Camille Mateos, British Council Scotland's former Arts Manager, looks back on an inspiring exchange between Celtic musicians
As I made my annual winter pilgrimage to Glasgow for a gig at the Old Fruitmarket as part of Celtic Connections last January, I was transported two years back when, in this very same venue, NeXo came together for the first time.
Our initial objective when partners across Scotland, Wales, Galicia, Argentina and Uruguay came together in late 2014 was to offer nine musicians an unprecedented opportunity to connect with each other through a shared Celtic heritage and provide a platform for a new musical dialogue to be created.
The first stage of the exchange saw our musicians travel across the Atlantic to Buenos Aires, not completely unlike what their Welsh cousins did back in 1865 when they first set foot in the Chubut Valley, a Welsh spoken region in Central Patagonia. Under the artistic direction of Donald Shaw from Celtic Connections they came to understand each other’s musical identity, a process which would lead to the creation of a rich shared repertoire.
In Spanish, the word "nexo" means "connection". What better way to name this project which, in January 2016, conquered the heart of hundreds of people and brought five sister nations together, when premiered at Celtic Connections?
I vividly remember interviewing the audience at the end of one of the band's three festival shows and not being able to help but noticing the impact this show had had on them. For many it was about the discovery of this shared heritage; for others it was about the intriguingly harmonious ways those traditional and foreign instruments became beautiful together. And for most, including myself, it was about understanding the role of music as a powerful tool for bringing nations and people together.