SOUNDS OF SCOT­LAND

Doha's res­i­dents were trans­ported to the Scot­tish moun­tains by the sooth­ing sounds of the award-win­ning folk band, Bre­abach. The band has played to­gether as a group for the past 10 years. On their first visit to Qatar, they per­formed at Souq Waqif's Al Ra

Qatar Today - - CONTENTS - By Abigail Mathias

Doha's res­i­dents were trans­ported to the Scot­tish moun­tains by the sooth­ing sounds of the award-win­ning folk band, Bre­abach.

“We are a five­piece acous­tic con­tem­po­rary folk group,” says James Lind­say, who is the dou­ble bass player and vo­cal­ist. The band plays a range of in­stru­ments un­heard of in this re­gion.

Pop­u­larly con­sid­ered as the new face of tra­di­tional Scot­tish mu­sic, Bre­abach won Live Act of the Year in 2012 and Folk Band of the Year in 2013 at the MG Alba Scots Tra­di­tional Mu­sic Awards. They have also been nom­i­nated twice for Best Group at the BBC Ra­dio 2 Folk Awards in 2014. Be­fore ar­riv­ing in Qatar they per­formed in Australia and New Zealand. They have also played at the Glas­gow Com­mon­wealth Games and other venues around Europe.

Calum MacCrim­mon plays the bag­pipes, whis­tle and bouzouki and han­dles vo­cals for Bre­abach. The bouzouki “is a Greek in­stru­ment that's been adopted by Ir­ish and Scot­tish tra­di­tion. It res­onates and buzzes and lends a great sound,” he says.

The group looks back on when it all started. “Glas­gow is a hub for tra­di­tional mu­sic which has grown steadily over the past 20 years. We came there to study mu­sic and met more than a decade ago,” says MacCrim­mon. Since then the band has re­leased four al­bums with a fifth on the way. With time, their mu­sic has also evolved. “One of the big­gest in­flu­ences on tra­di­tional mu­sic is us­ing mod­ern in­stru­ments. Us­ing the vi­o­lin is rel­a­tively new to Scot­tish mu­sic,” ex­plains gui­tarist Ewan Robert­son.

Their one-time per­for­mance in Doha in­cluded a col­lab­o­ra­tive set with Qatari artist Mo­hamed Al Saegh who is not only

one of Qatar's lead­ing mu­si­cians but also a tele­vi­sion ac­tor, play­wright, artist and re­searcher in folk art. “I play the tan­bura, a long-necked string in­stru­ment, and an African pipe. There are only a hand­ful of mu­si­cians who play th­ese in­stru­ments to­day,” says Al Saegh.

“Per­for­mances like th­ese are a way of ex­tend­ing our un­der­stand­ing of dif­fer­ent cul­tures,” says MacCrim­mon. “In­di­vid­u­ally we have been in­volved with mu­si­cians in the Mid­dle East in the past, but play­ing with a Qatari artist is a first for us,” he adds. With Bre­abach singing in Gaelic and Al Saegh in Ara­bic, mu­sic is the lan­guage that brings the two cul­tures to­gether.

Bre­abach gets its name from a pip­ing term. “The Gaelic term lit­er­ally means kick­ing,” says Lind­say. “Much like clas­si­cal mu­sic, pip­ing has vari­a­tions. Bre­abach is all about en­ergy and rhythm,” he adds. From stomp­ing tunes to soul­ful bal­lads, the mu­sic has a dis­tinc­tive sound, says James Mackenzie who plays the pipes, flute and as­sists with vo­cals. “It's en­er­getic and the tunes are up­beat and have a dance as­pect to them,” he adds. The slower bal­lad,

Scot­land’s Win­ter, evokes a call to the snow­capped moun­tains, while Green­fields, takes you back to a nos­tal­gic time over a long-lost love.

“One of the defin­ing sounds of the band is the twin sets of bag­pipes which is rare in folk bands,” says MacCrim­mon who asks if bag­pipes have been played live in Doha be­fore. “The har­mony cre­ated be­tween the pipes is our defin­ing sound,” he says.

Their cur­rent al­bum, Ur­lar, is a Gaelic term which means foun­da­tion. “It's re­lated to the first move­ment in a type of pipe mu­sic and helped us tie in to what our roots are. It shows a con­nec­tion to the dif­fer­ent parts of Scot­land that we come from,” says Lind­say. Many of the band mem­bers con­trib­ute to the tra­di­tional mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme in Scot­land and some have solo al­bums.

“The old­est sur­viv­ing pipe mu­sic from Scot­land is about 300 years old. One par­tic­u­lar piece called Proud to Play a Pipe, was writ­ten at a time when play­ing the pipes was dis­cour­aged, ex­plains MacCrim­mon.

Keen to dis­cover Mid­dle Eastern mu­sic on their short visit, they ex­plore Doha's Souq area. Lind­say is hop­ing to buy one of the old­est Ara­bian in­stru­ments, the Oud. Megan Hen­der­son step dances to most of the songs and pro­vides vo­cals in Gaelic and English. She and her group are keen that their Doha au­di­ence dance at the show. “We will have ev­ery­one singing in Gaelic be­fore the night is fin­ished,” says MacCrim­mon

Bre­abach mem­bers from left JAMES LIND­SAY, MEGAN HEN­DER­SON, JAMES MACKENZIE, EWAN ROBERT­SON and CALUM MACCRIM­MON.

Band mem­bers of Bre­abach with Qatari mu­si­cian MO­HAMED

AL SAEGH shortly af­ter their per­for­mance at Doha's Al Rayyan

Theatre at Souq Waqif.

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