BY Miriam Brett
Bodega first made their name when they won the prestigious BBC2 Young Folk Musicians of the Year in 2006. Since then, the group has gone from strength to strength.
Not only have they had massive success in Scotland, but Bodega have made themselves known around the world, having done three tours in the USA and Canada this year alone. They have also travelled widely in Europe, from Finland to Italy.
Bodega have strong links with Shetland as their fiddle player is the well known local artist Ross Couper. During his last year at the Anderson High School, Ross won the Traditional Young Fiddler of the Year award. Ross comes from a line of very talented musicians – he is the son of the first winner of the Shetland Young Fiddler of the Year competition, Margaret Scollay.
This group of extremely talented folk musicians all met at Plockton National Centre of Excellence for
Traditional Music where they were studying. Here, they formed the band under a different name and started producing some of their first tunes. It was only when the group won the BBC2 Young Folk Musicians of the Year award that they went on to produce their first album later on in 2006 as part of their prize. After winning the prize, Bodega did a lot of touring and got to perform at a few major English Folk Festivals.
However, the band is now facing the difficulty of its members living in different places as their placements at Plockton have come to an end. Ross has continued to study folk and traditional music in Manchester and the rest of the band are now studying in Glasgow. But the group still manage to meet regularly and are still exceedingly dedicated to Bodega.
The first of many times I have heard this band play was at the Anderson High School. Bodega held an after school performance for pupils and teachers to come and hear them when they came to Shetland to perform in last year’s Folk Festival. The first thing that strikes you is how well they all get along with each other. This is very important in a band and helps to capture the audience’s attention. Bodega certainly captured attention all right. After their performance was over and the huge cheers from the audience had subsided, there was not a bad comment to be said about them (apart from the fact that people did not want the concert to have ended so soon).
Their second album, Under the counter, was launched in Shetland on the 25th of July at the Lounge. The new album has added Shetland connections as it was produced by Andrew Gifford, who plays in the world famous Shetland band Fiddlers’ Bid. Andrew is apparently very pleased with the way the album sounds.
One aspect that I really love about Bodega is the range of Scottish instruments they use; their musicianship covers most of the country. There is a fiddle, pipes and Gaelic singing. This creates a unique sound and is no doubt one of the reasons Bodega is such a big success in other countries. People want to hear traditional Scottish instruments being played to a high standard. Bodega can certainly offer them that. Bodega has managed to combine traditional instruments, yet has created a unique and modern sound of folk music.
They have strayed away from any kind of dance band sound, which we hear only too often in Scottish folk music.
Another aspect that strikes me about this album is how extraordinarily smart the arrangements are. We are told that when Ross was asked how long it took them to work the sets out he replied: “Well we tied it up over the weekend really.” This puts just how talented this group of young musicians are in perspective.
Under the counter is a refreshingly innovative album that grasps the listener’s attention right from the start and is well worth the listen. I have no doubt that we will be hearing much more of this new, unique and fresh band to come in the future.