Gig review: Salsa Celtica, Edinburgh

Salsa Celtica's live performances reverberate with energy and gusto
Salsa Celtica's live performances reverberate with energy and gusto
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MAYBE it was the sticky heat in this small, heaving room and the smell of fresh-cooked food coming from the kitchen, but it was possible to close your eyes and imagine you were on the pavement in the heart of a Spanish-speaking country here, outdoor cafes full and the band getting livelier as the evening went on. But, no. It was only Edinburgh on a warm summer’s night, although there’s plenty of romance to that setting too.

Salsa Celtica - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

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Both places are evoked by the music of Scots-meets-Latin folk-funk orchestra Salsa Celtica. The 13-piece collective’s uniquely authentic fusion of Celtic soul and jazz-tinged salsa shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know them well. What thrills about the group is their commitment to live performance, the energy and gusto with which they work their way through what must be a complex set, with members edging past each other on and off the tight stage to suit each different arrangement.

Keening Highland pipes and fiddle sat alongside some lively Latin percussion and brisk, jazz-style piano. Playing music up to and including last year’s fifth album, The Tall Islands, they made a feature both of the delicate vocal tones of Gaelic singer Maeve MacKinnon and the sweet but brusque voices of father and son duo Ruben Fernandez and Ricardo Fernandez Pompa.

“Thanks for coming on a school night,” said bandleader Toby Shippey, as the perfectly-fused styles of Cumbia Celtica shifted into the lively extended salsa jam of Café Collando, “without you we’d just be doing a really long soundcheck.” It didn’t feel so much like a school night as the start of holidays.

Seen on 14.07.15