The Orkney & Shetland Isle's are a small group of islands
situated at the most northerly point of Scotland. Though not part of
Scotland until a classic exercise in payment default by the Scots on
the Norwegian crown in the late 15th century, Shetland's proximity being
as close to Norway as it is to the Scottish mainland has resulted in
its culture and history being deeply influenced by Scandinavian traditions.
It is a remote region surrounded by treacherous seas and a
cold North Atlantic climate. With Orkney, its close neighbour, life
evolved round agriculture and fishing the short season attended by members
of the same local community often working together for many years. Consequently
at festivals and feasts songs would be sung about adventures and perils
at sea and celebratory dances at the various agricultural festivals
a popular community attraction.
In terms of music the Islands have a vibrant and warming heart
fueled by a fiddle playing culture that is famously fast and furious
but dignified with grace and great skill. Perhaps the greatest exponent
is Aly Bain who in the 1980's played with the well known Celtic traditional
band 'Boys of the Lough' and more recently with Scottish accordionist
But traditional fiddle playing is only a part of the Northern
Isles music scene where numerous artistes of both traditional and contemporary
genres create many types of music throughout the islands and who play
as regularly in the local pubs and hotels as well as they do in major
venues both on the mainland and on the world stages. The artists listed
are some of the more prominent Orkney and Shetland musicians worth exploring.
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