Celtic Connections

Anda Union and Rant

Mackintosh Church, Glasgow

Rob Adams


The top of Maryhill Road became a little part of Inner Mongolia on Friday evening as the voices and instruments of Anda Union took us right into the hearts of their homelands. This was the group’s third visit to Scotland and the international tours and high profile festival appearances they’ve undertaken since they wowed the Edinburgh Fringe on their first trip would appear to have raised their performance level even higher.

Their ensemble sound – orchestration really – as their horse head fiddles (a kind of two string cello), percussion, flutes, frets and precise, muscular bass create variously vivid colour, gentle backdrops and mighty, vigorous momentum is breath-taking in its control, discipline and exuberance, and their vocal harmonies, using the two-tone Khoomei throat singing style, are fantastically rich.

Each of the traditional costume-clad band members introduced us to their grassland homes through music and song that was so descriptive as to be transportive, none more so than their female singer, Tsetsegmaa’s ballad of longing and deep, deep connection. There’s humour in their presentation, too, with their male singer, Biligbaatar, wearing his description of “The Mongolian Casanova” with just the right blend of pride and self-deprecation. It was all of an exceptionally high quality piece but their 10,000 Galloping Horses finale especially carried the sort of realism that might make an opportunistic gardener fetch a shovel.

Fiddle quartet Rant also created transportive music with their superbly voiced arrangements of Shetland tunes and a drop-dead gorgeous Icelandic praise song, and the arrival of their guest vocalists, Ewan McLennan and Julie Fowlis, served to underline the sensitivity, care and sheer good taste that informs their instrumental work.