Treacherous Orchestra
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Treacherous Orchestra

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom | MAJOR

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom | MAJOR
Band Folk Celtic


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"Treacherous Orchestra 'Origins' Review"

An album of rousing fusion work from the vibrant Scottish folk scene, where every musician seems to play in a variety of very different bands. Treacherous Orchestra are a brave and, at times, very loud 11-piece folk big band, with members who also work with the likes of Salsa Celtica. It's a largely acoustic lineup that includes two pipers, two fiddlers, two percussionists (drum kit and bodhrán), along with accordion, banjo, acoustic and sometimes electric guitar. They are influenced by rock as well as traditional Celtic styles, and the opening March of the Troutsmen sounds like an acoustic heavy mental anthem that segues into a fiddle and pipe tune. Elsewhere in this all-instrumental set they switch from riffs to a reggae stomp, or to the grand and lyrical Celtic melody of Easter Island, driven on by pipes and whistles. I suspect they sound even better live. - The Guardian - Robin Denselow

"The Treacherous Orchestra stay faithful to their reputation for loudness without betraying folk roots"

The Treacherous Orchestra’s high-octane energy has made them a hit at Celtic Connections, and they’re back again this year, writes Fiona Shepherd

ONE of the biggest noises on the Scottish folk scene in the past few years has come from a buccaneering big band whose players hail from all corners of the country (and a bit of Ireland).

The Treacherous Orchestra is a pedigree ensemble, comprising members of such respected folk fusion outfits as Croft No 5, Salsa Celtica, Session A9, The Peatbog Faeries and Old Blind Dogs, but this Venn diagram of Celtic connections has produced an invigorating new crossover sound, delivered with precision, energy and a cheeky flourish of showmanship which has reached the parts that even the progressive parent groups have not.

My first encounter with the Treacherous Orchestra was at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2009, only six months after their buzz-making debut at that year’s Celtic Connections. Closing the main stage on the final night of the festival, they attracted every teenage boy on site to their set, generating a moshpit worthy of a Biffy Clyro gig. Six months later, they sold out the Old Fruitmarket for their second Celtic Connections triumph, whipping up a storm in front of a remarkably broad constituency of fans, from seasoned folk diehards to glow-stick-waving students. Forward-thinking folk bands are nothing new, but these guys have succeeded in tapping into a fresh audience without alienating traditionalists.

“The majority of us in the band don’t really go to folk gigs,” says piper Ali Hutton. “We listen to all sorts of stuff.” Influences on their eclectic sound range from Scottish piping legends Gordon Duncan and Martyn Bennett to rock behemoths Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, from the epic, emotional soundscapes of Sigur Ros to the orgasmic highs of dance music.

By channelling the energy of a rock gig and the crescendos of a euphoric club set, they have become the go-to group for a hands-in-the-air party. But behind the sheer exhilaration of their sound, there is a wealth of musical skill, compositional flare and respect for tradition among their number. The 12 members wear their virtuosity lightly but between them they have years of experience, playing with luminaries from Bela Fleck to Stevie Wonder and bright young folk things including Kate Rusby, Julie Fowlis and Roddy Woomble.

Having learned their craft performing other people’s music, there was a hunger to create something of their own. Gradually a solid group formed out of playing together in various configurations over the years, whether in bands or at sessions in pubs and at parties around Glasgow.

“I enjoy playing with lots of people but there was something about getting together with these guys that was special, a different vibe and energy,” says Hutton. With the foundations of the group already laid at these informal sessions, they made their union official at the invitation of Celtic Connections director Donald Shaw and have since become an annual fixture at the festival.

“I think it’s important to stress that it’s not a collaboration,” says accordionist John Somerville. “It’s a band.”

Like any orchestra, there are different sections, consisting of a number of musical double acts – two pipers, two fiddlers, two flute players (initially), two guitarists, drums and bodhran, and what Somerville likes to call the “instruments of hell” section featuring himself and banjo player Eamonn Coyne. Having set sail in their musical Noah’s Ark, their next challenge was how to tame the menagerie.

“We started off thinking everything had to be fully democratic and we had to vote on everything,” says double bassist Duncan Lyall. “Then we realised the beast that it was.”

