Shetland Music Scene

Shetland is a vibrant community famed for its rich musical heritage, which is as close in spirit to Scandinavia as to Scotland.

This is the 4th year we've been here for the Folk Festival and we love this place. We will certainly come back again.

Shetland offers many kinds of musical experience, whether you want to participate or just listen. All genres have a following, from baroque to hip-hop and bluegrass to jazz. Music is part of life all year round but features very strongly in several festivals. A great many people play music, thanks in large part to the availability of musical tuition in Shetland schools.

Traditional music is strongly fiddle-based, often with the addition of piano, accordion or guitar. The particular style of Shetland fiddle playing has many admirers and Shetland performers such as Aly Bain and Fiddlers’ Bid regularly tour world-wide.

When it comes to venues, Shetland is particularly well supplied. Mareel’s 600-capacity concert hall incorporates the latest in sound systems. Full, state-of-the-art audio and video recording facilities are available, with dedicated studios staffed by experienced personnel. Connection to fibre-optic broadband means that live streaming in high definition sound and vision is available and has been successfully used on many occasions.

Some performances come in the form of major concerts and gigs featuring well known visiting artists. Visitors have included:

  • Mumford & Sons
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Pulp
  • The Levellers
  • Saxophonist Tommy Smith
  • A number of classical performers including the Edinburgh Quartet and Shetland’s own Neil Georgeson
  • The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra also visit occasionally.

The Clickimin sports hall can accommodate concerts for up to 1200 people, and Shetland’s modern network of country halls also handles many musical events. At the other end of the scale, there are regular jam sessions in local pubs, among which those in the upstairs Lounge Bar in Lerwick have become legendary. Either way, the musicianship is likely to be very impressive.

If you play an instrument or sing, you can usually find an outlet for your talent. The musical spectrum is covered by many local bands, a choir and an orchestra.

The Shetland Folk Festival, which has been organised annually by volunteers since 1981, has an international reach and reputation. Although fiddles do feature prominently, the range of music on offer is always eclectic and has included bands such as Awatinas from Bolivia and Hanggai from Mongolia, not to mention a remarkable list of North American, European, African and Indian performers.

This is the 4th year we've been here for the Folk Festival and we love this place. We will certainly come back again.
Aly Bain

Aly Bain

A Shetlander who genuinely needs no introduction. Internationally the most prominent artist ever to emerge from the islands' much-lauded music community - and still setting benchmarks after all these years!!

Astrid Williamson

Astrid Williamson

Previously the front-lady of Goya Dress, Astrid has more recently been forging a very successful solo career for herself. Her releases include the 2011 album Pulse and the 2015 album We Go To Dream.

Bongshang

Bongshang

Bongshang are one of Shetland’s most innovative bands, blending astral fiddle soundscapes, blissful banjo cadences and a pulsating rhythm section to deliver their characteristically eclectic compositions.

Chris Stout and Catriona McKay

Chris Stout and Catriona McKay

Chris Stout (fiddle) and Catriona McKay (Scottish harp) have been hailed as a “musical collaboration made in heaven”. A hugely innovative duo who continually challenge existing boundaries of traditional music.

Fiddlers Bid

Fiddlers Bid

Shetland’s internationally renowned fiddle band who redefine the term "traditional". Their performance style has been compared to “....playing likes angels and devils at once”.

Filska

Filska

Filska’s worldwide reputation is built on Shetland’s fiddle playing tradition – with wonderful songs for good measure too. 'Filska' is local dialect meaning 'high spirited'. No more need be said!

Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag

Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag

Shetland fiddle driven line-up, backed by a multi punch-packing rhythm section. Repertoire drawn from Shetland tradition as well as Nordic and Celtic influences.

Hom Bru

Hom Bru

Legends on the international folk scene, Hom Bru have been entertaining audiences with their own brand of music (and humour) for over 30 years, and they show no signs of stopping!

Inge Thomson

Inge Thomson

Hailing from the remote island of Fair Isle, Inge explores innovative vocal harmonies and multi-instrumental textures. Although best known for her work with the Karine Polwart Trio, Inge has been involved in several multi-cultural projects.

Jenna and Bethany Reid

Jenna and Bethany Reid

A hugely acclaimed sisters pairing and group, they recently released their emotive album ‘Escape’ - music inspired by the famed ‘Shetland Bus’ operation between Shetland and Norway during WWII.

Malachy Tallack

Malachy Tallack

A writer and singer of contemporary songs, Malachy has released four albums and an EP to date, and has performed in venues across the UK.

Steven Spence

Steven Spence

Hailing from Unst (Shetland’s, and therefore the UK’s, most northerly island), Steven is one of Shetland’s foremost composers, as well as being a wonderful fiddle player in his own right.

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