Drygate Brewery Fri 1st February 2019
From Celtic Connections Festival 17 Jan to 3 Feb 2019
By BOB LESLIE
Better for the soul than psychiatry, and a lot cheaper! A standing-room only crowd, many of whom were dancing in the aisles, and world-class musicians who really know how to entertain as well as play – what’s not to like!
Xabier Diaz has a unique backing band. First there are the Adufeiras de Salitre – essentially a choir of seven women, who each play an adufe. That’s a kind of square-frame drum, like a cross between a tambourine and a bodhran. Add to that the brothers Gutier Álvarez on hurdy-gurdy and violin,and Javier Álvarez on accordion.
Xabier himself plays the pandeireta – a Galician tambourine – and sings with a strong lilting voice that really lifts a song. Don’t think for a moment, by the way, that his playing a tambourine meant just the usual tap on the off-beat that we’re accustomed to hearing. This was more like world-class bodhran-playing!
It all started after top Galician folk-band Berrogüetto disbanded a bit over 4 years ago. Xabier was the lead singer, and was looking for a new musical challenge. He found it on his own doorstep: a group of his star pupils from a Galician percussion school he ran.
Turns out, like many from the Iberian Peninsula in my experience, they were natural stage performers – and so they proved on the night.
I’ve rarely been at a gig where everyone on the stage and practically all those standing in the audience were dancing for joy – for it was a truly joyous event!
Luckily, many Galician songs have hooks and choruses of the “Le-le, le-le” variety, so we were all encouraged to join in.
Highlights of Xabier’s set for me were Xota Delira from his first album with this band, The Tambourine Man, in which he was joined onstage by Davide Salvado from A Banda das Crechas who appeared later, and the single from his latest album Noró – effectively the title track – entitled O Baile de Noró (The Dance from the North Country).
Since the official video has had more than 250,000 hits on YouTube, and the entire Galician population of Glasgow seemed to be there dancing their hearts out, many were joining in from the body of the hall.
A Banda das Crechas – which translates very roughly as “The Nursery Band”. They announced themselves as the resident Wednesday band at Casa das Crechas – “the bar just opposite the Cathedral in Santiago”. If they’re a typical bar band, the rest of us might as well just give up and pack in the music business.
A superb instrumental set that ranged from Galician xotas to Breton jigs and Scottish reels, combined with a very engaging line of patter from their piper who reminded us that 300 Galician soldiers died in the ’45 Rebellion, “But next time, we win!!!” (cue huge cheers!).
Everyone mustered on stage for a final song – again with plenty of “Le-le”s we could join in with – and after huge applause and cheers, a sea of happy, smiling faces headed homewards. Definitely one of the most entertaining musical evenings I’ve ever had. ¡Y viva Galicia!