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Salsa Celtica Sound

Scottish band brings its Celtic/Cuban mix to the PEI Jazz & Blues Festival

by Tom CarrollSalsa Celtica

Salsa Celtica, world music band from Scotland, will appear in Charlottetown at the Tim Horton’s Jazz & Blues Festival. The band will perform selections from a new, yet-to-be-named 2006 release, as well as from its first two CDs and the acclaimed 2003 release, El Agua De La Vida.

The band is comprised of Toby Shippey (trumpet), Lino Rocha (vocals), Steve Kettley (saxophones, flute, jews harp), Chris Stout (fiddle), Dougie “El Pulpo” Hudson (congas), Eric Alfonso (timbales), Fraser Fifield (bagpipes, whistle, saxophones), Eamonn Coyne (banjo, tenor guitar), Roland Perrin (keyboards), and David “Demus” Donnelly (bass guitar).

To paraphrase lyrics from another somewhat famous UK group, Salsa Celtica has traveled a long and winding road. Founded in 1995 by Toby Shippey, a trumpet player with a passion to play salsa in the land of Robbie Burns, Salsa Celtica grew like a hothouse flower in the frigid climes of Edinburgh. The band was an immediate hit with the locals and the country’s newly-arrived Hispanic community. Touring the bars and clubs from Skye to Mull, Iona to Barra, Lewis to Orkney, Ullapool and everywhere in between helped the group hone its sound —an amazing combination of traditional salsa instrumentation and the Celtic sounds of the bagpipe, fiddle, banjo, flute, and whistle. Jam sessions after concerts turned into Spanish pronunciation sessions as Hispanic fans helped give the Scots vocal chops to match their enthusiastic playing.

After pooling savings, Salsa Celtica soon headed off to Cuba in search of authentic timbales and to generally soak up the Afro-Cuban sounds of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. As conspicuous as a herd of Highland cattle on Havana's Calle Obispo, they soon found favor with local salsa groups, including Son14 and Sonora La Calle. Swapping whisky for rum, they were asked to join in at musical/religious bembe gatherings and were invited to worship the Afro-Cuban orichas. After acquiring new tastes and skills they returned to Scotland to release two new albums, The Great Scottish Latin Adventure and their current album El Agua De La Vida. Reaching No. 5 in the World Music Chart of Europe, El Agua De La Vida cemented Salsa Celtica’s place within the international world music community.

Two days after leaving Canada, the band will film two scenes in London for Jeremy Brock’s new film Driving Lessons, starring Julie Walters and Rupert Grint. In September, the band’s fourth album will be recorded in Scotland. Calum Malcolm, best known for his work with The Blue Nile, has been named as producer, and the album is set to feature guest performances from English folk diva Eliza Carthy and Catriona McKay of Fiddlers Bid.

Tom Carroll is a freelance writer and Salsa Celtica fan, based in California, who contacted The Buzz via the Internet. Thanks for your contribution, Tom.

A. P. E. Exhibition

by Carol Little

Organizer of A.P.E., Brian SharpA.P.E (Artistic Presence is Essential) is an art exhibition that will run from February 23rd to March 3rd on the ground floor of the Atlantic Technology Centre in Charlottetown. This show will display a variety of art forms including both traditional formats and new media, incorporating painting and drawing, an ongoing video presentation showcasing short films, performances by theatrical groups and musicians, demonstrations by hair stylists and culinary artists, website designs and online activities.

Brian Sharp, organizer of A.P.E. and studio manager at Trapeze Animation Studios Ltd., says “We need to not only support but celebrate artistic presence as often as possible. Artistic expression informs and reflects culture. That’s part of what makes it essential. A.P.E.’s purpose is to explain it in a new context so that anyone can start to recognize its presence and realize its importance to inspire.”

The diversity of the exhibition is due to Sharp’s belief that “All disciplines in our society can be creative, from quantum physics to painting a mural, to writing software code. The brightest people in the world are very creative and know how to tap that resource on a regular basis.”

Sharp says that, “Creativity is a fundamental aspect of the human condition and for an artist is an essential need.” Asked about his motivation behind organizing the ambitious show, Sharp states, “Having to run an animation studio requires talented artists and an environment that is supportive of this kind of creative talent.”

Sharp emphasizes that, “A.P.E. is for everyone, especially kids who are so easily inspired and energetic about life. The more we can teach them how to express that inspiration they have, the more productive and innovative an adult they will become.” He adds, “We will have a kids booth where kids can colour line art from our studio and take that home with them for free (including Doodlez line art with permission from Cellar Door, and original art created by Trapeze animators).”

Ultimately, Sharp says, “I want to promote artistic presence. We are hoping that this is just the beginning of a life long quest to inspire our community into embracing this part of the culture, and recognizing the cultural and economic value in supporting creativity.”

The show has been scheduled to coincide with this year’s East Coast Music Awards taking place in Charlottetown, in the hopes that the additional foot traffic downtown will attract more viewers to the exhibition.

Sharp says, “The best I could hope for with A.P.E. is to have the visitors to the show walk away with a deeper understanding of why we need to support creativity.” He hopes that A.P.E. will become a semi-annual event.

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