Gig review: Salsa Celtica, Edinburgh

They’ve been around the world, but Scots-Latino crossover contingent Salsa Celtica brought it right back home here with this set on the south side of their native city. After all it was just around the corner from the Queen’s Hall, said bandleader Toby Shippey at one point, that the group had played their very earliest shows in the Meadow Bar.
Salsa CelticaSalsa Celtica
Salsa Celtica

Salsa Celtica - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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“We used to sit in our van on our break listening to cumbia,” he noted wistfully, referring to the Latin American style which infuses their music. “Now in January we got to go to Colombia and play these songs.”

Indeed, it’s possible to imagine that making their return here to promote the new album The Tall Islands is something of a let-down, for how can a non-full but decidedly jumping Queen’s Hall compare to a country in which they’re accepted as genuine, bona fide pop stars?

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Perhaps they’re viewed as something of a gimmick amidst audiences in Bogota and Cartagena, with their long-standing approach to fuse Latin American styles with the sound and instrumentation of Scottish folk, although it’s hard to imagine work of such invention and precision being dismissed as the work of mere dilettantes.

Over two halves, in fact, this was a set which crackled with delights, the 11-piece band charting a course variously and together through bright and airy sounds from the Americas brought to life by a pacey rhythm alongside a loud two-piece horn section and Ricardo Fernandez Pompa’s unifying vocal. Amidst it all, perfectly in harmony, rang out brisk Gaelic vocals and the uncannily but ideally suited whine of Ross Ainslie’s bagpipes.

Seen on 14.03.14