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.

Some fantastic reviews for our new album have landed in the past month or so. Here’s a selection:

SonglinesShoogs in Songlines0001_wee

R2Shoogs in R20001

Le Canard Folk, Belgium

CF mars 16 p4_sm

The HeraldShoogs in S Herald0001_wee

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Acoustic MagLayout 1

You can also see some online reviews here:

The Australian

Music Meter (Dutch)

FolkWords

The Living Tradition

Folk Radio UK

Spiral Earth

Folkworld

There’s going to be an explosion of genre-defying music this Friday when current Gaelic Singer of the Year Griogair Labhruidh aka Ghetto Croft joins the Shoogle tour. To celebrate we got Griogair to answer a few difficult questions. Here goes …

Did you grow up speaking Gaelic and if so, where, and did you get it at school?
Where I was brought up, near a wee village called Gartocharn on the border of the Southern Highlands and the central belt; It was English we had in the house, didn’t get a word of it at school! I started speaking Gaelic in my late teens because my family, originating from the West Highlands on both sides, all spoke it and my dad’s family in particular were very famous for being a big part of the Gaelic tradition (singers, pipers, tradition bearers).

What or who first got you into music and what was the first instrument you learned? And now what instruments do you play?
I first got into music through my parents – my father is from a famous hereditary tradition of pipers spanning many generations as is my mother’s (although she doesn’t play herself). I learned the pipes first of all and I’m told I could sing ‘canntaireachd’ before I could talk. The instruments I play now are: highland, small and uileann pipes, electric/acoustic guitar (like playing jazz guitar in particular), whistles, a bit of percussion, mouth organ, and of course the beatmaking/rapping.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up and what did you like about it?
I heard bagpipes, bagpipes and more bagpipes! The bit I loved best about it was seeing my dad playing and competing etc. I really loved the drums in the local pipe band though and that’s probably where my early feel for percussion and beats started. When I got into my teens I listened to everything from rock, blues, classical etc. I was also exposed to the commercial end of the Gaelic music scene and attended Runrig concerts as a youngster. I remember being really into them when I was still in primary school and singing along with their Gaelic material.

What or who inspired you to start rapping – and did you always rap in Gaelic?
My biggest influence as a rapper when it comes to Gaelic material is unquestionably the late Calum Eardsaidh Chonnich (Calum Beaton) from South Uist, where I spent my early twenties. I used to hear him recite line upon line of Gaelic poetry and with the drive in me to become a master of the language and its literature I aspired to be able to do the same. It was only when I had mastered some of the poems I heard from him and started reciting them musically without music that I realised the musicological connection between what he was doing and what I heard in the complex meters of some of my favourite MCs like Talib Kweli. When I started rapping it was all old traditional poems I used. Following that (being a Gaelic poet already anyway) I started developing my skills and the prospect of becoming an MC became a reality.

Why do you think rap or hip hop music works for Gaelic/Highland themes – what points of contact do you feel with the original African American rappers?
In non-colonised West Africa they have the tradition of the griot who, at one time, as well as being a musician and poet, would be able to recite people’s ancestry to them and tell stories, sing songs of someone’s forebears to give them a sense of ‘dùthchas’. In the writing down of our traditions our filidh, bàird, griot or whatever you want to call them lost their place in society and this coupled with Britain’s dismantling of our traditional communities killed off our very own tradition of Gaelic rap which has existed for thousands of years.

There’s nothing new about what I’m doing, only that I have set the poetry to contemporary sounds and beats using a turntable and a sampler or working with African drummers/singers for these sounds as opposed to the guitars, mandolins, keyboards of western folk music it usually meets. The difference being when it meets those instruments in a folk context it usually changes the nature of the music to be more Westernised; rap brings the poetry straight back to its roots. Most of the melodies and styles of ‘sean-nós’ we have are relatively new when compared with the recitative styles I encountered when studying the performances of our most ancient music; the aural poetry of Oisinn and other greats. When I refer to the poetry of Oisinn I do not mean the reshaped invented traditions associated with James MacPherson, but the thousands of lines of aural poetry which were collected in Scotland that we believe to be the actual words of the ancient poet himself.

