YOU might expect renowned bagpiper, guitarist and traditional Gaelic singer Griogair Labhruidh to be appearing at the upcoming Celtic Connections Festival. Instead, he's at home in Ballachulish working on a very different type of project – the world’s first Gaelic hip hop record.

“Well, first hip hop record in the Gaelic tradition, anyway,” says the highlander, who raps under the pseudonym Eólas – meaning ‘knowledge’.

There are no gun-toting gangsters, drive-by shootings or scantily-clad molls (at least not in this weather!) on the mean streets of the Highland village, his rhymes and inspiration come from further away than Brooklyn or Compton, from ancient Gaelic bards as well as modern emcees, using vintage hip hop production, characterised by jazzy samples and drum loops.

A student of both New York rap kings Rakim and Mos Def and ancient Gaelic poets like Ossian, Griogair believes the two styles are not as dissimilar as one might expect.

“If I took my raps back 1000 years ago they would recognise it straight away as connected to their tradition,” he says. “Take away the beats and the essence of it is the same.

“People always forget but hip hop is a folk culture. Its roots were in disco, funk and soul, which were in turn rooted in other African American traditions.”

“I go between languages on some tracks, partly so I can better convey my concepts. Hip hop is universal so my messages need to resound with everybody.”

Born into a long line of renowned pipers and composers, Griogair is a fierce advocate of his own Scottish Gaelic tradition and believes his hip hop experimentations are less controversial than what he calls “misrepresentations by academics”.

He continues: “My music has a political message that stems from anger against what has been done to Gaelic culture,” he says. “Even much Gaelic poetry is dismissed by academics as medieval Irish, but this is real stuff that has been passed on, carried by real people and passed down over generations.”

Griogair speaks warmly about indigenous rappers he has met in his travels, most notably during his time at Canada’s Celtic Colours Festival in October.

“I found my time there really inspiring,” he says. “I met Native American emcees over there and I could really understand where they were coming from with their lyrics.

“To an extent, I see myself in the same boat as them – an indigenous musician carrying traditions that modern western minds simply cannot conceptualise. Culture, music and language comes from the land – it comes from something much more powerful. You do not want that knowledge to be lost.”

The first official Eólas album, expected to be between 12 and 14 tracks, will be released before the end of the year, with live shows expected to follow.

However, Griogair admits he is still exploring the best way to accommodate live musicians and turntables on the same stage.

“I would love to work with other musicians in order to replicate everything live, but also bring that traditional element to it,” he says. “I have a great DJ from the Isle of Skye called Jamie Shaka because rapping and operating the decks at the same time is too hard, let alone playing pipes as well.

“I want it to be a hip hop set that works for a traditional audience. I’m okay with that. I didn’t choose to become hip hop – it chose me. It is the last thing I expected to be doing, but it is a cathartic way of dealing with personal and cultural issues.”

You can catch up with Gaelic's own Jay Z at