Celebrated fiddler Angus Grant of Shooglenifty dies

Shooglenifty frontman Angus Grant was one of Scotland's best known fiddlers.

Shooglenifty frontman Angus Grant was one of Scotland's best known fiddlers.

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One of Scotland’s leading traditional musicians has passed away just months after his groundbreaking band celebrated their 25th anniversary.

Angus Grant was the fiddler and frontman with Edinburgh-based Shooglenifty, who have been one of the country’s most successful folk, Celtic and world music bands.

Tributes have been flooding in since the band announced that he died at home in Edinburgh last night after a short illness. He was 49.

The band who became renowned for their "acid croft" dance-floor filling sounds started off in the capital playing regular jamming spots in Christie’s bar, off the Grassmarket, and La Belle Angele nightclub, in the Cowgate.

They on to build a global following with their crowd-pleasing appearances at festivals and were regulars at major Scottish events like Celtic Connections.

The band rounded off their 25th anniversary tour last December with a special performance at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, where they had appeared regularly in the previous two decades.

Shooglenifty had also released their seventh album, The Untied Knot, in 2015, which boasted a cover designed by celebrated Scottish artist John Byrne, who had previously worked with The Beatles, Donovan and Gerry Rafferty. A new album was due to be recorded in India next year.

Born in Fort William, Grant had learned the instrument from the age of five from his father, the famous Lochaber fiddler Aonghas Grant.

He moved to Edinburgh and joined the "punk bluegrass" outfit Swamptash, which featured a number of other musicians from around Scotland who would go on to form Shooglenifty.

A statement released on the band’s Facebook page said: “It is with deep sadness that we announce that our brother Shoogle, Angus R Grant, passed away last night after a short illness.

“We would like to thank his doctors and the team from St Columba’s Hospice who enabled him to die peacefully at home surrounded by family and close friends.”

Writing on Shooglenifty's website today, manager Jane-Ann Purdy said: "With Venus in Tweeds, Shooglenifty’s first album, the band took the folk world by the scruff of the neck, and they’ve kept on shaking ever since.

"Through seven studio albums, gigs to a few hundred in small Highland village halls, playing to tens of thousands in festival fields across the globe, and a couple of line-up changes, Angus was there, centre stage.

"He had never missed a gig until this July when illness forced his hand, but he returned to the stage to complete Shooglenifty’s run of August festival appearances.

"Shooglenifty filled most of Angus’s musical life over the past 26 years. He rarely played in other combos, and, latterly, he was happiest playing traditional music in pub sessions in the Highlands and around his adopted home of Edinburgh.

"Somewhat bohemian in outlook, Angus was more rigorously unconventional on stage, leading audiences in a merry dance for over 30 years, and influencing a whole generation of musicians. With his rock n roll swagger, he made fiddle playing cool."

Simon Thoumire, founder of the Scots Trad Music Awards, said: "Angus is another great loss to Scotland's musical community. He was a fabulous musician and composer and it's hard to think he is gone. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis said: "Waking to the saddest of news. One of the most captivating and influential musicians and a gentleman. So sad he’s gone."

A statement from the Skye-based band Peatbog Faeries, who emerged from the Scottish folk scene around the same time as Shooglenifty, said: "We're so terribly sad to hear of the passing away of our friend Angus R Grant of Shooglenifty. An inspiration always."

Singer-songwriter James Grant said: "So sorry to hear of the passing of Angus Grant. A lovely man and a great musician."

In a message posted on Twitter, arts agency Creative Scotland said it was "very sad to hear of the loss of one of Scotland's best-loved musical figures."