Aidan O’Rourke is a fiddler, composer, producer and curator. With his trio Lau, in multiple solo projects and in collaborations, he has pioneered a new sound in folk music and redefined traditional forms.
His roots are in Scottish and Irish folk music. He grew up in an Irish family in Argyll and studied fiddle in the West Highland tradition. By 14 he was touring with The Caledonia Ramblers; in 1998 he joined Blazin’ Fiddles; in 2010 he formed the quartet Kan with whistle player Brian Finnegan; in 2016 he formed a duo with the jazz pianist Kit Downes.
Lau came together in 2006 and their debut album set a precedent for new politically-charged folk music that expands the form and experiments with sound while staying rooted in tradition. Four further studio albums followed, plus a couple of live albums and a 2017 retrospective charting the band’s first decade. Lau collaborators include Karine Polwart, Fred Frith, Anais Mitchell, Joan as Police Woman, John Parish, Adem, Jack Bruce, Trilok Gurtu, Brian Irvine and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. The band have made multiple tours of the US and Japan and won Best Group at the BBC 2 Folk Awards an unprecedented four times.
As a solo artist, Aidan is always looking for new ways to articulate the tradition. He has released four solo albums – Sirius (2006), An Tobar (2008), Hotline (2013) and 365: Vol 1 (2018) – as well as the experimental EPs Music For Exhibition and Film (2015) and Imprint (2016). He was named Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2014.
As a composer, Aidan threads his heritage into diverse settings. He is a three-time winner of the PRSF New Music Biennial commission at the Southbank Centre; other commissioners include the Scottish Ensemble, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Sage Gateshead, Celtic Connections, the Tolbooth in Stirling, An Tobar, Cottier Chamber Project and Capella Nova. In 2017 he wrote the official music for the opening of the Queensferry Crossing.
As a curator, Aidan has co-directed multiple editions of the Lau-Land festival featuring eclectic lineups, one-off collaborations and workshops. Other curations include Lucky Middlemass’s Tavern, recreating a hub of Edinburgh enlightenment music and debate.
As a teacher, Aidan is a regular tutor at Newcastle University and University of Limerick, and holds fiddle classes as part of Lau-Land.
“Few contemporary musicians in any category can match either his artistic ambitions or his achievements in bringing them to fruition” (The Scotsman)