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Salsa band set to delight dancers in Cromarty with anniversary milestone

By Hector MacKenzie

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The band was formed in response to a demand for live salsa music to dance to.
The band was formed in response to a demand for live salsa music to dance to.

A BAND which made its debut on the Black Isle and went on to delight crowds at Belladrum with its epic performances is returning to Cromarty this weekend for a special gig.

Salsa band Orquesta Latina Del Norte (OLDN) will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a show at The Stables on Saturday night.

The band had its first gig in Cromarty in May 2009 and felt that was a fitting place to celebrate its milestone. OLDN was formed the year before that by Campbell McCracken and the late musician, Brian Dodds.

Campbell's wife Jermaine Allison-McCracken taught salsa classes in Inverness and wanted live music to dance to."Back then, Latin bands rarely performed in the Highlands," said band leader and alto sax player, Campbell. "Maybe once every two or three years if you were lucky. So Jermaine suggested I form my own band."

Campbell and Brian spent six months recruiting suitable players and sourcing sheet music until everything was in place before starting rehearsals.The band was set up as a community band so that anyone who wanted could join - there were no auditions and no minimum ability levels.

"Fortunately all the musicians had enough skill and experience that it wasn't a musical train crash," laughed Campbell.

Orquesta Latina Del Norte made its debut in Cromarty in May 2009. It's returning to mark its tenth anniversary.
Orquesta Latina Del Norte made its debut in Cromarty in May 2009. It's returning to mark its tenth anniversary.

"I think playing with OLDN has inspired a lot of the band members. We've had around 50 players through our doors in the past 10 years, as people come and go from the Inverness area, and I think they've all enjoyed the band and the music. One member moved south a few years ago and started his own band when he got there."

Their first gig back in 2009, was recorded by the BBC and excerpts were broadcast on the BBC Alba news programme. "That was a great thrill," Campbell reminisced.

Since then, the self-proclaimed "Best Salsa Band In The Highlands" has risen in stature and is a firm favourite at the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival.

"We've performed at Belladrum every year since 2011 and have probably played more than any other band," said Campbell. "Normally a band plays for only an hour or so. We play for two hours on each of the Friday and Saturday nights each year. I can't think of any band that's performed for even half that time."

He continued: "We play in the dance tent at Belladrum, after the dance teachers have finished. Each year we get people coming up to us afterwards saying they've never enjoyed themselves so much."

The anniversary concert, in The Stables in Cromarty on May 11, is one the band is looking forward to."We're planning a real party atmosphere with lots of dancing," said Campbell. "In addition to the Latin music we started off with, the band has added a second string to its musical bow in the past year, playing lots of Rock, Soul and R&B - now there's something for everyone."

He said: "As my wife says, dance when you get the chance!"

Doors for the show open at 7.30pm with tickets costing £13 (£11 concession; £5 under 16)

To find out more email cromartyartstrust.org.uk or call 01381 600354.

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