With everyone juggling other musical commitments, whether touring or teaching, it can take some time to get the full orchestral complement in the same room at the same time. Photo sessions are a major challenge apparently. Certain members have now fallen into administrative roles but musically it remains an even playing field, with allcomers invited to contribute melodies and ideas for arrangements.

“It can take a bit of time because you’ve got maybe five, ten ideas to try out and you’ve got to try them, otherwise you’re not giving everyone their fair say,” says Lyall. “You might think ‘that’s not going to work’ but when you play it you like it.”

“We’re all still a bit wary of putting our tunes on the table,” says Hutton. “You’re baring your soul and sometimes people can have such a strong vision of where they think it should go. We do over-egg it sometimes and you usually find that’s the set that doesn’t always make it out because we’ve found that there’s been too much in it.”

“We want a powerful sound,” says Lyall, “but we do have to be aware that musically you need space to breathe in a set.”

That dynamic balance has already been struck at their gigs, with lovely lyrical lulls between the incendiary salvos, but - Scotland on Sunday - Fiona Shepherd

"Treacherous Origins ***** Songlines Review"

espite their name, this band delivers

The debut album from Treacherous Orchestra is a blistering, swaggering and infectious affair. Consisting predominantly of pipes, fiddle, guitar, bass and bodhrán (along with a banjo and accordion section renamed the ‘instruments of hell’ by the band) the pedigree of TO illustrates the wide range of experience and musicianship involved. Both Ali Hutton and Ross Ainslie were taught by the much missed piping legend Gordon Duncan and the band’s members have been involved with Salsa Celtica, Old Blind Dogs, Croft No 5, Peatbog Faeries and Session A9 amongst many others.As the band state, their name ‘strongly reflects our character and the music we play’: although inherently soaked in tradition, it is liberally coated in rock, funk, techno and the flavours of Eastern Europe.

TO are confident enough to take it slow and easy on quieter tracks such as the soothing ‘Sea of Clouds’ and the anthemic ‘Easter Island’, but their energy is at its most contagious in the heavy pulsating rhythms of the Led Zeppelin-esque ‘March of the Troutsmen’, the exotic funk of ‘Look East’, the synth-inspired ‘Sea of Okhotsk’ or the feverish mix of strathspey and dance that is ‘Sausages’. Comparisons will be made to the Peatbogs and Martyn Bennett but the band are gifted enough to wear these influences on their sleeves whilst flaunting their own cross-European/multi-genre musical identity. Origins is a pounding, sweaty, meaty debut which promises much and delivers even more: miss out at your peril.

Billy Rough - Songlines

"Treacherous Orchestra Cambridge 2012 Review"

With a magical Celtic blend of fairytale nonsense, Treacherous Orchestra march on stage with all the curiosity of a Victorian vaudeville act. Top hats and bagpipes are the order of the night as the twelve piece Scottish-Irish folk band whip the audience up into a wide-eyed frenzied melting pot of happiness.

Treacherous Orchestra ease into their headline act with relaxed brilliance. John Somerville mythically charms the crowd with his accordion beats, thrashing about like an angry dragon. On the flute, O’Neil lifts the crowd into a lilting lyrical mess, relentlessly and bravely fusing an electrifying array of musical talent.

Every song grows in stature to a frantic reverberating finish from a humble and soothing start. The charged set, intense melodies and high impact performances cannot fail to fill anyone watching them with a rush of vigour. Proving their musical prowess, they cover a wide musical spectrum, juxtaposing calm melodies with wild flamboyant dance tunes.

Their boundless, intense energy is such that you can fix your attention upon any one of the twelve strong act and be utterly captivated. Individually, each is magical; together they are nothing but pure musical genius.

Don’t be fooled by their bold nonsensical demeanour, this is a band whose magnanimous power is underpinned with a highly sophisticated and complex musical talent.

-- Meg Roberts - Virtual Festivals

"Treacherous Orchestra - Origins"

Treacherous Orchestra are an 11 piece band featuring musicians from (amongst others) Shooglenifty, the Peatbog Fairies and Salsa Celtica. Following their hugely successful debut at Celtic Connections in 2009, the band have been bringing their considerable talent together and have, at last, produced a studio album titled ‘Origins’.

