FolkWorld Live Review 03/2004 by Michael Moll

Salsa Celtica in Colchester
A live review in the "SufFOLK & beyond" series

Salsa Celctica, photo by Michael MollSalsa Celtica, the Scottish band with the unique concept of blending Salsa with Scottish traditional music, have been this spring on an extensive "village halls to city halls tour". One of their stops in East Anglia was the Colchester Arts Centre, where the band appeared as part of the Salsa programme.

Colchester might be a town, yet the concert had more the atmosphere, and the number of visitors, of a village hall. When the concert started, there were only maybe 50 people in the converted church building which hosts the Colchester Arts Centre; and even at the end of the evening, there were not more than 80 people in the audience.

Salsa Celtica, photo by Michael MollOne of the reasons for this lack of audience might be that the concert was locally advertised as Salsa, while it was not promoted at all as a Scottish folk event. The Colchester Arts Centre also hosts a weekly folk club, with a loyal audience for Scottish music - this has not been targeted. And obviously it did not help that Salsa Celtica were on on Tuesday, a day after the weekly folk club. A bit more "out of the box" thinking would have been useful!

Salsa Celtica are a band well positioned to pull the big crowds - a superb live band, with music that appeals to a wide spectrum of listeners. Their blend of different music styles is irresistible - combining hot rhythms of Latin music and the distinctive melodies and instruments from Scottish music traditions

Salsa Celtica, photo by Michael MollThe music often switches unnoticeably from Latin songs to Scottish traditional tunes - the rhythms might play on, but then there are bagpipes and fiddle entering a distinctive Scottish melody. The music is full of innovation, full of fun. The musicians obviously enjoyed themselves during the concert.

At the centre of the band is the charismatic lead singer Lino Rocha. Additionally, there is a brass section (trumpet and saxophone), percussion (congas and bongos) and piano, unfortunately played on keyboards (in my view, keyboards never can fully replace a piano - but obviously, it is not too easy to fit a piano into the touring van!).
The Scottish element of the music comes from three outstanding players of the Scottish folk scene: Fraser Fifield (ex Old Blind Dogs) is a highly innovative player of both Scottish folk and jazz music, playing flute, bagpipes and saxophone; Christ Stout from Shetland (Fiddlers Bid) is a superb fiddler, while banjo player Eamonn Coyne is a popular Edinburgh session musician.

Salsa Celtica, photo by Michael MollMost of the music is written by band members, yet it captures the character of both Scottish and Latin music. Most of the numbers feature the singing of Lino, yet there are also extensive and impressive instrumental parts, in particular the Scottish bits.

Salsa Celtica creates a blended music which is complex and stunning - unlike Scottish Whisky, which is best unblended, a blend of Scottish music with Latin is at least as superb as the single ingredients! It is definitely a better solution than "Whisky con Ron" - whisky with rum - a blend they are singing about...

My only criticism of the concert is that the volume was much too high - the music was too loud to being able to hear the subtleties of the music; toward the end of both sets, the increasing volume made the music appear to be a loud blur, where you still could identify the meldoy, but where you would have trouble to fully appreciate the sound of each instrument and the quality of arrangements.

Nevertheless, Salsa Celtica proved this evening that they are a top live band, still even better in live than on their highly acclaimed CDs. Salsa Celtica are probably one of the current best live bands on the folk/world music scene!

Latest CD: "El Agua de la Vida", reviewed in FolkWorld No. 26
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Photo Credit: All photos by Michael Moll

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