When a band is said to be fusing Afro-Cuban salsa and Celtic music, someone who hasn't heard their work might expect either (1) something that is extremely unconventional, or (2) a total train wreck. But the music of Salsa Celtica is neither of those things; truth be told, Salsa Celtica is a solid, hard-swinging salsa band that just happens to be from Scotland. Their recordings have incorporated elements of Celtic music (both Scottish and Irish), and they have employed some instruments that are typically heard on traditional Celtic recordings (including bagpipes, Uillean pipes, banjos, fiddles and whistles). But the instruments that really do the most to define their sound--Latin percussion, piano, horns--are standard salsa/Afro-Cuban instruments. Their primary influences aren't the Chieftains, Clannad or Tommy Makem, but rather, salsa stars like Tito Puente, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto and los Van Van. And most of the band's lyrics aren't in English or Gaelic--they're in Spanish, the dominant language of salsa and Afro-Cuban music. So when all is said and done, Salsa Celtica's sound is really about 90% Afro-Cuban and 10% Celtic; they're a salsa band with Celtic overtones.
Salsa Celtica was formed in Scotland in 1995, and in 1997, the salseros visited Cuba for the first time (which was very easy to do because Scotland, unlike the United States, doesn't have an embargo of Cuba). After that, they recorded their debut album, Demonios, Angels and Lovers. Subsequently, the Scots provided an album titled El Agua de la Vida, which means "the water of life" in Spanish and was released on the Compass label in 2003. The members of Salsa Celtica have included, among others, pianist Phil Alexander, percussionist/vocalist Lino Rocho, flutist/saxophonist Steve Kettley, saxman Frasier Fifield, banjo player/guitarist Coyne Eamonn, percussionist Javier Chernicoff and violinist/guitarist Kenny Fraser. ~ Alex Henderson