When these two bands appear on stage together there is a meeting of minds and of cultures. Formed thousands of miles apart and yet with so much in common, the two combos have worked together for nearly four years and the bonds that bind them are stronger than ever. Both have lost band members in the past year – Shooglenifty their charismatic fiddler Angus R Grant, and Dhun Dhora their effervescent dholak player Roshan Khan. Grief and the desire for musical memorial informed ‘Written in Water’ a new recording project in Jodhpur last October, but there was also a celebration of lives well lived. This incredibly special album will be launched at the Mela in August 2018.
Performing in two minority languages – Gaelic and Marwari – Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora know how rich their own traditional cultures are and are at the forefront of keeping them very much alive. They may converse in different tongues but they speak the same language musically. The project is very much a live interplay of equals rather than two bands bolted together for the short term. The Indian musicians, used to a life of patronage and playing to order, were a little reticent in the early days. But they have responded, over the past few years, to the deep respect and friendship offered by the Scots and together they have developed a mischievous improvisational musical kinship that is a delight to witness. No one emerges from a Shoogle/Dhun Dhora show without answering the urge to move.
The new album, ‘Written in Water’, features a dynamic young fiddler Laura Wilkie who travelled to Jodhpur with the Shoogles for the recording back in October 2017. The Mela gig is doubly special as it will feature Laura alongside brand new Shoogle Eilidh Shaw, a very exciting fiddle player who comes from the same tradition as our late frontman Angus R Grant. Also featured is puirt a beul vocalist Kaela Rowan, who is responsible for leading the band to Jodhpur in the first place, and who featured two duets with Dhun Dhora’s spellbinding singer Dayam Khan Manganiyar on her last solo album.
Shooglenifty is completed by permanent members on mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass and percussion. In addition to Dayam, Dhun Dhora features four dhol drummers (who performed with the band at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, their 25th Anniversary concert in 2015 and at Festival Interceltique in Lorient also in 2015), and Latif Khan Mangaiyar (who appeared with Dayam and Shooglenifty at Celtic Connections in 2017) on morchang and bhapang.