As far as points of contact with Hip Hop culture are concerned, the first point I’ll make is that Hip Hop is not a culture. It is a civilisation! It’s about self respect, peace, love, unity and having fun. Its roots are ancient and go beyond what the big record companies and the media have led us to believe it is. Like Gaelic culture it has been highjacked and had its true spirit taken out. The people who celebrate both cultures are colonised and have been for centuries. The parallels between what has happened to all the exploited peoples of the world have already made an appearance in Hip Hop. It’s only the racists that believe Hip Hop should be for blacks only. It is a truly global culture and has instilled confidence in, I’m sure, millions of culturally disillusioned people like myself to move their culture into the modern era. It is a truly global phenomenon. It has it’s roots, but they go back a lot further than the ghettos of NY in the 1980s; it goes back to Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Duncan Ban Macintyre – to all the great poets of history, musicians, dancers, artists of the world who have expressed a collective consciousness for their people the world over.

When did you first hear Shooglenifty’s music, and, assuming you are a fan(!), what do you like about it? Any favourite tunes and why?
The truth is that I didn’t listen to any trad fusion music at all until very recently. Whilst exploring my own tradition I was obsessed with ‘the pure drop’ as they say in Ireland and the material I enjoyed listening to was all unaccompanied, old style music! I remember explaining that to Angus [Grant] the night of Knockengorroch and how I really wasn’t familiar with their material at all for that reason! I had performed with his father and spoken about old tunes, but never with himself. I particularly like Angus Senior’s version of my grampa’s cousin Willie’s tune Mrs MacDonald of Dunach and I hope to get it from him some day!

It’s only recently, having had something of a revolution of the mind in my approach to tradition that I have opened up to listening to Shooglies, Treach etc, and appreciating the amazing creativity of others of who have found a way of blending tradition and the new in their own unique way. I’m glad I came at it this way though, because it gives me a deeper understanding of how what I’m hearing came together and I must say, having gone through the back catalogue on Spotify I think The Untied Knot is my favourite! James [Mackintosh]’s drumming in particular is completely immaculate and I count him as one of the very best drummers in the country (a really rare thing indeed). The grooves he provides and the tempos etc. are always spot on. 

When did you first appear live with Shooglenifty and how did that feel? How did it work fusing what you do with the Shoogle tunes?
When I met the boys backstage at Knockengorroch this year I had no idea that they would be up for having me on stage, I think it is testament to how keen the guys are to encourage the up and coming (if indeed that is what I am!). I remember standing and listening from the side of the stage with my pal Joe Peat who was doing the monitors and being blown away by the audience’s reaction (mainly made up of people you wouldn’t associate with traditional music). It showed how the guys are kind of ‘genre-less’. Acid Croft is surely about as close as you could get to it! When I finally got the signal from James that my spot was coming up I got a huge rush of energy. It was the first time I’d ever performed on a stage that size and I must admit, I got a hell of a buzz out of it! As far as the fusion goes, I think it worked very well considering we had never tried it before and I hope in the future that there will be more collaborative opportunities!

What did it mean to win your recent award at Na Trads (Griogair won ‘Best Gaelic Singer’ at the recent traditional music awards in Dundee)?
Winning the Trads meant a lot to me because it made me feel like I’m a part of the bigger picture of all these wonderful musicians and great minds who are currently creating so much beautiful music in this amazing little country of ours. Just to be a part of that and to be considered worthy of being nominated, never mind winning the award was a real honour.

What can people expect at the Glasgow gig? How can you encourage people who might be put off by the “Gaelic rapper” tag?
At the Glasgow gig expect to hear REAL HIP HOP combined with REAL GAELIC MUSIC. That is what we intend to bring to the table every time. It’s the realness of getting up there and saying it like it is (or like you think it is), cutting and scratching sounds that blend naturally from the african American tradition with the raw energy of Gaelic music (not just poetry, but piping, fiddling and singing) that is the GhettoCroft signature sound. 

