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Gaelictronica and Beyond

From acid croft to Gaelictronica, innovative collaborations between Scottish Gaelic and international musicians are on the rise. Brian Ó hEadhra, Gaelic Arts & Culture Officer at Creative Scotland, takes us on a tour of this exciting musical landscape...

As Celtic Connections draws to a close one thing is certain; Scottish artists are increasingly collaborating with a vast array of international artists across a number of musical genres. It has been said that Scotland's traditional and folk music sector leads the way on the world stage when it comes to presenting our artists to international audiences and visitors to our country. 

Possibly the most striking and interesting element of this activity is what's happening in the Gaelic music scene.  We all know about the wealth of material in the Gaelic song and tune repertoire; much of which has been preserved and catalogued by the School of Scottish Studies, National Library of Scotland and BBC archives; visit Tobar An Dualchais for access to material. The singing tradition remains strong with a continued interest by new generations of Gaelic speakers who engage with the tradition often through the work of Fèisean nan Gàidheal, the An Comunn Gàidhealach (Royal National Mòd) and through Gaelic medium schools, whose student numbers are growing each year. 

A number of rising stars of the Gaelic and trad music scene have also attended one of the many university courses in traditional music which are now producing high quality professional musicians who have the confidence and skill to be able to compete with the best of international acts.  These educational establishments include The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, University of the Highlands and Islands (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Lews Castle College - Benbecula Campus) and Newcastle University which has a number of Scottish students. 

Whilst not all Gaelic artists have gone down the university route, they all benefit from having excellent platforms to perform to local national and international audiences. Scotland can boast having some of the most exciting music festivals in the world; most of which feature Gaelic artists.  They include Celtic Connections, Hebridean Celtic Festival, Blas Festival, Tiree Music Festival, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Tradfest Edinburgh|Dùn Èideann. If you can't make it along to these events, there are a host of excellent music programmes broadcast on BBC ALBA, often covering these festivals, which can be accessed on iPlayer. 

Our artists continue to push musical boundaries while still remaining true and respectful to their own tradition.- Brian Ó hEadhra

Over the past few years numerous collaborations have been springing up between Gaelic artists and musicians from genres such as electronica, Americana, African, Latin, Indian, jazz, classical, etc. Our artists are often out of the country touring performing at festivals and venues in all parts of the world. There seems to be a growing fascination with our Scottish music and indigenous languages and traditions. This can only be a good thing for our artists who continue to push musical boundaries while still remaining true and respectful to their own tradition. 

Next month, Glasgow's contemporary Gaelic club, Ceòl 's Craic, will host a night of "Gaelictronica" which combines Gaelic vocal and instrumental music with electronica to create a unique fusion of traditional, ambient and dance sounds. This will feature artists such as Whyte (Alsadair Whyte and Ross Whyte), Shona Brown, The League of Highland Gentlemen. 

Look out for the following Gaelic acts who are currently pushing musical boundaries…


Niteworks (Photo: @Niteworksband Instagram)
Gaelic electronica outfit Niteworks from the Isle of Skye who feature stunning singers such as Kathleen Macinnes and Ellen Macdonald.  These young lads really pull in the crowds. 


Brainchild of ex Peatbog Faeries drummer, Iain Copeland, Sketch is described as "traditional music for the 21st century" with great loops and vocals by Darren Maclean. 


Shooglenifty with Kaela Rowan 

The original creators of "acid croft" music, iconic Edinburgh band Shooglenifty now feature the voice of Gaelic singer Kaela Rowan. The Shoogles also have collabourated with Indian and other international musicians in the past. 

Afro Celt Sound System

One of the biggest world music acts on the go, Afro Celts now have one of Scotland's finest Gaelic singers/musicians, Griogair Labhruidh, in their ranks. One to watch. 



Featuring the singing of Megan Henderson, trad act Breabach have just launched their latest album featuring international artists from traditions such as Aboriginal Australia, Mauri New Zealand, Quebecois Canada and Nordic Norway.

This article was published on 31 Jan 2016