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nder Shaw’s tenure the festival has developed many programming tributaries, the most obvious of which being the natural transatlantic links with America. “I feel it’s important because so many great ideas are coming through the Americana tradition at the


moment. Essentially, a lot of American traditions evolved from our music. That album that Anaïs Mitchell put out a couple of years ago offered another take on what we already know. She shows the respect an American musician has for British folk music.” Big hitters like Lucinda Williams, Transatlantic Sessions, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn are on the bill this year with discerningly-selected US roots artists like Rayna Gellert and Rhiannon Giddens.


Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of Celtic Connections in the current climate is its celebration of other world cultures, a notable exception to many other UK folk music events, having reached a point where it has a well-established and well-supported programme of music delving into the ‘Connections’ aspects of its moniker.


“I read an editorial by Ian Anderson a while back in the maga- zine and I think he used the expression ‘cultural apartheid’ in express- ing concern that folk festivals in the UK featured less and less interna- tional music. And I thought, please talk about us, because last year we had music from 35 countries. This year we have music from four countries in Africa, from India, Pakistan, from Palestine, from Syria…”


With themes of Immigration, Pilgrimage and Troubadours, the focus in 2016 is very much about music crossing borders. With 240 of the 300 or so UK-based Syrian refugees settled in Glasgow, Donald was very excited to get a tip-off about some amazing street musi- cians within the city who will be involved in the festival. A multicul- tural Burns Night celebration at the stunning Old Fruitmarket venue will feature, amongst many, E Karika Djal, a Govanhill community project, playing Gypsy music from various regions of Eastern Europe. This model of using locally-based musicians from diverse cultures is a particularly refreshing one.


Of course there will be overseas acts represented too, from a grand RNSO collaboration with Toumani Diabaté on an orchestral version of his Mandé Variations to a rare UK appearance from Baaba Maal. Within its music industry delegate event, Showcase Scotland, taking place at the back end of the festival, there is also a showcase for ‘The Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and partner country France (including an appearance from natives of Glasgow’s twin city, Mar- seille, Moussou T E Lei Jovents).


As well as global reach, artists and audiences, the festival organ- isers are also keenly conscious of generational outreach. The event invests an impressive amount of time and resources in young people and rising talent. Since 1999, the educational programme of Celtic Connections has delivered projects to over 80 percent of Glasgow schools, with over 90,000 children and young people benefiting from the scheme! Nationally, that rises to over 185,000 all over Scotland.


Shaw explains the rationale: “Our strong educational strand running through the festival is really early nurturing! There are ongoing projects throughout the year where musicians go out to schools, with ‘come and try’ sessions for children to have a go at playing fiddle, accordeons etc. And we also bus in thousands of chil- dren to attend free morning concerts during the festival. It’s often a starting point for children seeing these bands. They could be inspired to be the stars of the future, the ones who will be on the stage in ten or fifteen years time.”


Some of those stars of the future are further encouraged dur- ing the festival with a number of artist development opportunities. The New Voices strand (see below) features new musical commis- sions, enabling musicians to “step out of their normal climate musi- cally and write something special” and the Danny Kyle Stage offers a daily open stage event during the festival, “rammed everyday with 300 people in the audience”. Artists apply during the year, with six entrants picked to perform every day – more than 100 brand new artists performing in total – and six winners selected overall. This is far from a hollow gesture: Malinky, Karine Polwart and Breabach are all notable examples of previous winners and beneficiaries of this competition event.


With so much to explore and discover in its extensive pro- gramme, fRoots offers up some ‘drop in the ocean’ guidance on


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