If people are expecting to turn up and be shouted at in Gaelic, they’re in for a surprise! This is something you have never heard before. We also have English language material that people can participate in and understand so the non Gaelic speakers won’t be alienated and maybe, just maybe, a little door into the world of the bàrd/Gaelic MC will be opened up to those who are open to it. There is a deep spiritual element to the kind of Hip Hop we are into anyway and this is reflected in our material. The kind of African American Hip Hop we listen to is all about picking yourself up out of the ‘Ghetto mentality’ and raising your consciousness to create a better you and a better planet. In a disenfranchised, colonised highlands/Scotland where we have our own struggle for freedom many people (although they maybe don’t admit it) feel a strong sense of disillusion and frustration at what is happening politically. We’re here to remind people that they are somebody. That they can and will make a difference in building themselves, their nation and their culture for the generations of Gaels and Scots yet to come.

What’s next for you?
My immediate future plans are centred around the release of the highly anticipated Afro Celt Sound System‘s The Source, which is due for release next year. Thanks to my man James Mackintosh, I got quite heavily involved in the album and went on to become a full blown member of the band. With that in mind the tours, festivals, etc. I will be undertaking with my new found kindred spirits in Afro Celt Sound System will take up much of my time and creative energy. Gaelic Hip Hop will certainly not be taking a back seat and, indeed, I see the two projects as being very much part of the same thing both ideologically and musically!

Griogair will appear with his own combo and with Shooglenifty at Stereo in Glasgow on Friday 18 December 2016. Also on the bill is DJ Dolphin Boy. Get your tickets here >>

 

 

l-r Kaela Rowan, Ewan MacPherson, Quee MacArthur, Angus R Grant, Garry Finlayson, Malcolm Crosbie, James Mackintosh.

We sat the band down in separate rooms and asked them some questions about the forthcoming tour. It was a bit like Mr & Mrs (remember that?) only none of them is going to win a caravan.

Why are you touring?
Angus: My stocks and shares portfolio is is terminal decline.
EwanScotland is a great place to tour in the winter. Dancing is a great way of keeping warm, so taking the Shooglenifty caravan [hang on…] up north will bring some much needed grooves for highland folk to dance to, and of course work off the mince pies and sherry.
Garry:  We’re always keen to do our bit for the environment – it would be very wasteful of fuel to have all those people come to us.
James: 1) We’re celebrating our 25th anniversary year, and we’re promoting our 7th studio album The Untied Knot. 2) Life off the road gets a bit sedate and band members keep breaking things so we’re looking forward to jumping into the van and having some wild discussions comparing knitting patterns, asking where you might purchase curtain hemming material, and posing the age old question, “is there a rider?” (Is this the only job in the world where people turn up  expecting alcoholic beverages?) 3) We need the exercise.
Malcolm: We’re like sharks, if we don’t keep moving we start to die. Also, playing gigs is good fun.
Quee: Not unlike Canada geese, the Shoogles feel the collective urge to explore the boundaries of the British Isles as they sense the turn of the seasons, tying knots that were left undone and foraging in new musical territory.
Kaela: 
Because I must be a fruit cake! Oh, and I love discovering new places and lovely folk, there are so many good folk out there doing such amazing things. It constantly restores your faith.

Which gig are you looking forward to the most, and why?
Angus
: All of them.
Ewan: Astley Hall Arisaig, because they know how to party in the wild west.
Garry: As always, the gig I’m looking forward to the most is the next one. Why? It would be unfair to look past it.
James: 
I’m looking forward to playing Stereo in mono, looking forward to playing mono in Stereo. Sorry. Always great to play in Glasgow, and Skye seems to have a certain something. There are quite few venues we’ve never played so that’s always exciting. Bristol is a great town, looking forward to that one. And dinner in The Old Bridge Inn (Aviemore) the last time we played was one of the most delicious meals I’d had in months: it’s not all bout the gig you know…
Malcolm: 
I couldn’t possibly pick one out, the aim is to make all the future gigs an uplifting and joyous experience for all involved.
Quee: 
I am looking forward to playing Inchyra Arts Club (Friday 27 November). I recently went to see John Cooper Clark there and it’s a great looking venue with a good community of people in the audience.
Kaela: 
Getting to the Highlands – Arisaig, Sabhal Mòr on Skye and I can’t wait to go to Applecross – it’s been many years since I was there and I remember it being very beautiful. Mind you, the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore does amazing food and the Mac Arts centre in Galashiels is a fab new home spun arts centre and I can get to my own bed that night!

