, bravely and selflessly cared for Angus at home, supporting him in so many ways, and allowing him to have his final wish, that he remain there, right up until his passing.

We must also thank his GP who went beyond the call of duty, and all the nurses from St Columba’s Hospice who did their very best to make him as comfortable as possible throughout these last few weeks.

I know that all of the families friends are rallying around, and will continue to offer Fiona, and her family, the love and support they will need over the coming months and years.

It wasn’t until the spring of this year we all finally realised that Angus was profoundly ill. A private man, he kept that illness hidden until it could no longer be mistaken.

When, in August, he was given the prognosis that his cancer was inoperable, he declined to undergo radio or chemotherapy. Instead he was determined to try and best prolong his life and maintain the quality of his life with more natural remedies.

His strength and his stoicism were remarkable throughout his illness, as was his determination and commitment to honour as many gigs and engagements as he could with the band, right up until the point where it became physically impossible for him to play.

A recent tribute from our friend Balazs Hermann who played bass guitar during one of Angus’s last concerts, illustrates his bravery and commitment beautifully:

“He seemed quite weak that day before the gig, and we all knew then how ill he was, and yet when we stepped on stage he transformed completely!

“He looked strong, and had an oozing charisma about him. He was free from all that burden while he played!

“His sorcery made everybody get up and dance, and freed us from all our little worries!

“After the gig he kindly thanked me for learning the material.

“It was a great lesson of love , and healing music , and it has made a mark on who I am today.”

Angus the sorcerer.

Many people who knew and loved his quirky and shamanistic stage persona might not have known the quieter side of the man.

I believe Angus chose the philosophy that he was the master of his own fate, and therefore everything depended upon him.

If he ever worshipped a deity, his  deity was nature.

From our teens, roaming the glens of Lochaber or sailing the lochs of Moidart, to gazing out at a sunset in the South China Sea, to marvelling at the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere, or gasping in awe, as yet another incredible vista came into view as we rounded a bend in the Rocky Mountains. He never ran out of wonder, superlatives, nor it has to be said, expletives, to express his joy and amazement at the beauty of the natural world.

I can recall him in sitting, in his element, on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, in a rocking chair, glass of wine in one hand, jazz cigarette in the other, gazing in wonder as the tall pines by the ocean swayed gracefully in the breeze.

“James, look,” he said, “They’re dancing  … have you ever seen such a beautiful dance”.

Angus the animist.

He never took our adventures for granted, and was always grateful for the opportunities to travel to new lands, and to meet and make new friends.

Throughout our travels, he saw beauty in diversity and was always excited by new experiences, always willing to be surprised and learn.

I believe he had a true appreciation of the nature of the world.

He was respectful of those who choose to follow their particular religion seeing truths in all of them, in that way perhaps his philosophy was akin to that of Bhuddism.

“There are some who prefer bread, and some who prefer rice. Each has different tastes, some eat rice, some eat flour, but there is, and should be no quarrel.”

In many respects though, he adhered greatly to the tenets of the Christian faith he was brought up in, respect for others, and an acknowledgement of differing perspectives.

He did his best to try to tread as gently and benignly as possible.

He didn’t chase acclaim, and he certainly didn’t seek to accumulate wealth or possessions, as he knew those couldn’t buy him happiness. As long as he had enough to get by, and a good book, which he would always pass on, he was content, as he knew that true wealth was accumulated elsewhere.

A mischievous and rebellious irreverence streak could often appear too though, more of which later …

I believe that music was Angus’ communion.

He was never more delightedly in his element than sitting in a session, or wee ceilidh, surrounded by friends, into the small hours, playing whatever instrument came to hand, and leading the assembled throng through a rousing version of Little Feat’s Willing, the Grateful Dead’s China Doll, or on very special occasions, and here shone that mischievous irreverence I mentioned earlier, a medley of Freddie Mercury songs sung in the call and response style of a Wee Free Psalm … Thunder bolts and lightning indeed.

As the hours passed, you  knew instinctively, that if it was “Willing O’clock”, it was already well past your bedtime, but invariably, the following morning Angus would be at breakfast, proudly proclaiming himself as having been “the last man standing “.

