From Swamptrash to Shooglenifty
Magnificent fiddler Angus Grant of Shooglenifty has died aged just 49.
A few years ago I programmed the Big Tent Festival in Fife. The Treacherous Orchestra, the Creole Choir of Cuba and Michael Marra shone in the rain but Shooglenifty headlined and stormed the day with a visceral connective joy. Many years before that they supported an Eigg benefit gig in Edinburgh and the band were collaborators in a thousand free gigs and benefits in-between, including appearing on our album Songs for Scotland in 2014 with ‘Glenfinnan Dawn’. Shooglenifty have been at the heart not just of the folk revival but of the cultural and political revival of scotland too, and Angus has been at the heart of Shooglenifty. The pioneering band seemed to be the personification of Emma Goldman’s edict: “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.”
Tributes are flooding in.
Mathew Zajac writes:”Today we have lost, far too soon, a great Highland musician. Angus Grant, the fiddle magician of Lochaber, the Shooglenifty sorcerer, the violin virtuoso who, with his wonderful band, led the Scottish folk renaissance into the most exciting new territory, with a legion of young musicians in tow. Angus was my daughter’s first fiddle teacher, patient and always fun when she was 7 years old. He was quiet and shy, though never on stage where his brilliance was both mesmerising and explosive.
What a loss. Angus, I salute you. Oidhche math mo char aid.”
Shooglenifty’s manager Jane-Ann has written a beautiful tribute here: “Shooglenifty filled most of Angus’s musical life over the past 26 years. He rarely played in other combos, and, latterly, he was happiest playing traditional music in pub sessions in the Highlands and around his adopted home of Edinburgh. Somewhat bohemian in outlook, Angus was more rigorously unconventional on stage, leading audiences in a merry dance for over 30 years, and influencing a whole generation of musicians. With his rock n roll swagger, he made fiddle playing cool.”
Our thoughts are with his friends and family.