Thanks in part to a certain world-class festival on our doorstep, it has become almost customary to make celtic connections between musical traditions, with some of the most dynamic folk bands folding in influences from around the globe.
The cultural connections between Scotland and Jamaica are rooted in a shameful slaving history, but musically they have made for a happier marriage. An Dannsa Dub, a new outfit formed by reggae MC Tom Spirals and Leith-bred, Glasgow-based composer and fiddler Euan McLaughlin, describe their seamless sound as “future dub from ancient Scotland”.
The pair met at Walk n Skank, the Glasgow dub club night at which Spirals is house MC, and hatched their band. McLaughlin already performs with the Danny Kyle Award-winning folktronica trio Lapwyng but for Spirals this was a new adventure in musical fusion.
“I wanted to try and connect a culture I love and respect – Jamaican reggae culture – with my own cultural heritage,” says Spirals, “especially at a time when a deeper understanding of the importance of cultural identity and history is so present and there is such a need for unity in our world today. Then the lockdown happened, all of our gigs got cancelled and we had a lot of spare time…”
The result of that spare time is their debut An Dannsa Dub EP. The pair have also formed a live band with drummer Ben Parkinson, who runs his own North Fire Soundsystem, bassist Maxi Roots from The Mezzanine Allstars collective, guitarist Nicky Kirk of folk band Eabhal and mixer John Dinning. “I’m taking a step away from my usual role as a singer and MC and working on all the production, composition and flute playing,” says Spirals.
For their Scotsman Session, the group have gathered in the library of Kilquhanity School in Dumfries and Galloway to perform EP track Holm Tavern, based on an old story from Orkney about two musicians taken by the fairies to play at their enchanted ceilidh. “The Holm Tavern is the name of the pub in our tale where the musicians are first spotted entertaining the locals with a flute and a fiddle,” says Spirals.
A follow-up EP and a summer single are already in the works, along with spring tour dates and festival appearances at Kelburn Garden Party and Doune the Rabbit Hole.
“The pandemic has changed everything for me,” says Spirals. “Before I would be touring every weekend all around the world. I had to relearn what it was like to stay in one place for more than a week. I had to redefine who I thought I was in my own head, and what gave me value as a person without the performances. Now everything's opening up, I'm having to transition again into touring life and living in a much faster gear again. It's really challenging for me mentally and physically. The pandemic did allow, however, for this project to blossom and for that I am truly grateful.”
The An Dannsa Dub EP is out now on 12" vinyl and to stream at https://tomspirals.bandcamp.com/album/an-dannsa-dub-ep
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