Of course his love of partying took an inevitable toll, but Angus knew the odds, and he shared more love, and packed more joy and fun into his 49 and a half years than many can do in 80.

I believe Angus will have passed through the eye of the needle with consummate ease.

His old friend Tina Cleary of Auckland, New Zealand, said yesterday:

“He was truly a man of music. A poet writer, a thinker, compassionate, deeply romantic and one of the funniest men I’ve ever known. His wit could silence a loud bigot or lift a shy child into laughing and joining him in a tune.”

Over the last few months he gave occasional insights into how he saw his place in the world.

He felt that the simple questions – “What is it I do when I go out to work? What’s my role in life? Do I make people happy or not ? – were important ones.

The answer that came was reassuring.

He was an entertainer, undertaking the very important role –spreading joy and happiness.

Amidst all of those myriad nights of music and dancing, he gave people the rare opportunity to  break the ice, shed their worries, inhibitions and tensions,  and often reach a state of pure and unadulterated mutual joy. He believed this condition is when we are at our very best, and surely as mother nature intended.

He also cheekily speculated on how many happy unions had been kindled during some of our concerts over the years. We know of a few happy couples who met during Shooglenifty concerts, who have gone on to raise happy families.

Hearts were ignited …

As Chloe Goodyear Director of the Woodford Festival in Australia illustrates, in a lovely tribute we received this week:

“Such wonderful memories of dancing to his fiddling, under bright starry skies, and in sweat-drenched venues in Brisbane. I know I’m one of so very many of those dancers for whom he poured out tunes that spurned on wonderful long crazy nights.

“I send deepest condolences, lots of love, and the warmth of all the hearts he helped to ignite here, amongst Woodfordians, to be with you during this time.”

I think perhaps I am about to make what will be a strong contender for the understatement of the century:

Angus liked to party!

Angus loved a party!

He served his “apprenticeship”, as he often put it, in his teens, playing tunes, and learning songs with his pals Iain Macfarlane, Kaela Rowan and Gogs Macfarlane and Graham Willowby, in their band Pennycroft. Their first big break was offered to them by Fergie Macdonald, a regular Sunday evening session over at his old bar at Mingarry. Where better for a young musician to learn the ropes and pay their dues.

I’m reliably informed that the troubadours would drive all the way home, through Glenuig to Glenfinnan, singing, and to the tune of Carrickfergus,

“I wish I was … in a car at Fergies”

Angus’ love of a good party is legendary, and he graduated with a diploma and a doctorate in the art  having learned from some of the great professors of our age. You know who you are.

When I reached Edinburgh and Art College, he appeared one summer and suggested we spend as much time busking as it would take to buy two return tickets to Amsterdam.

We managed this in less than three weeks, and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

I returned after a few weeks to resume college, but Angus stayed out in Europe for some months, travelling throughout, studying under some of the greatest musicians and party animals in the land, and being inspired by a terrifying motorbike journey to write his iconic tune 250 to Vigo. He finally returned, in style, on a first class flight, courtesy of the Swiss Immigration Services. He had his partying diploma rolled up in his fiddle case, and took up residence once more under the living room table in my sister and I’s High Street flat.

His GP, whom we must thank for going those extra miles and showing Angus concern and kindness beyond the call of duty, recently observed:

“Angus certainly lived his life off piste, and that has to be respected.”

Given that he was a renowned fiddler in a popular touring acid folk combo, he otherwise managed to lead a remarkably anonymous existence, navigating his course well under the radar of conventional society and the establishment.

No mean feat in this day and age of social media, consumer profiling and celebrity worship.

Many friends from around the world knew that the most reliable way of reaching Angus was via his personal P.O. Box: The Shore Bar on the waterfront in Leith.

He was no man’s fool.

Where better than to stroll in, collect your mail, sit down, have a leisurely read, whilst enjoying a good pint of Guinness?

Angus did not own a mobile phone, in fact he said to me a couple of weeks ago:

“Can I state quite categorically, I do not, and never have, nor will I ever, own a mobile phone!”