Why did you decide to play such a mix of venues/locations?
Angus: To play the same one every night would be silly.
Ewan: See Q1 and we hope to make far more regular appearances in London.
Garry: 
We come from the Variety Hall tradition, except the other way round.
James: 1) 
We’re not run of the mill guys (and gal). We enjoy sweaty, intimate gigs just as big sweaty festival stages. We’re hoping to bring out our own brand deodorant in time for hitting the road. 2) It’s been too long since we toured the Highlands and an awfully long time since we graced London with our presence too. 3) What are you saying? After starting out the year in Woodford Australia, flying off to Stornoway, Cambridge, Borneo, and Lorient this seems like quite a compact, logical and cohesive little trip.
Malcolm: a) 
It would be difficult to find a string of gigs that were all alike. b) We’ll play anywhere, we’re not fussed. c) A good variety of everything is beneficial. (There’s some truth in each of these.)
Quee: 
One of many skills Shooglenifty has as a band is to adapt well to any size venue. From a stage barely big enough to stand on, to concert halls. We always make a connection with the people in the room, often the more intimate gigs bring out a different side of the band and make for a very memorable evening.
Kaela: 
The great thing about this band is each gig can be so different depending on the venue, intimate and intense or big and powerful, and both are wonderful. I think a Shoogles gig creates happiness and is awffy good for the soul.

What should the audience expect?
Angus:
Euphoric-ish-ness.
Ewan: To feel a strange compulsion to move around the dance floor in-between consuming alcoholic beverages.
Garry: 
Joie de vivre!
James: 
A braw selection of our favourite sets from our seven studio albums, and a few rarities perhaps (any requests for tracks we rarely play live?). And we’re hoping to showcase The Untied Knot in its entirety as well. Who knows there might even be a couple of new sets in the mix? Quite a lot of our audience won’t have heard Kaela Rowan singing with us so they have that to look forward to.
Malcolm: 
Some high octane jigging and reeling, some visceral freak outs, some psychedelic mind bending and a smattering of sensitive new age cuddly stuff. (I prefer to keep the latter to a minimum.)
Quee: T
o have a good time!
Kaela: 
Expect to bop, or should I say, shoogle?

What is your favourite Shooglenifty gig story?
Angus:
Too many to single out one.
Ewan: Conrad [former Shoogle bass player] getting lost in the jungle at night and having to be rescued. Story has become legendary at the Rainforest Festival, so much so that when we announced we were off for a jungle trek in Baco, Festival Director Jun Lin and her co-organisers almost fell over in fear!!
Garry: Like Angus, I c
an’t remember, sorry.
James: 
I’m not sure Malcolm would be very pleased if I answered that one. My second favourite was when a fellow in New Zealand collapsed with a heart attack during our second number (we were playing a bit fast in those days). He had to have an atropane injection through his chest right in front of us and the entire audience à la Pulp Fiction, and on the way out of the venue sat upright on his stretcher and said he was fine and wanted to stay and enjoy the rest of the gig. He made a full recovery by the way, and a messenger brought word from hospital telling us to have a great night!
Malcolm: 
It’s the one where Garry fell off the stage. I can’t remember anything about the gig, I only remember the funny part.
Quee: 
We played in Bloomington, Indiana and the the drum kit and amps that had been kindly lent to us were hilariously old and ramshackle. The bass drum on James’s kit was so big you could barely see him behind it and he needed to spend an hour with a pair of pliers to get it into playable shape. The PA also had its eccentricities so by the end of the soundcheck our expectations of the gig were not great. As it turned out it was one of the best gigs of the tour and we included a recording of a tune from it on our live album, during which the old bass amp fell off a table onto the back of my legs and if you listen carefully you can hear the thump on the recording. The best thing is that it is in time!
Kaela: 
Angus trying to wake up Crazy, (aka Craig Gaskin), our sound engineer in a tent at Glastonbury. He was holding onto the tent and shaking it and shouting “CrazyCrazy” and looking, erm, crazy. Though no doubt it didn’t  look at all strange in Glastonbury!

