by Margaret Chrystall
MOHSEN Amini is an award-winning concertina player from Glasgow who can show a supersonic turn of speed when playing in bands Talisk and Ímar – it’s with Ímar that he plays Ardgay next Thursday.
In Ímar he plays alongside Adam Brown on bodhran (RURA, Rua MacMillian Trio); Adam Rhodes on bouzouki (Mec Lir, Barrule); Ryan Murphy on Uilleann pipes (MANRAN) and Tomas Callister on fiddle (Mec Lir, Barrule).
The five-piece’s other line-ups are in brackets above and getting together to play when all are so busy with other projects can be a logistical challenge.
Their beginnings in music are shared, as Mohsen explained:
“All five of us had taken part in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann as teens.
“It’s an Irish traditional music network that tutors budding players throughout the British Isles and beyond – and stages the annual schedule of Fleadh competitions.
“I first met Ryan at the fleadhs and Adam Brown further along the road – but Tom and Adam Rhodes only three years ago.
“But everybody slowly moved towards Glasgow where we all live now.
“So then we found it easy to play with each other and we ended up running a session which led on to the band and Ímar.”
The name is taken from a Norse king – but there’s a perfect explanation why it’s a good name for five musicians from Scotland, Ireland, England and the Isle of Man.
Mohsen said: “Tom is really into his mythology and he was reading up and came up with loads and loads of names of kings.
“And he discovered Ímar who ruled the land of the Isle of Man, Ireland including Cork where Ryan is from and Strathclyde.
“I think he was a Viking king, probably not one of the nicest, but we’ll say he was a loving, caring king!”
The band has already played Eden Court, Ullapool and Skye in April and their debut album is to be quickly followed by another.
“We brought an album out at the start of the year called Afterlight, but we’re recording another in December/January.
“We started about three years ago and because we were all so busy on our other projects we could only do four or five gigs together, so we created our material then gigged it four or five times and recorded the album – actually before we had done some of the gigs, so it was almost prematurely done.
“Though the first album’s material has changed quite a bit, it’s not night and day, but quite a bit on from how we sound now.
“The new one will be a what-is-to-come album
Mohsen who has Anglo-Iranian parents and is Scottish was into music from early on.
“I remember the first day when I tried out all the different instruments. I found the concertina a bit weird, a bit strange and a bit cool! And I took it away and ended up playing it every day all day.
“My whole life I’ve played music – like eight hours a day while I was going to school. It wasn’t sitting down regimented, I just really loved playing.”
He abandoned a degree in chemical engineering and explained why.
When I was younger at school I did all the sciences and I was very mathematical.
“Studying chemical engineering is not as intense as medicine or something like that – but if you’re not totally into it, you’re not going to succeed.
“And it’s the exact same for music.
“So for me it was a case of one or the other.
“When I told my mum she wasn’t the happiest person in the world, but she’s finally come round!”
It may have helped that Mohsen won Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year award in 2016 and was nominated in the musician of the year category earlier this year in the Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Mohsen’s future plans include the band’s September tour and in October both Ímar and Talisk are going over to the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton.
“It will be my first time and it’s supposed to be incredible, “ Mohsen said. “After that I’m going to WOMEX with Talisk and then Talisk has a big UK and German tour.
“The next thing after that for Ímar is recording the album.”
It’s an incredibly busy life, but Mohsen is not complaining.
“Sometimes it can be tough, but at the end of the day you are playing music with some of your best friends.
“If you were working a normal job you’d be meeting up with them after work. We’re getting to work with each other too.
“So I’m doing things I love to do musically – and having the friendship too.
“It’s lovely – I can’t complain!”
Ímar play Ardgay Hall, Sutherland on Thursday, September 7.