Like something from a Celtic Noah’s ark (and, let’s face it, we get the rain for it up here) this band come in two-by-two… double helpings of pipes, fiddles and percussion are joined by accordion, banjo and guitar to produce a sound that’s as big as the band, and then some. The membership reads like a who’s who of latest generation of Scottish tradition based music...

As you’d expect from such a gathering, it’s loud and it’s lively – but there are some soothing interludes which, other than providing a rest for the tapping feet, help underline the breadth of talent and level of craft that’s gone into Origins. Not surprisingly, pipes and fiddle are the predominant voices throughout, but in an instrumental album there’s always plenty room for the other contributors to shine, and Origins is no exception.

Following the short warm up of Overture, the first 15 or so minutes of the album are a whirlwind of delights. The opening stomp, March Of The Troutmen heralds the arrival of a set of three tunes (Sheepskins Beeswax / Taybank Shenanigans / Superfly) in which Superfly‘s symphonic strings seem to justify the creation of an eleven piece band on their own.

With irresistible jazz/gypsy riffs and alternating frantic and freaky dance grooves, Look East brings the opening exuberance to conclusion, before the vintage feel of a short Prelude introduces Sea Of Clouds. This track soothes the listener like an idyllic Hebridean holiday – blissfully peaceful in the sunshine, with a ceilidh to herald the sunset. Equally soothing and melodic, is Easter Island. Caught between these two gentle offerings, Sea Of Okhotsk contrasts sharply, and has an opening Tangerine Dream would have been proud of, before it dives headlong into a frantic multi-instrumental dance.

The album closes as it opened – in a light hearted mood. Sausages is an epic, lively set of tunes. A reggae inspired opening introduces electro-ceilidh beat building towards a trance conclusion that owes almost as much to Shooglenifty and Martyn Bennett as it does to the band’s prowess.

For anyone who’s new to Treacherous Orchestra, this should be an exciting and invigorating breath of fresh air. For those who’ve enjoyed them live, Origins should be just what you expected and hoped for – but with the added benefit of crisp, clear production and the option to enjoy the whole performance again as often as you like.

Origins is about energy, joy, exuberance….if we could bottle this energy there’d be no more arguments about wind farms.
- Folk Radio

"Treacherous Orchestra, The Ferry"

When the Treacherous Orchestra walked on they resembled extras from a trashy horror film rather than a collective of some of Scotland’s finest folk players.

Costumes ranged from a prisoner to a circus ringmaster, while one member appeared to be wearing pyjamas. This was perhaps to be expected, given the band’s off-the-wall sound.

This was a rewarding performance with enthusiasm, fun and good tunes. While the group’s past Celtic Connections efforts have been celebratory festival shows – the 13-strong collective are now in the midst of their first headline tour – but their general excitement appeared undimmed and their hugely likeable fusion of raved-up dance music, traditional Scottish melodies and prog rock experimentation mostly galloped by.

There was much strange dancing, daft introductions for band members (the renegade from Rutherglen, for instance) and frantic cries of “how many bottles of Stella” on one rambunctious number. The playing was superb and it was notable how well the music held up during a lengthy set.

The prog excess sometimes reached unneeded levels, as on the over-long Easter Island, but the likes of The Sly One or a cover of Martin Bennett’s The Wee Spree packed power and pace. When their throbbing final numbers kicked in, the enthusiasm was contagious. - The Herald - Johnathon Geddes

"Gig Review: Treacherous Orchestra (*****)"

WITH members drawn from the ranks of such influential crossover acts as Peatbog Faeries, Salsa Celtica, Session A9 and Croft No.5, The Treacherous Orchestra are a 13-strong homegrown turbo-folk supergroup boasting more collective talent than you can shake a glowstick at.

Glowsticks were actually being brandished by some of the capacity crowd at the Old Fruitmarket – a neat symbol of the clubby energy which this dynamic ensemble can generate through the massed power of fiddles, flutes, pipes and percussion. Much of their material emulates the incremental impact of a rave track, gradually teasing a hookline into a succession of euphoric crescendos.

At other times, they harnessed the brute power of a Black Sabbath-style riff and the proggy ambience of Pink Floyd more effectively than most rock groups. But Celtic sounds are their bread and butter and there was much rich lyricism in their playing, whether in powerful unison or in the playful dialogues between the various sections of the "orchestra". This is a group which understands the strength in its numbers but is never complacent about it.