What is your favourite Shooglenifty tune and why?
Angus:
That’s like trying to pick a favourite child …
Ewan: The Pipe Tunes. Can’t touch it. Core Shoogle sound. And I love playing Da Eye Wifey.
Garry: 
The next one.
James: Farewell to Nigg.
Malcolm: 
The Eccentric. When I first heard it I couldn’t believe how good it was. It’s one of those tunes that somehow manages to alter my brain chemistry in some strange way.
Quee: 
I have to make two choices here: one is The Eccentric because I really enjoy playing it, the groove is always subtly different in swing. From a listening point of view Fitzroy Crossing is my new favourite because it it has quite a unique sonic landscape.
Kaela: 
Fitzroy Crossing the now because I think its got a real beauty and power in it, I find it quite moving. I love its big bass end and how it changes harmonically in unexpected ways. The song I like singing best changes every night – they go down differently with each different type of crowd. When it’s a banging festival gig, I do love Peaches as it can go to an amazing place. It’s got a lot of energy and can get quite trance like, in a house tune kind of way. There is always an element of improvisation going on, so it feels fresh and surprising to me.

What is your favourite gig outfit?
Angus:
My Gucci three-piece.
Ewan: My ’70s glam rock one. Not tried the dog’s head mask yet [good luck playing the jaw harp in that ;-)].
Garry: L
oose shirt and Thai fisherman’s trousers (any colour).
James: It’s a toss up between the 
98% viscose shirt I wore in Glenuig for our fancy dress night and the blonde wig I wore onstage in Stornoway a few years ago.
Malcolm: 
My pre-war (1930s I think) wool suit but I can only wear it for very cold gigs.
Quee: The
 glam rock outfit from Glenuig (April 2015).
Kaela: 
I will never quite be the same again since dressing up as and becoming [my alter-ego] Crystal Meth at Glenuig’s fancy dress night April 2015.

What does it feel like to have been playing with Shooglenifty for 25 years?
Angus:
Vindicated.
Garry: Surprising. You don’t imagine that when you start playing a few tunes with a bunch of guys that it’s going to be your life’s work. It feels like the backbone of my musical existence.
James: No one is more surprised than me.
Malcolm: 
Playing with Shooglenifty for 25 years sometimes feels like a long time and other times it still feels like it’s the new thing. I’m still get the occasional feeling like I’m amazed that I’m actually in a band, it’s great.

What does it feel like to have been playing with Shooglenifty for 13 years?
QueeSurprising!

What does it feel like to have been playing with Shooglenifty for 4 years?
Ewan: It has been an amazing experience for me, I was a fan of the band back in the 90s. Became hooked after I saw them in a black and white video on S4C tv in Wales. Since I started playing I have always respected original mandolin player Iain Macleod and his unique style which lends itself more to pipes or west coast Scottish fiddle than American mandolin. He is also a great tune writer. 

What does it feel like to have been playing with Shooglenifty for a year?
Kaela: Like I’m hanging out with my brothers. It’s lovely to join the family on the road.

What’s the most important thing you have learned from performing with Shooglenifty?
Angus:
That the NHS is more important now than ever.
Ewan: Don’t worry about it …
Garry: To listen.
James: 
How to pace oneself during lunch in Galicia? Soundchecks are vastly overrated?
Malcolm: 
Always relax as much as possible.
Quee: 
Nothing is very important except the things that are actually important.
Kaela: 
Don’t know, perhaps this – and I’ve not so much learned it, as been reminded of it – that dancing is important.