This despite the best efforts of our long suffering manager Jane-Ann who recently tried to persuade him to use one, in case of an on the road emergency.

No beer backstage, for example?

In the early years, it seemed to us bandmates, and to his sister, that he truly believed soundchecks, interviews, rehearsals, tours, hotels and transportation, had all mysteriously coalesced through some great and mysterious cosmic alignment, and not the concerted efforts of many of his bandmates.  

Nor was he at all fond of social media.

Only last year he was horrified to learn that we had tracked him down to the Isle of Eigg, when he was spotted in the background of a friend’s picture in an online post.

The fact that he was only person at that particular fancy dress party not in fancy dress did make things a little easier though, that and that beard, his hat, and of course his fiddle.

He could be a very elegant man. Perhaps the living embodiment of “Shabby Chic”.

He sourced a seemingly endless supply of velvet jackets and flared jeans from Edinburgh thrift shops, and he adapted his clothes to suit whatever particular climate in whatever particular continent we happened to be in on any particular day.

Over the years, we witnessed him expertly perform several of his “trouserectomies”.

On arrival in Asia or Australia his jeans would prove too warm, so his solution was to simply cut them down to shorts with whatever implement came to hand.

I recall this causing a certain amount of consternation to the concierge at whatever venue we might be performing in. One particular occasion was at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi, when the doorman seemed very reluctant to believe that a man in such attire could possibly be performing in his hotel’s ballroom that evening.

Another favourite tale is the journey he once made home from our wonderful trip to Bali.

He boarded his flight to Edinburgh from Denpasar wearing a very colourful sarong, sandals and a tie dyed t-shirt. On arrival in Edinburgh it soon became apparent his luggage was lost in Heathrow. He cut a very dashing figure striding across the Meadows in Edinburgh through the snow.

A prouder moment for him was some years before on the set of the Film Rob Roy in Glen Nevis. He was the only man in the film who required neither make up nor costume. This was confirmed at the end of one day’s shoot, when a make up assistant approached him and tried to pull off his beard, believing it to be false, like those of all the other extras.

The vagaries of fashion held no interest for Angus.

Someone recently defined cool thus:

“When you are about as far as possible as you can be, from being what is currently perceived as being cool, then you are truly cool.”

Angus was cool.

So, given his distain for social media and mobile communication devices, there is no small irony to the fact that the band, and Angus’s family have been inundated online and off,  with so many messages of love and condolence over the last few days.

I think he may be be wearing a wry smile knowing that he has been such a ubiquitous presence on Facebook in these few days after his passing.

The amount of love and respect that is contained within the many moving tributes we have received these last few days is testament to the high esteem in which Angus has been held by his many many friends, fans, and fellow musicians throughout Scotland and the world. We’ve compiled a book of them for Moira and the family, but I’d like to share just few excerpts with you just now.

The first  comes from the acclaimed Scottish playwright Matthew Zajac:

“Today we have lost, far too soon, a great Highland musician.  Angus Grant, the fiddle magician of Lochaber, the Shooglenifty sorcerer, the violin virtuoso who, with his wonderful band, led the Scottish folk renaissance into the most exciting new territory, with a legion of young musicians in tow. 

“Angus was my daughter’s first fiddle teacher, patient and always fun when she was 7 years old.  He was quiet and shy, though never on stage where his brilliance was both mesmerising and explosive. 

“What a loss. 

“Angus, I salute you. 

“Oidhche math mo charaid.”

From fellow musician Paddy Callahan:

“I was incredibly lucky to know Angus and I am a much better person for it. I first met him in Inverness and after a few encounters at various festivals, we became friends, who might not meet up often, but when we did it was fantastic.

“The advice, support and encouragement he gave to me as a young musician is something I will never forget. He was an inspirational person from whom a few short anecdotes on making his way in music helped me in so many ways.”

From the brilliant Tim Edy, guitarist and button box player:

“Life can be cruel and often the very best and most genuine human beings go too soon, I was so shocked to read about the loss of one of the true gents of the music scene, whenever I got to play in a session when he used to stay up in Birnam, or met him he was so lovely and always had time to have a natter, he was a true great.”

