Sattar, Ghafoor and Pyaru Khan of Dhun Dhora in Jodhpur, October 2017

We’re delighted to announce that our prize draw for the Jodhpur Riff Coronavirus Fund has raised £2,500. We couldn’t be happier, and echo the words of Jodhpur Riff Director, Divya Bhatia:

“Many, many thanks to our Shooglenifty family and all participants in this singular and spectacular fundraiser; you make our world a better place”

As many of you will know we are very close to their brother musicians in Dhun Dhora, the Rajasthani band we recorded Written in Water, their 2018 release. Like many we were horrified by the devastating effects that Covid 19 has had in India over the past year, and especially the last few months when the Delta variant has taken hold.

Dhun Dhora, and many other Rajasthani folk musicians have had no work since the pandemic took hold. With no government safety net to support these musicians they have really suffered. Thankfully Jodhpur Riff, the festival that does so much to promote their music throughout the world, stepped in last year to raise funds for them. They distributed £27,000 of aid, but this new more lethal wave has meant a further push for fundraising has been necessary.

After a Zoom catch up with Divya Bhatia, Jodhpur Riff director, earlier in the year, the band decided to hold a prize draw for which they would donate some very unique prizes. The prizes were:

  • Weekend for 2 at James and Kaela‘s Caravan Up North
  • Signed test pressing for Acid Croft Vol 9
  • Two tickets for Feis Na Mara 2022
  • tune written especially for you by Quee
  • The guitar Malcolm played on all albums from Venus in Tweeds to Murmichan
  • An online Gaelic song lesson from Kaela
  • tune written especially for you by our bestie Laura Wilkie

The last prize was donated by Laura Wilkie who played fiddle so beautifully on Written in Water.

We have been blown away with the generosity of friends and fans who have contributed to the campaign. And are delighted that we will be able to make a difference to the lives of many of our musician friends.

Here’s some info about how the money will be spent by Divya, “In addition to supplying much needed food and medical aid, our Coronavirus Relief Project will contribute towards livelihood opportunities for 30-40 young master musicians who have had no work for over 18 months now. The additional amounts raised through this fund-raiser would help tremendously as we could begin to pay some artists much-needed wages for rehearsals and the creation of new artistic work.”

When the draw closed at 12noon today, we set about making the draw. Without access to the spreadsheet of entrants (naturally!) each band member was asked to think of a number between 1 and the biggest ticket number for their prize. All winners have been notified via email, and the prizes will be delivered as soon as possible.

We know that many of you are already enjoying our new album, Acid Croft Vol 9. We have had a lot of admiring messages about the art work, so we thought you might like to know a bit more about the artist behind the cover image, Ashley Cook.

Ashley is an acclaimed printmaker who is a double-graduate from the Glasgow School of Art. Her work is found in collections all over the world, and in Scotland you can find it at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, the Scotland Office, Creative Scotland, Arts in Fife and the Bank of Scotland among many other private locations.

The image chosen for the cover of the album is entitled The Gift of Abundance and was found by Quee when we were looking for visual inspiration to go with the music. The image itself resonated strongly with the band as it incorporates many echoes of former albums, not to mention a very ‘acid’ colour palette!

Here’s what Ashley says about this work:

“The Gift of Abundance was made early 2014.  Leading up to Indyref, Scotland seemed to have come alive with a newfound sense of identity. The immediate world around me seemed full of optimism with a landscape of possibilities opening up wide, the word on the lips of nearly all the artistic community was YES, it felt like a golden moment. 

“The Gift of Abundance is a nod to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the Goddess of love borne in on the sea. Butterflies are a symbol of transformation, change could be difficult but may hold a future with more hope, the tartan stockings, and sporran; emblems of the souvenir shop identity of the Scots known the world over, the thistles, stag antlers and fish our flora and fauna. A small country, but rich in natural resources – Scotland has the gift of abundance. 

“I am really delighted to have this image on Acid Croft Volume 9, I’ve been playing my copy in the studio and the music can transport me back to living in that golden moment of early 2014 again.”

If you would like to buy any of the prints shown above please visit Ashley’s Etsy shop Ashley Cook’s work is featured in a new exhibition launching on 25 September at Scotland Art in Bath Street, Glasgow Highly recommended!

We know that lots of you have been loving our Caravan Up North video. Here’s a short insight into what on earth we were thinking when putting it together, written by James.

The Caravan Up North set contains a tune by Ewan and a traditional song. The tune was inspired by the title of a highland tour that our erstwhile agent was trying to put together in 2014. The Caravan Up North Tour! We kid you not. The song, An Robh Thu ‘Sa Bheinn or Were You in the Hills? is about losing cattle in the hills, check out the song lyrics here >>

We had planned to get together in July and make some more videos for the new album in the highlands. However, that was logistically difficult just coming out of Covid restrictions so instead we put together plans to do another ‘lockdown’ style video in our respective locales (see Black Dog – for previous form!). The theme was camping and generally holidaying in the highlands. Each band member was also instructed to film themselves playing the track against a grassy background with the hope that we could kind of make it look like we were all in the same field! 

Malcolm’s brainwave was to add the toy car and caravan scenes and his daughter Phoebe did a fabulous job painting the backdrop. The fort and garage are actually toys that Malcolm’s grandfather made for him. Everyone sent their contributions to our manager Jane-Ann, who edited it all together. She had the idea of trying some rudimentary green screen placing Malcolm inside his own toy scenes.

My personal inspiration was those slightly surreal videos the Old Grey Whistle Test made for bands that couldn’t be in the studio. In the end though, each band member had their own ‘style’ making the final edit look like Tom Weir meets Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention! Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

Caravan Up North is available on our brand new album Acid Croft Vol 9, buy your copy here >> And if you haven’t seen the video yet, you can find it here >>

Read all about our ninth studio album, coming soon …

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?
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:

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

Iain Macleod
Laura Beth Salter
Nick Prescott

Conrad Molleson

Donald Hay
Mattie Foulds
Tom Bancroft
Aida Tarrio
Toby Shippey

Michael Owers
Toby Shippey

Fin Moore
Manuel Amigo

Dayam Khan Manganiyar
Heather Macleod
Olaia Maneiro

Latif Khan Manganiyar

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!