It’s 550 years since the islands became part of Scotland, and the archipelago is still not for the faint-hearted. But it has inspired its own diverse music, where fiddles and accordions meet the sub-bass of the sea

Five hundred and fifty years ago next month, the king of Norway lost a deposit he had put down to settle a debt: more than a hundred wild, treeless islands in the sub-arctic North Sea. The Scottish king, James III, had wanted Rhenish florins, but he had to settle for Shetland instead.

The archipelago eventually became part of the UK and has since developed a diverse, distinctive musical culture. This weekend, at the annual Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, the Shetland 550 concerts will celebrate it, bringing together experimental composers, jazz performers, poets and players of traditional tunes. The series is co-curated by the award-winning fiddler Chris Stout, who was born in the three-mile-long Fair Isle (population: 68) before moving to the Mainland at eight (population: 18,765). “Although, even there, you’re still only ever three miles from the sea,” he says.

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