From Bruce Magregor, musician and Radio presenter:

“Angus Grant was an inspiration to so many of us as a musician , but away from the gigs he was also a hell of a nice guy. I remember being a 16 year old and seeing him and Iain Macfarlane in their band Pennycroft. They opened my ears to a new world.”

He went where he wanted and never followed the crowd.

A true legend of our music.

From percussionist Paul Jennings in the US:

“At the Shetland Folk Festival in 1995, my life changed forever.

“Shooglenifty and their frontman Angus had changed the playing field of Scottish traditional music and from where I was standing at the age of 13, I knew I needed to be part of it.

“Angus had a presence on stage like no other I have ever seen. Was he a rock star, was he a wizard, was he just a bad ass fiddle player who knew how to work a crowd?

“I think he was all of these things and more.

“Some years later I had the opportunity to tour with Shooglenifty. I will never forget this man and I feel blessed I got to play some great music with him. A true artist, musician, and one of my biggest inspirations.”

And from our good friend Luke Plumb, who shared the stage with Angus for many years, and sent us this message last night from Melbourne:

“For a period of seven years in amongst the albums and touring with the Shoogles and the Funky String Band, Angus and I were grounded together by the routine of a Monday night session at the Tap Inn in Birnam , and a Tuesday night at the Reverie bar in Edinburgh.

“Monday meant a rendezvous at Waverley to get the train together, fill in the sudoku and more often than not, remark at the grandeur of the Forth Rail Bridge, point out the boar in the farm just before Perth, and comment on how Perthshire was a slightly more genteel and unthreatening version of the Highlands.

“We’d watch University Challenge and then go to the session, and have more tunes in the bar afterwards.

“Tuesday night was more straight ahead, great tunes in a great venue with great folk. They were very different sessions but an intimate and grounding start to the week after whatever the Shoogly weekend had brought us.

“He was delighted to watch musicians at the sessions progressing from beginner, to having a good repertoire of tunes to join in with. He loved playing because when he did, the music came out and he knew how powerful that is.

“It was rare that these two days would pass without him saying to me, in wonder and almost surprise, ‘How lucky are we man. This is heaven.’”

From our friend and Shoogle family member Laura Beth Salter:

“What an amazing musician, friend to many and an incredible influence on a generation of musicians.

“I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to play music with and learn from Angus, to have heard tales of some of his crazy adventures around the world, to have been told the stories behind the music from the horses mouth  and to have been offered his gentle advice and to have shared a few drams.”

And from Somhairlie Macdonald, designer and musician:

“A hero of mine. Literally, if it had not been for him and all the others in Shoogles I may have never had the courage  to be myself and go after what I thought was cool, to embrace my own culture and distort it to make it my own. A staunch and unyielding individual, Angus was an artist that can be held in a timeless regard, like our poets and painters. An innovator and peerless front man with the stage craft of a rock God. A philosopher, a punk and a gentleman. My heart goes out to his family.”

What is clear within many of these heartfelt words, is that so many younger musicians were inspired in Angus’s wake, to be proud and fearless in expressing and continuing our traditions in new and innovative ways.

As a musician, Angus was surely part of what the late great Hamish Henderson called the “Carrying Stream”, and that he maintained the integrity of a tradition, keeping it vibrant and exciting to the next generation, is surely a very proud achievement.

Angus could never see music as a competition sport, only as a privilege to be shared with the next generation.

Brian Macalpine put it beautifully just yesterday:

“I hope that tomorrow is full of camaraderie, love and joy at the role Angus played in making Scotland a better place, where it’s cool to listen to trad music and that indeed trad music raises the bar in its evolution and survival. For all the sadness , I hope you are all surrounded with friendly faces all there not only to share in your loss, but to bring comfort to all that need it.”

From musician Mike Vass, all the way from The Celtic Colours Festival in Nova Scotia (or, as Angus liked to call it, the largest of the Outer Hebrides):

“I listened to Venus in Tweeds on repeat when I was a teenager, excitedly trying to make my fiddle playing swing like Angus’s. A huge inspiration to me.