What would be your fantasy gig location?
Angus:
Glen-Eigg.
Ewan: You mean in addition to all the amazing places we’ve played already? I’d actually like to do a gig at the North Pole.
Garry: 
Now that’s a hard one – we’ve played in so many places which were beyond my imagination I realise that anything I can come up with will be less than what might be.
James: 
I’ve already played it.
Malcolm: 
A sleazy bar somewhere in the cosmos, a bit like the one in Star Wars.
Quee: 
Inside a broch in Glenelg.
Kaela: 
At the top of the Iguazu Falls in Brazil.

Who would play you in Shooglenifty: The Movie?
Angus:
Dame Judi Dench.
Ewan: Chuck Norris, sigh.
Garry: Catherine Tate.
James: Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Malcolm: George Sanders.
Quee: Michael Caine.
Kaela: Sofia Loren, of course!

Shooglenifty is heading out on a 17-date tour of Scotland and England on 6 November 2015. Check out the full list of gigs here.

The band are heading out on tour soon – see all dates here – and we’re bringing our new secret weapon with us – ‘puirt à beul’ vocalist Kaela Rowan.

Kaela’s been delighting audiences from Borneo to Brittany, Comrie to Cambridge this year already and we’re sure you’re going to love her.

But you may wonder, what exactly is ‘puirt à beul’? Literally it means ‘music of the mouth’ and has probably more in common with adding another instrument to the mix than a singer. Native to Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Nova Scotia it is often used to dance to. Some believe it derives from a time when instruments such as bagpipes were banned, and there is some evidence that this happened in Scotland after the Jacobite rising in 1745.

Because the voice is used like a fiddle or pipes the rhythm and sounds are more important than the lyrics which can often be non-sensical. Kaela, who grew up in Lochaber, first heard puirt (pronounced “purscht”) at local dances, ceilidhs and sessions, and she was taught her first bit of mouth music at school.

“I loved the rhythm of it,” she remembers. “It’s quite hypnotic and fun too as often the songs are playful.” Kaela has listened to quite a lot of old recordings of puirt where the singers often had an incredible sense of rhythm. “Their voices were more like instruments and at times sounded like gravel and sand rubbed together. I particularly liked this kind of voice, because it didn’t matter that they didn’t have sweet singing voices, what mattered was the beat, and I particularly loved that they’d use their voices with such gusto.”

It’s no surprise then that mouth music goes so well with Shooglenifty’s dynamic sense of rhythm and rough edged groove. Kaela brings an added top layer of melody, more like adding another fiddle or a set of pipes. “I guess it’s like adding another dimension to the tune playing,” she says.

So if you forget for a moment that any words in the puirt originated as Gaelic, it is pretty easy to join in with the sounds and the rhythm of most of the songs on our new album The Untied Knot. Kaela recommends starting with Mile Marbhaisg Air A’Ghaol (1,000 Curses on Love), the vocal element on the title track. Work with the rhythm first, and don’t be afraid to learn the sounds phoenetically.

Strictly speaking, Mile Marbhaisg Air A’Ghaol  is a ‘waulking’ song which was sung by people stretching tweed, whereas, in general, puirt tunes are made for dancing, having fun – just like a Shoogle gig.

Finally, we asked Kaela for her favourite Shoogle puirt. “That changes by the day,” she says. “But for something gentle and cheerful I’m loving Ruidhleadh Mo Nighean Donn/Am Buachaille Dubh Fionnghal (My Brown Haired Girl Would Dance a Reel/Fiona’s Dark Haired Shepherd) at the moment. A pretty laid back set of tunes that really make me happy.”

Download The Untied Knot here. Shooglenifty will be on tour in Scotland and England from 6 November 2015. Get more details.

 

Shooglenifty Tour Poster2_sep15

We’ve put together a little tongue-in-cheek poster (see left) for our upcoming Untied Knot tour (all dates are here). If you would like to download it, print it, and put it up somewhere that would be great. (Can be printed at A3 or A4.)

And we’re offering two gig tickets to the person who puts it in the most outlandish location. The lucky winner can make their choice of gig from The United Knot tour.

So send a pic of the poster in its location to shoogle@shooglenifty.com by 2 November 2015.

The winner will be announced on 3 November 2015.