The Treacherous Orchestra are a terrific party band, but one with lofty creative ambitions to bend traditional music into virile new shapes – these two strands working together creates an irresistible dynamic which is clearly paying dividends. As well as exciting seasoned folk fans, they have successfully tapped into a youthful constituency who might otherwise have spent Saturday night at the student union disco but, instead, cannot wait for their next bout of treachery.
- The Scotsman - Fiona Shepherd

"Treacherous Orchestra - Ironworks, Inverness"

DARKNESS fills the Ironworks. A ‘Space Invaders’ rumble begins to build, so deep it’s felt rather than heard. The crowd cheers, lights strobe, pipes wail out the opening notes of Kevin O’Neill’s triumphant ‘Superfly’ – we have liftoff! Wearing mask and makeup which in a typical cascade of cultural references nods to Alice Cooper, Kiss, Michael Jackson and Batman’s Joker, Treacherous Orchestra are in the building.

Treacherous Orchestra (photo - Louis de Carlos)
Here we have thirteen young male musicians from the Scottish tradition playing intricate arrangements influenced by a collective musical knowledge spanning the entire musical spectrum.. .it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it works a treat, fuelled by great tunesmithing, intelligent arrangements, dedicated work at the sound desk, and a degree of male bonding not usually seen outside military bootcamp.

There are two primary musical clusters in the band – pupils of the late Gordon Duncan (Ross Ainslie, Ali Hutton, Bo Jingham), and members of the late Croft No 5 (Adam Sutherland, Innes Watson, Spad Reid, John Somerville). Secondary clusters involving Boxclub and Babelfish have all collided and fused to create something which is still evolving and never less than exciting.

The first half of the night doesn’t quite reach the heights of their Celtic Connections gig in January, perhaps because that involved a couple of thousand people packed into the Fruitmarket, while this is a couple of hundred folk in Inverness’s Ironworks. However after the interval Treacherous ratchet the energy up a few notches and throw everything they’ve got at the crowd. It’s a wall of sound; resistance is futile.

Whole sections of Sutherland’s ‘Shimmering Sea of Irkutsk’ could fit seamlessly into a Radio 3 broadcast alongside Philip Glass and Steve Reich. You can almost see sunlight sparkling on water as the flutes and fiddle modulate tightly around each note. A tight, explosive outbreak of percussion, a twisted inflection and in a trademark Treacherous moment the simple musical phrase mutates into something completely different.

Next, a classic Irish jig turns reggae at the edges and darts into a funky side alley. ‘How Many Cans of Stella’ is an unexpected foray into music hall singalong, MC’d confidently by Watson.

And so it goes, energy pouring off the stage, channelled through headbanging guitarist Mike Bryan. The tunes showcase in turn the skilled duos of flute, fiddle and pipes, accordionist and co-MC John Somerville, and Eamonn Coyne in his superhero guise of ‘Banjoman’.

In the shadows behind this eclectic array of frontmen, a solid foundation of rhythm is laid down by the mighty combination of Fraser Stone’s drums, Martin O’Neill’s bodhran, Barry ‘Spad’ Reid’s guitar and Duncan Lyall’s double bass. The finale is ‘Spree’, a tribute to Martyn Bennett, another late, lovingly lamented musician, the spiritual father of so many, including Treacherous Orchestra. Watson leads the crowd in wordless psalmody punctuated with ecstatic bouts of ‘going mental’. Hard to tell who’s having more fun, the audience or the musicians. Once again, Treacherous Orchestra have raised the bar; how high can they go?
- Northlings - Jenni MacFie

"Treacherous Orchestra at the ABC, Glasgow - Friday 14th January 2011"

I'd seen the Treacherous Orchestra a few times before and was expecting another brilliant show when I started to my journey to catch the band at the ABC for Celtic Connections. On the way there, however, a long day at the office took its toll and I felt more excited about going home to rest my head on a big pillow. You could say I was feeling a wee bit grumpy!