“There was a lot of sadness in the air last night at the Celtic Colours festival club, I’ll be playing his tunes for years to come.”

Angus learned that unique swing from his father, as have scores, possibly hundreds of young fiddle players, learned from the teaching and generosity of a man in our midst who surely deserves the title of one of our great living national treasures.

Aonghas Grant senior.

I’m sure everyone will all agree that our lives, music and culture have  been enriched immeasurably by his efforts over the years.

Those efforts and energy are accumulating, and inspiring so many more young musicians, many of whom have been, and are being inspired in turn, by his son Angus.

I hope that in the sharing of these tributes, both Aonghas and Moira’s hearts will swell with pride, we all owe them both a debt of gratitude.

There is a quote from Dr. Vejay Verna, in this year’s programme for Jodphur RIFF, where had he not fallen ilI, Angus would have been today. I think it sums up his musical philosophy perfectly.

“It is not possible to turn back the tide of change. Our only hope can be to incorporate as much of the folk bequest into the web of life, with as little loss of innocence, spontaneity and vitality as may be possible.”

I believe our dear friend fulfilled these criteria in every respect, and indeed surpassed them joyfully, and I know myself and my bandmates to be so very grateful and fortunate to have shared so many magical adventures with our beloved friend.

I’ll sign off now with a couple of thoughts from two of Angus’s closest friends.

From his dear pal Teri Reilly:

“Angus meant something different to all of us: a son, a brother, a friend, or a lover.

“He was a thoughtful and thought-provoking man who loved the absurdities of life: from deep discussions on world politics, to trying to throw lemons into chimney pots and the infamous road party on Eigg.

“We all have Angus shaped holes in our hearts right now. But we also have the most wonderful memories to cherish and share.

“And music, to keep us shooglin’ and smiling along the way.”

Perhaps Luke Plumb speaks for many of us when he said last night in Melbourne:

“Angus existed in a condensed version of time that I know will slowly unravel, for the rest of my life, into endless joyous memories.”

And finally, in Angus’s own words, the words which he himself often spoke to audiences all around the world, as he departed the stage:

“One love … and  please remember, be kind to strangers.”

It is with deep sadness that we announce that our brother Shoogle, Angus R Grant, passed away last night after a short illness. We would like to thank his doctors and the team from St Columba’s Hospice who enabled him to die peacefully at home surrounded by family and close friends. Here follows a short appreciation …

Angus R Grant

Angus first picked up a fiddle at five years old. He was given a quarter sized instrument by his uncle and the family were amazed when in just few days he had three tunes on the go. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been so surprised. As the son of the renowned left-handed fiddle player and teacher from Lochaber – Aonghas Grant – his destiny was to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Not that he saw it quite in the way that Grant Sr intended. In fact, his teenage years were full of filial rebellion, as he gave up the fiddle and took up the electric guitar. It was the time of punk, and a do-it-yourself vibe. Spending hours practising pibroch and puirt tunes seemed less attractive than thrashing away at a guitar. In those days, playing fiddle was decidedly uncool, ironically something Angus did much to change in the next 30 or so years.

It was his school friend Kaela Rowan (now providing vocals for Shooglenifty) who persuaded Angus to dig out his fiddle again and go along to a session. Shortly after, Iain Macfarlane, himself a fine fiddler, persuaded to Grant Jr to join his band Pennycroft with Kaela as third member. The threesome worked their way round the bars of Glenfinnan, Glenuig, and Loch Ailort, not forgetting Fergie’s Bar in Mingarry, a particular favourite.

Angus became a regular visitor to Edinburgh from 1985, following in the wake of his old school friend James Mackintosh, and James’s sister Fiona (both Art College students). Encountering other players in the capital opened his eyes to other musical possibilities, and he persuaded James to take their music to the streets during the Edinburgh Festival in that first summer. As James headed back to college he left with his fiddle for a busking tour of Europe. In that trip he visited Vigo in Spain which inspired one of his most famous tunes Two Fifty to Vigo. On his return Angus joined James and Fiona’s boyfriend Malcolm Crosbie in experimental punk bluegrass combo Swamptrash. Also in the line up were Orcadian banjo player Garry Finlayson and bassist Conrad Molleson.

