Salsa Celtica is more than just a band: it’s a way of seeing the world, a remarkably fluid intermingling of cultures that is as joyfully exuberant as it is ingenuous. Their new album (and U.S. debut) El Agua de la Vida features the eleven core Salsa Celts joined by a dozen or so guests, with participants hailing from such far-flung locales as Scotland, Venezuela, England, Cuba, Columbia, and New York. Their initial impetus – to fuse the aching modal sounds of Scottish traditional music with the rhythmic flexibility of classic Cuban salsa – has been brought to full fruition over the course of ten tunes, brimming with congas, tenor banjos, pandeiros and pipes in equal measure.
Something so audacious as Salsa Celtica’s fusion of Afro-Latin grooves and Celtic sonorities does not just occur. The members of Salsa Celtica (who have played with such renown folk groups as Capercaillie, Old Blind Dogs, and Blazin’ Fiddles) first mastered their own native musical traditions before setting sale for Cuba. Upon arriving, they spent many an hour in the presence of their favorite son and salsa groups, learning first-hand while freely exchange of Scotch whiskey for Cuban rum. Soaking in both the techniques and the emotional source of salsa, they returned to their home base in Edinburgh to conquer the world with their unique hybrid.
Beginning as local favorites of Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Hispanic communities, Salsa Celtica took their sound all over Scotland and the British Isles. Rave reviews in U.S. Latino press brought them before a crowd of 6000 New Yoricans at Lincoln Center. After soaking in the sounds of Spanish Harlem and Dominicansville, the band dazzled audiences in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Halifax, and Ottawa. At each stop, their new twist on two timeless genres dropped jaws and moved feet.
Released on June 10, 2003, El Agua de la Vida is Salsa Celtica’s third collection, and their most seamlessly integrated. Appropriately kicked off with stabbing horn accents immediately followed by a propulsive Irish lick by guest banjoist Éamonn Coyne, the album somehow manages to be both their most Scottish and most Cuban-influenced collection. Soaring bagpipes dance with fiddles above a swaggering cláve and rock-solid rhythm section. The result is a brilliant album by master musicians, driven by a unique and unfaltering vision. Finding common ground in the most unlikely of places, El Agua de la Vida is a powerful introduction to one of roots music.