Celtic Connections: Nitin Sawhney, Old Fruitmarket, Tue 28 Jan (4 stars)

Celtic Connections: Nitin Sawhney, Old Fruitmarket, Tue 28 Jan

Prolific musician, composer and DJ brings a dazzling back catalogue to Glasgow

Despite a couple of tech glitches early on, the highly-charismatic multi-instrumentalist Nitin Sawhney and his band are absolutely intoxicating tonight.

Featuring singers Nicki Wells and YVA, superb violinist Anna Phoebe McElligott and drummer Aref Durvesh, who is an outstanding performer of Konnakol (vocal percussion) as well as tablas, Sawhney's music is as ever a cocktail of influences. Traditional Indian music, flamenco, jazz, classical, dub and drum'n'bass are all woven together.

Opener 'Sunset' is light and slinky, a jazz-inflected introduction, but it doesn't take long for Sawhney to take aim at the problems surrounding our little nation: 'When I finished making Beyond Skin in 1999, I thought the issues [around immigration] were all done and dusted.' There's a beat. 'What a load of bollocks that was!' He grins.

Indeed, issues surrounding that album, which he pays homage to tonight, are still very much to the fore. Tracks like 'Broken Skin' and 'Nadia' are elegiac and dreamy, but the undercurrents still shiver. Wells and YVA's harmonies are utterly bewitching. Wells in particular has a husky timbre that scales octaves and buildings alike – she's phenomenal and sings in at least three languages.

'The Pilgrim' (sampling original collaborator Spek from Dream Warriors) has a hip-hop, dubby bounce, but it's the undulating, epic swoop of 'Homelands' that feels the most timeless. A beautiful evening and a reminder of music's power to transcend difficulties.

Reviewed at Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow.

Celtic Connections

Glasgow's annual folk, roots, indie, world and traditional music festival celebrates the links between Celtic music and cultures across the globe, featuring ceilidhs, workshops, talks, dancing, art exhibitions, and free events. The 2019 festival hosted the likes of Judy Collins, Rhiannon Giddens, Sharon Shannon, Cherish…

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