Swamptrash fitted the late 1980s Edinburgh music scene. It was a time anything could be thrown into the musical pot and musicians from all disciplines jammed together. By the time Swamptrash split up in 1990 it wasn’t unusual to find jazz musicians forming folk bands, trad musicians discovering improvisation and a young piper called Martyn Bennett hanging out in the city’s clubs.

As Swamptrash ran its course Angus, James and Malcolm were at a loose end and took themselves off to Spain for a spot of busking. By this time Angus had begun to embrace his father’s tradition once more. But now the music of the bagpipes and Gaelic song were peppered with a mixed bag of more modern influences: Captain Beefheart, the Fall, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and Miles Davis among them.

Returning to Edinburgh the embryonic Shooglenifty found a regular table in Christie’s Bar in the West Port. They drew in Finlayson, Molleson and mandolin maestro Iain Macleod, and, as bigger and bigger crowds were drawn to their stirring tunes they moved down the road to a residency at Cowgate club La Belle Angele.

Shooglenifty’s sound was brewed in those early sessions – Iain’s precisely handled mandolin, Malcolm’s pumping guitar, Garry’s wayward banjo, Conrad’s grooving bass line, James’s tight as a drum dance beats. And soaring above was the, by turns, wild and serenading fiddle of Angus R Grant. They were a rock band. With a fiddle player as a front man.

And with Macleod, the Sundance to his Butch Cassidy, Angus brought the spirited coupling of fiddle and mandolin to the fore. When Iain left the band in 2002, the Shoogle front man formed another dynamic duo with Tasmanian mando maestro Luke Plumb, a warm and inspirational partnership that lasted for over a decade. When Plumb returned down under in 2014 his shoes were filled by Shoogle fan and razor-sharp stringsmith Ewan MacPherson, a pairing imbued with lashings of energetic empathy.

With Venus in Tweeds, Shooglenifty’s first album, the band took the folk world by the scruff of the neck, and they’ve kept on shaking ever since. Through seven studio albums, gigs to a few hundred in small Highland village halls, playing to tens of thousands in festival fields across the globe, and a couple of line-up changes, Angus was there, centre stage. He had never missed a gig until this July when illness forced his hand, but he returned to the stage to complete Shooglenifty’s run of August festival appearances.

In addition to the iconic first album’s title track Venus in Tweeds and Two Fifty to Vigo, Angus wrote some of Shooglenifty’s most memorable tunes including She’s In The Attic, Nordal Rhumba, Glenfinnan Dawn and Fitzroy Crossing, the haunting closing track to the band’s most recent release.

Shooglenifty filled most of Angus’s musical life over the past 26 years. He rarely played in other combos (the Funky String Band with Luke Plumb a notable exception). Latterly, he was happiest playing traditional music in pub sessions in the Highlands and around his adopted home of Edinburgh.

Somewhat bohemian in outlook, Angus was more rigorously unconventional on stage, leading audiences in a merry dance for over 30 years, and influencing a whole generation of musicians. With his rock n roll swagger, he made fiddle playing cool.

The Shoogle front man was a flighty and mercurial figure: he lived on the breeze, loving to disappear on walkabout (or, more often, hitchabout) in the Highlands, to pop up in far flung bars, and drop by for random visits with a legion of much loved friends. He eschewed modern technology, never owning a mobile phone and remained a stranger to social media. He lived without ties and responsibility, but was devoted to his music, his family and his fellow musicians. He was asked recently if he and the other Shoogles were like brothers after so long playing together. He said, “Worse: wives!”

Angus is survived by his father Aonghas, his mother Moira, sisters Deirdre and Fiona, niece Eva, and Shoogle wives Ewan MacPherson, Garry Finlayson, James Mackintosh, Malcolm Crosbie, Quee MacArthur and Kaela Rowan.

Angus Roderick Grant, musician and inspiration, born 14 February 1967; died 9 October 2016.