Bagpipes on the Rocks

As if kneeling down for prayer hundreds of people focus on the stage in anticipation of what is going to happen next. Suddenly the hall is filled with a loud blue light. A calm bagpipe sound echoes through the entire house, making people’s skin crawl. All at once the crowd jumps to their feet and […]

As if kneeling down for prayer hundreds of people focus on the stage in anticipation of what is going to happen next. Suddenly the hall is filled with a loud blue light. A calm bagpipe sound echoes through the entire house, making people’s skin crawl. All at once the crowd jumps to their feet and the atmosphere explodes. An electric guitar, a bass and drums enter the song and make the people dance and jump in ecstasy.

On a Saturday in December, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers return to their homeland after they had travelled around the world without seeing much of the places they played in. “When we are on tour we only come into the venue, we do our soundcheck, then the gig and go to the hotel,” says Kevin MacDonald, one of the band members.” Unfortunately you don’t see anything.” Born in Inverness, this gig is a home game for Kevin. He lives in Edinburgh and appreciates the fan’s warm welcome all too much. Kevin was one of the guys who came up with the idea to play contemporary music on traditional Scottish instruments. As Kevin remembers, “The Red Hot Chilli Pipers were created in 2002 by five of us having a bit of fun with the Scottish bagpipes. We were three back pipers and two percussionists who started to play for fun, trying to make the bagpipes cool.”

With their innovative idea of mixing of traditional music and Rock ‘n’ Roll elements the Red Hot Chilli Pipers won the BBC TV-show “When will I be famous” in 2007. All of a sudden the band playing for the fun of it shot to fame. The same year they also won the “Scots Trad Music Award”. Then the demands of a complete band kicked in, drum kits and more guitars were added to perfect the band.

“We are a cast of twelve on the stage tonight.” Kevin is an original band member and started to play the bagpipes at the age of 7. “It’s an awful instrument, when you are not playing  properly”, he laughs, “but my parents had a lot of patience”. It took him 3 years to learn it and later he joined bands in Aberdeen and Glasgow, where he met some of his bandmates.

In 2007 they participated in the Lorient Festival, the biggest Interceltic Festival in Europe. “The  first year we went there we had no expectations because we were just new guys. We were  just normal people who happened to be standing on a stage”, the trained accountant muses. “We went over to the festival with little expectation. The first year 3000 people came to see us. My favourite performance was the following year. They decided to put us on a bigger stage  and they sold 12.000 tickets. The atmosphere was just fantastic because it was all new to us. To see 12.000 people clapping their hands to We will rock you was incredible.”

The band targets a broad audience. From families with little children to elderly people, everyone loves the unique mixture of contemporary music and traditional Scottish instruments. With their wide range from Rock classics like “Rocking all over the world” to steady Coldplay songs they reach their delighted fans.

As the Red Hot Chilli Pipers come on stage in their black kilts and black shirts with the band’s  symbol on their back – a bagpipe in flames – the people really catch fire. Within a minute the audience is alight. Rocking music battles between the electric guitar and a bagpipe, atmospheric keyboard and whistle solos plus funny choreographies and entertaining jokes make a concert of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers an unforgettable Scottish overall package.

Red Hot Chilli Pipers Return to Scotland
words and photographs by Jasmin Kriegelstein and Andrea Beres

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