VIOLINIST Nicola Benedetti, Aly Bain - who is one of Scotland's premiere fiddlers - and folk musician Phil Cunningham have celebrated the official launch of the annual Celtic Connections festival.

The trio had a jamming sessions before they kicked off the two week which brings together the best of folk, roots, world and indie music, at a concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall last night.

They were later joined on the stage by Gaelic folk singer Julie Fowlis.

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The festival, which is celebrating its 21st year, will see the Hydro arena host two shows, including Del Amitri playing their first UK show since 2002.

A Burns night with an international flavour on January 25 will see a line-up including Capercaillie, Rachel Sermanni and Dougie MacLean.

Artistic director Donald Shaw said: "The festival is really coming of age this year, as can be seen from the expansion into Scotland's new leading venue and also in the diversity of this year's programme.

"Although Celtic Connections still stays true to its roots, it has definitely become more adventurous and brings music from all over the world to Glasgow's stages.

"The festival also continues to embrace other musical genres as can be seen in the line-up of this year's opening concert."

Other highlights include Quebecois accordionist and singer Yves Lambert and a Breton Night with Barzaz and Ronan Le Bars Group.

Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango and Balkan Beat stars the Boban & Markovic Orchestra are also among the performers.

Acts from the Welsh folk scene - DnA, Gwyneth Glyn and Bob Delyn a'r Ebillion - will perform at an event celebrating the Celtic kinship between Scotland and Wales. Celtic Connections runs until February 2.