19th May 2000 at 01:00
TARTAN JAM. Channel 4 Learning. Five 15-minute programmes. Video pound;14.99 plus pound;2 pamp;p from Channel 4 Schools, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZ. Tel: 01926 436 444.

Scottish music today moves in many directions. Though Tartan Jam (next due for transmission from September 22) has its pipes and kilts, there is far more to it than that.

The first programme, using documentary and recent footage, features the sensuous "waulking" songs that accompanied the final stages of cloth-weaving, as well as "mouth music", in which the human voice incorporates rock techniques to play dances combining traditional and contemporary souds. As one old singer says: "Music must move forward."

Filmed against a handsome variety of backgrounds, from grey cityscapes to green highlands, the programmes use skilful players and singers to entice listeners. Children feature more often as audiences than participants, but in one delightful sequence inspirational fiddler Natalie McMaster leads a busload of young players in her native Nova Scotia.

The sounds of the jig, strathspey and reel remind us that (as with the blues) while exile brought grief and lament, it also allowed music to express the inner joy and energy of the spirit.

Tom Deveson

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