Download your tour poster


This time next week (7/8/15) the Shoogles will be enjoying their fourth trip to the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Borneo. This is a music festival, that, as the name suggests, happens in the jungle. It’s hot, sweaty and full of amazing sounds – musical and otherwise.

Festival Director Jun-Lin Yeoh remembers that the band was first invited to the Malaysian event via the British Council in 1999, “The were such a hit that we had to have them back again two years later. Then we had them for the festival’s 10th anniversary, and now we’re having them back to celebrate their 25th anniversary.”

Unsurprisingly the band are relishing the opportunity to entertain in the Rainforest once again, and new band member Ewan MacPherson is particularly keen to visit the orangutans that are native to Borneo. “Hopefully he won’t get lost like Conrad [Ivitsky] did on one of those first trips,” says James Mackintosh.

Erstwhile Shoogle bass player Conrad is a keen hiker and decided to head off into the jungle late in the afternoon. “In Borneo, it gets dark just like that, and when night fell he couldn’t see an inch in front of his face. There was a search party sent out and he was found at 9pm. He said it was the most terrifying two hours of his life, he had a load of unknown and unseen creatures crawling up him.”

For current bass player Quee MacArthur his encounter with wildlife was in more familiar surroundings. “We were on stage,” remembers James. “The place was going mental and Quee started really moving and jerking around, and I thought, he’s really getting into it tonight. Then I saw him motioning to our sound engineer Craig on the monitor desk. The next thing I saw was Craig grabbing something on Quee’s neck and throwing it into the forest. A praying mantis had landed on his bass and then moved on to his neck where its tiny claws were digging into his skin!”

So you get the picture. The main stage at RWMF is not called the ‘Jungle Stage’ for nothing. The backdrop is the rainforest, and the audience are housed in a natural amphitheatre. “It’s a big gig,” says James. “There are about 10,000 people all going nuts.” And why does he think that Shooglenifty’s music is so popular with the Borneo audience? “Simple really, they like an upbeat tune, and they love to dance like everyone else.”

Jun Lin Yeoh is in no doubt: “the Rainforest audience loved them the first year they came. They all looked mighty fierce and badass, but were really gentle giants, and their music rocked.” For those of us used to midgies, that sounds a bit like the wildlife.

The Rainforest Music Festival is held each August in Sarawak, Borneo. Shooglenifty will headline the festival’s Jungle Stage for the fourth time on Friday 7 August 2015.

John Byrne has quietly become a national treasure over the past couple of decades. Arguably Scotland’s greatest living artist: he recently had a major retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery and several of his portraits are included in the gallery’s  permanent collection. He is also well known as a writer of plays, films, and TV series (Tutti Frutti anyone?). One of his best known works, The Slab Boys, has just completed a sell-out revival at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre.

Given such a stellar career you might wonder how we persuaded him to design the cover of Shooglenifty’s new album. It’s a simple story, the band bumped into him at a gig and, as a fan, he offered his services. Despite James losing his number not once but twice, the brief was (finally) despatched and the great man duly delivered (some months before the band as it turns out).

Getting Byrne to design the cover for The Untied Knot saw him continue a long love affair with music. In the 1960s and 70s he designed covers for folk luminaries Stealer’s Wheel, Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly, and Donovan. A less well-known commission was received from The Beatles in 1968, for the album that was to become The White Album. Byrne’s design wasn’t used, but reappeared in 1980 as the cover for The Beatles’ Ballads compilation.

To see The Untied Knot’s cover join this illustrious list is big deal for the Shoogles (all fans of Byrne’s work) and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you when the album is released at our special 25th Anniversary Concert and CD launch at La Belle Angele, Edinburgh on Saturday 16 May. We hope you will join us, and pick up your own copy. Tickets are on sale here.

Covers are reproduced below with kind permission of John Byrne RSA

We’ve got a busy summer of festivals planned – both at home and overseas. These are those announced so far. Hope you can come to some or all of them!! Here are the relevant ticket links:

Knockengorroch
HebCelt
Cambridge
Rainforest World Music Festival
Interceltique
Doune The Rabbit Hole