I arrived at the gig later than planned and couldn't find my friends in the crowd - after a few failed attempts to contact them it seemed pretty certain I was on my own for the night. This was going to be a barrel of fun! As I lethargically wandered through the crowd, I pondered on where I should stand and continued to hunt out for a familiar face in the crowd. Before long, a hoard of happy people bashed passed me in a rush to get as close to the band as possible. A drink splashed over me and a sudden awareness of my surroundings hit me. I took a look around and the place was packed to the rafters with an audience that was absorbed in the musical mayhem and treachery before them. I could feel excitement oozing from every corner and I was finally hearing the music. That sweet, sweet, euphoric music. Once again, it dived into my soul and dazzled my senses. Wooed me and seduced me. There was only one thing to do. Get to the front and dance!
From bagpipes to fiddles, all instruments were played beautifully and with ferocious passion. All of the band members were fully in the zone and loving it as much as the capacity crowd. The audience roared until the end and I felt nothing but a unified connection throughout the venue.
Spad, the guitarist in the band, told me later "Loved the gig, loved the crowd, what a night!"
Their album will be out this summer and I can't wait to get my hands on it, no matter what frame of mind you're in, the music these guys play will undoubtely transform you as easily as it washed away my grumpy head on this cold Glasgow night. - BBC - Simone Smith

"Treacherous Orchestra betray dastardly genius at Celtic Connections"

If the Opening Concert on Thursday showed the capability of Celtic music to adapt to the situation in hand, the headline appearance of The Treacherous Orchestra showed the superb vibrancy of a scene that seems to be hitting its peak, even before the denizens in last night’s spotlight have had the courtesy of releasing a debut album.

As plans go that highly anticipated recording should be delivered in the summer, when their first (but hopefully not last) full-length has been promised for release, but for the moment the 13-piece group have already in their short history built up such an ardent fanbase than they can command a hefty audience that submits unquestioningly to their bidding within the sizeable confines of the ABC. Before fully embarking on their journey The Treacherous Orchestra brazenly pledged "a night of treachery", and such sinister delights were a glorious thing to behold.

They began with an atmospheric builder, white lights picking out some of the numerous members gathered in wait in the gloom, instrumental interplay building up until a hefty roar was gratifyingly emitted from onlookers, drums jittering into life as the band in their ferocious might delivered a seismic shock to the senses.

Goodness, and that was even before the second number had a chance to make its presence gloriously felt, the progressive number indulging itself in the sort of belligerent and moshworthy stomp that should rightly have brought the venue crashing down into a heap of rubble and triumphalism. Instead it was just rapturously received with minimal hysterics, unless you counted casual pogoing and the plenty of fists that were being regularly thrusted into the air.

Bagpipes, flute, fiddle, accordion… all instrumentation was incorporated expertly, with no need need for vocals, so well utilised was those implements deployed close at hand. Though accordionist John Somerville promised to encourage “mayhem and chaos”, the group were so tightly reigned in that each extravagance brought with it a sharp intake of breath: this was party music with a purpose. (Even if you'd suspect that purpose was merely to party as much as possible.)

Indeed, though it was “a night of treachery” promised at the start, what we got instead was a brilliant and visceral real-time revitalisation of the Scottish music scene (reaching out far beyond the narrow confines within which purists would love to categorise their style); instead of capitulating to the fantastic foreign hordes appearing on our shores as part of Celtic Connections, it instead made the most of our fantastic traditional heritage. Influences were many and varied, lifting quotes from Freddy Got Fingered and melding bass riffs which resembled Rage Against The Machine, and then was a fitting tribute to the envelope-pushing Scottish composer and piper Gordon Duncan, which needed no wider context to see the crowd waving to its beguiling melodies.

Off stage for mere seconds before expected guttural hollers required their presence for an encore, The Treacherous Orchestra’s presence was that of a band fully aware that they beat into a silly cocked hat any of the supposedly more modern pop acts that clog up our charts, this 'supergroup' of the country's best young musicians confident in their abilities and in need of an avalanche of superlatives from anyone required to describe their show. Indeed, as it turned out there was no treachery, perfidy of duplicity involved, this ragbag of an orchestra only inspiring loyalty and a wealth of positive feeling that couldn't be better suited for a Friday night. Goodness, with Celtic Connections in this sort of form, what would be the point of partying to anything else? - STV - Michael McLennan


Treacherous Orchestra - EP

Origins (2012) - Showreel - BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards - Scots Trad Music Awards - Ironworks, Inverness






