Salsa Celtica have built up a loyal fan base in Edinburgh and they turned out
in force on Wednesday night to support the band. The music is an eclectic mix of music from Africa, Cuba, Ireland and Scotland and is a unique fusion of styles and instruments from each tradition.
I gained the impression that much of the audience falls into two camps: those
who love traditional Scottish and Irish music and like salsa and those who love
salsa and like traditional Scottish & Irish music. Different sections of
the audience went wild for one or the other style. There are clearly many too
who enjoy the mix.
© Salsa Celtica Band
In places the coming together of the two styles works well, in others I found
myself wanting it to be one or the other. Salsa Celtica are unique in fusing
the two and offering a very individual experience. For me the numbers which
relied most on the sax, fiddle and drums succeeded best in blending the styles.
I think the songs with more of the Scottish / Irish content work better because
they are tighter and better constructed. Some of the salsa numbers are long
and rambling. There isn't enough variation to differentiate between the songs.
Each of the musicians perform very well and they have a lively enthusiasm for
what they do. The number in the core band varies (around 11) and they were joined
by José and Chico from the Havana Rumba fringe show.
Guest performers add variety and give regular fans a new experience of the band.
Some of the dancers from the Havana Rumba show would be a great addition, as
several people commented. Ross playing fiddle and Steve on sax are particularly
good as is the mad drummer on bongos / djembe.
© Salsa Celtica in action
The central floor space wag given over to a standing area. This was good for
dancing but meant that the seated areas had poor visibility. I couldn't see
the band or their instruments clearly. With no programmes or band member details
on the their website, I can't give more detail on individual band members.
Unfortunately the sound quality really let this show down. The Queen's Hall
has excellent acoustics so it isn't easy to get it so wrong. The size of the
speakers and volume would be more appropriate for a much larger venue. I couldn't
hear more than a few spoken words or lyrics for the deafening and overwhelming
sound. The excessive volume was unpleasant, unnecessary and distorted all of
the sound for the evening. I've stood right in front of Meat Loaf's speakers
without turning a hair, but this was downright painful.
Lighting relied too much on that irritating technique of sweeping very strong
lights directly into the audiences' eyes.
The show started 20 minutes late and finished early with no explanation or apology
which I thought was disrespectful of their audience. They did play a well-received
encore. The bongo / djembe player lead the audience in percussion games at the
start of the encore and that was fun.
Salsa Celtica have a niche market and play to their strengths. They played selections
from old and new albums. They didn't convert me. I prefer my salsa separate
from my jigs and reels. However, the musicianship is of a very high standard
and they offer a unique musical experience which many people enjoy.