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Private Label SHOOGLE18018 

A musical collaboration between premier Scottish roots outfit Shooglenifty and Rajasthani band Dhun Dhora has been ongoing for a few years, but it was only in late 2015 that the idea of recording an album together was mooted. The preferred location was to be the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, and an October 2016 date was fixed. But a double blow was struck when the Shoogles’ fiddle player Angus R. Grant died of cancer, then only a few months later Dhun Dhora’s dholak player Roshan Khan Manganiyar was killed in a road accident. The necessary period of grieving added fuel to the fire of momentum for completing the album however, and the recording was rescheduled for September 2017. Written In Water contains the fruits of this studio session, and serves both as a record of a distinct creative point in time for the bands and as a lasting memorial to the talents of the departed musicians.

Poignantly, the disc begins with a very special pre-festival moment from October 2015 that managed to be captured on tape, of Angus playing a tune at dusk answered by Dayam singing a brief poem. This wholly natural juxtaposition serves as a perfect illustration for the studio tracks that follow; these bring an at times overwhelming sequence of trading-off of musical ideas, an integration whose interwoven kinship and (likely hitherto unsuspected) mutual relevance is a constant source of surprise and delight. Just sample Ewan MacPherson’s tune, Dead End Glen, which gains a new dimension with Sardar Khan Langa’s sarangi solo, or the deeply compatible Scottish Gaelic and Rajasthani vocal sections on A’ Bhriogais Uallach, or the thrilling, thundering drumming on the title track.

Invigorating, extraordinary performances all round.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.