Emerging from the vibrant melting-pot of Glasgow’s 21st-century folk scene, Treacherous Orchestra take Scottish dance music into a thrilling new dimension. Comprising ten of Scotland’s, and two of Ireland’s, finest young instrumentalists (or should that just be mentalists?), this truly turbocharged collective have incited merry mayhem at every one of their previous appearances, from remote Hebridean islands to Rudolstadt’s World Music Festival in Germany, from sell-out shows at Celtic Connections to the world-renowned Cambridge Folk Festival. Now they enter a new chapter with the long-awaited release of their debut album, launched in February 2012 on Navigator records.

The band’s members hail from the length and breadth of Scotland –plus two from Ireland – and together represent the leading edge of the country’s ongoing folk revival. Having grown up under the influence of such pioneering fusion acts as Shooglenifty, Martyn Bennett and Wolfstone, they draw simultaneously on deep traditional roots and the full gamut of contemporary influences, interweaving these strands organically in a repertoire consisting almost entirely of original tunes. Along with boundless youthful energy, they bring to bear a vast range of experience from other innovative Scottish outfits, featuring past or current members of Croft No. Five, Salsa Celtica, the Peatbog Faeries, Session A9, Old Blind Dogs, Box Club and Back of the Moon, among others.

Already well acquainted through Glasgow’s dynamic session circuit, the nucleus of the band was formed at the inaugural Sound of Rum festival in 2005, staged on a tiny island just south of Skye. The instant high-octane synergy and sheer visceral excitement of that performance has continued to evolve over their subsequent rendezvous. Recent gigs have included back to back sell-out shows at Celtic Connections in 2010, 2011 and 2012, finishing off the mainstage at Cambridge Folk festival, Rudolstadt World Music Festival in Germany as well as numerous other festival appearances including Wickham Festival and the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Lewis. In 2012 their debut album 'Origins' was nominated for Album of the Year at the Scot's Trad Music Awards and the band were nominated in the Best Group category at the BBC Radio Folk Awards.

In addition to their dazzling instrumental skills, many in the Treacherous Orchestra’s ranks are superbly gifted tune composers, providing for a musical mix that plays fully to the line-up’s copious strengths. Featuring bagpipes, whistles, flutes, fiddles, accordion, banjo, guitars, bass, drums, bodhrán and percussion, their tightly crafted arrangements far transcend mere force of numbers, aligning richly layered, radiantly colourful melodies with muscular yet sophisticated rhythmic interplay, forging an irresistibly danceable sound that equally delights the ears.

Treacherous Orchestra are:

Ali Hutton (bagpipes, whistles)
Ali’s abundant multi-instrumental have already earned him an impressive list of band and session credits, including Back of the Moon, the Mick West Band, Dougie MacLean, Capercaillie and the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra. He currently performs with Old Blind Dogs and the Mick West Band while also playing guitar with the Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson Trio. Besides his performing credits, Ali has recently produced a number of records including Maeve McKinnon’s ‘Don’t Sing Love Song’s’ (along with Duncan Lyall) which was part of the Celtic Connections Classic Album’s series and the latest Old Blind Dogs cd, ‘Wherever Yet May Be’.

Ross Ainslie (bagpipes, whistles)
Ross is one of Scotland’s most outstanding young pipers. Best known for his dazzling duo partnership with Irish piper Jarlath Henderson, he also performs with the Dougie MacLean Band, Salsa Celtica and India Alba. Ross was commissioned to write the score for Perth Theatre’s Christmas Concert ‘The Snow Queen’ in 2009 and has more recently been teaching and performing with Scottish and Indian musicians for a musical collaboration that is part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2012. This project also involved being part of the 2011 Opening Concert at Celtic Connections, performing alongside Zakir Hussain in his Pulse of the World show.

Adam Sutherland (fiddle)
Adam’s brilliantly adventurous fiddle playing currently features in two of Scotland’s most inventive folk bands, the Peatbog Faeries and Session A9, and previously with such outfits as Croft No. Five, Cuillin Music and Salsa Celtica. Adam has travelled the world with his music, including performances in Sri Lanka for the 2014 Commonwealth Games announcement and in Borneo

Band Members