Celtic Connections review: Nitin Sawhney, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

AFTER the promotional campaign for his groundbreaking 1999 drum and bass album Beyond Skin wound down, British Indian musician-producer Nitin Sawhney assumed that he need never really give much mind to the record ever again, as the problems of racial and religious intolerance which had inspired it seemed to be slowly abating.

Nitn Sawhney's Beyond Skin displayed brand new purpose and energy in his Celtic Connections show (Picture: Getty

Nitin Sawhney, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow ****

“What a load of bollocks,” he said on stage in Glasgow 20 years later, as he chastised himself for ever being so optimistic. In the world of today, those themes are if anything, he reflected with a sigh, “more salient than ever”.

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A series of played-in-full anniversary performances of the album which had begun last year at the Royal Albert Hall in London concluded triumphantly at Celtic Connections, with a show that couldn’t help but feel significant. From the soulful Broken Skin to the record’s sweeping title track an hour later, Beyond Skin was revived one last time not only crisply and powerfully, but with brand new purpose and energy.

In large part, this was thanks to the trio of extraordinary young musicians whom Sawhney – a collaborator with all from Paul McCartney to Shakira over the years – had chosen to help refresh his perhaps most important work. Violinist Anna Phoebe’s explosive solos were practically a show within a show. Vocalists Eva Stone and in particular Nicki Wells – who blew the roof off with her supercharged take on haunting Hindi banger Nadia – were a breath of fresh air. If the sort of hateful attitudes that inspired Sawhney all those years ago are proving stubbornly undying, then happily so too is the music he made to push back against them.

Malcolm Jack