As I drank my last sip of tea and got my things together it was a long walk to the train station. A good way to think of the night ahead. Hamilton Central to Partick and the tube to Hillhead. A wee walk down to Oran Mor to see Joy Dunlop and An Dannsa Dub as part of Celtic Connection 2024. As I prayed that there would be a moment for me to get an interview I was given a steward to escort me downstairs when I produced my press pass. My first encounter was with a guy called Tom Spirals and Max who told me they were in An Dannsa Dub. I immediately grabbed my chance and asked if I could get an interview. To my absolute delight they said yes. I immediately got nervous but started to take notes. Tom was so engaging and I honestly felt I was talking to an old friend.
An Dannsa Dub are cutting edge, hyper active, pulsating and full of mystical energy. They started from a club in Glasgow that Tom played dub vibes and reggae who then met a tradional Scottish fiddler Euan McLaughlin. They began to work samples and grooves to the fiddle and An Dannsa Dub were beginning to form. ‘We have created an art form that now belongs to the world’ Certainly they have set the heather on fire and yes there is a Scottish element running through their music, but something from Toms magical imagination permeates from his world through the music. He has created the most sensational sound that gets the head mesmorised and the feet tapping and everything in between going haywire. As I thanked him and asked for a photo he immediately obliged. I honestly felt the luckiest journalist meeting Tom.
My good luck continued as I met the fabulous Joy Dunlop who has a permanent state of happiness radiating from her face which is infectious. She fleeted past just as I had finished with An Dannsa Dub so I asked for an interview. She again was happy to chat to me. We both being from the highlands chinwagged about culture To my amazement Joy never grew up speaking Gaelic but is now fluent and even teaches on TV. ‘Singing in Gaelic is so natural to me’ I asked her if she felt more comfortable playing in a big band than being exposed on her own. Joy is supremely confident and told me she is at home with or without a band ‘But the big noise is very good fun’ Joy laughed. The gaelic party was about to begin and she ‘had to be on stage in two minutes’. I was the last person she spoke to as she took the stage where the band were waiting. The place erupted as Gus Stirrat on bass with his inimitable style kept the tunes, songs thumping and Joys voice soaring above the ‘noise’ Absolutely electric jig time songs from her newest album ‘Caoir’. As I looked around the crowd most were looking stageward enjoying every second. The high point was when Joy was describing how the gaels celebrate death in song the best. A great laugh from the crowd shows just how professional she is at playing the audience.
It was a wee while before An Dannsa Dub took to the stage an ideal time to charge the glasses and get refreshed. I got another chat with Joy who looked no less glamorous to ask her how it went. She was just elated to be at Celtic Connections playing to the best audiences. Then we heard a fiddle and then some magical noises from an Apple Mac and there was Tom Spirals and the rest of the band ready to fill the hall with beautiful noises . Watching from afar An Dannsa Dub are not just about music but fun. Tom has a body that moves continuously into different shapes it really is difficult to take your eyes of him. He even plays flute while bending, allways to the groove. Max on bass is just as bad with his head movements but the maddest and best is Euan McLauglin on fiddle. Huge hair which he nervously touches and a moustache that he could definately bring back into fashion. Most of all he looks so happy to be in this band and it permeates to the audience. He moves they move. A wee mention to the drummer who the soundman said was the best he’d heard keeping those beats going. The Gaelic song was provided by Josie Duncan a lass with a loud voice; which kept the gaelic party going. One of the other spectacular things to witness was Toms interaction with the crowd bringing them in closer to the music with his warmth and laughter. He had them laughing and hand clapping. All this music and dance was causing a lot of heat as layers of clothes were shorn to cool down the crowds. No one and I mean no one was sitting down this was high octane not for the faint hearted. Music the purists of traditional music will love because this is traditional music taken from around the world and when you are brave enough to mix thing up like An Dannsa Dub another taboo has been broken. This is 21st Century Scottish music the world can enjoy.
I left sweating; back into the cold Glasgow air and smelling pretty iffy too. Got my tube ticket out of my wallet ready to get to Partick for my connecting train to Hamilton and a taxi home. All the way I was smiling at the nights events. Two great interviews and superb music to remember. That night I felt the luckiest guy in the world
Written by: Norrie Hunter