Scottish piper Brìghde Chaimbeul, hailed as one of the most promising players of her generation, is one of the few women to achieve success in the male-dominated world of piping. Her talent saw her scoop the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2016; three years later, she released her debut album, The Reeling. Born in 1999 and brought up in Sleat on the Isle of Skye, Chaimbeul, a native Gaelic speaker, grew up in a musical family. She learned to play both piano and fiddle before taking up the pipes at the age of seven, inspired by the legendary piper Rona Lightfoot, the first woman to ever win a major piping championship. She studied with Niall Stewart and won her first competition at the age of ten. In 2014 Chaimbeul discovered the relatively underused Scottish smallpipes, which became her instrument of choice with their sweet, clear, high-pitched sound. Her big break came in 2016 when she won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award; the following year, she was nominated in the "Up and Coming" category at the Scots Trad Music Awards. She began playing live in a trio with Innes White (guitar) and her sister Mairi Chaimbeul on clarsach (Scottish harp), appearing at many major piping and folk festivals, and became a frequent collaborator with piper Ross Ainslie. A bursary from the Saltire Society allowed her to undertake an ethnomusicological tour of Bulgaria, studying the country's rich piping tradition; she was also influenced by Scandinavian and Cape Breton styles. Rather than writing her own material, she preferred to dredge up ancient and forgotten tunes from the tradition. In 2019 she released her debut album, The Reeling, on River Lea. Featuring Lau fiddler Aidan O'Rourke and Lankum's Radie Peat on concertina, and recorded in the historic East Church in Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands, it had an experimental flavor and raw, murky production. ~ John D. Buchanan
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