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Showcase Scotland begins!

​As ever, we’re delighted to welcome today’s full influx of delegates for the annual Showcase Scotland event at Celtic Connections – and especially chuffed that this year’s event features not the customary one but two international partners, namely India and Australia, from where a dozen hand-picked acts will be strutting their stuff for your musical delectation between now and Sunday. Besides extending Showcase Scotland’s international reach – which translates directly into international opportunities for Scottish musicians – by further leaps and bounds, these two countries’ involvement also anchors the strong Commonwealth component of this year’s festival progamme, ahead of Glasgow’s summer’s sporting extravaganza. Particularly in the case of India, the wearisomely familiar moans have already been heard querying the whereabouts of the Celtic connection, but in fact the many fundamental parallels between traditional music’s evolution across all the cultures in question, together with several exciting collaborative projects among the featured nations’ artists, constitute a resoundingly eloquent answer.

Talking of which, Scottish icons don’t come any more internationalist than Robert Burns, so the ultimate way to celebrate his 255th birthday on Saturday is by coming to Celtic Connections’ International Burns Concert that night, at the spanking new Hydro venue. You might have to factor in your haggis, neeps and tatties beforehand, but the musical feast lined up could hardly be more lavish. Gorge yourselves on the joyously regal voices of South African doyennes The Mahotella Queens; the richly cosmopolitan lyricism of India’s Raghu Dixit; the powerful protest balladry of Greek-Cypriot singer-songwriter Alkinoos Ioanidis, and a whole host of top Scottish performers, including Salsa Celtica, Karine Polwart, Rachel Sermanni, Capercaillie, Dougie MacLean and – last but emphatically not least - the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

And on the subject of Burns, his worldwide legacy is also reflected in the annual partial reversal, at this point during the festival, of Celtic Connections’ prevailing traffic flow. Instead of Scottish musicians welcoming overseas counterparts onto their home turf, the Scots are suddenly jumping on planes and scattering to the four points of the compass –often having had to hastily beg or borrow a best bib and tucker beforehand, rather than battle-stained festival garb – to play Burns Suppers as far afield as Russia, South Korea, Romania and China. Still, any resulting jet-lag once they’re back should set up their body clocks nicely for the final Celtic weekend.