LIVING away from home for the first time, Airdrie-based singer Katie Macfarlane’s homesickness was lessened when she began singing with a Catalan group in Barcelona.

“There are similar aspects in many aspects of both traditional Gaelic and Catalan songs, many of which I ­instantly recognised through the sense of comfort and almost homecoming I felt the first time I heard and sang them,” she told the ­Sunday National.

“I was very homesick but the group of Catalan singers with whom I learned and sang provided a sense of community and warmth.”

However, while Gaelic and Catalan music share many similarities, she thinks the latter ­language is in a healthier condition than the former, although it too faces a battle for survival.

“I am definitely no expert but from my own experience living in ­Catalonia, I have perceived Catalan to be much better protected,” said Macfarlane.

“Even being in a metropolitan area like Barcelona, I would hear Catalan being spoken everyday among the ­locals and in the university which was such a great and reassuring thing to experience – and most signage is in Catalan.

“I met quite a few locals who were not comfortable or confident speaking in Castellano, so the use of ­Catalan is facilitated in an extremely positive way in a lot of places.”

Despite this, Catalan still ­faces a struggle for survival due to the strong presence of Castellano ­ within ­Catalan-speaking communities, ­according to Macfarlane.

“It remains important for these communities to maintain their ­identity, tradition and culture, as it is for Gaelic-speaking communities, ­despite this need for protection ­being a bit more crucial to maintain the Gaelic language,” she said.

A Gaelic tutor and talented singer who was a semi-finalist in both BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician and BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Award competitions, she has now released her debut album which intertwines the languages of Gaelic, Catalan, Scots and English.

An Nighean Sheunta (Gaelic for The Enchanted Girl) is woven from these musical cultures and demonstrates Macfarlane’s commitment to preserving and celebrating minority languages within her work.

It is backed by an exceptional ­ensemble of musicians from both Scotland and Spain, including her husband, producer, guitarist and Project Smok mastermind Pablo Lafuente.

Macfarlane said her musical journey was rooted in her childhood experiences, shaped by her grandfather’s lessons on Gaelic music and culture, as well as ­attending the fèis in North Uist.

“I created this album to showcase the rich traditions and song styles of the places I have visited and love, and to highlight the beauty which lies in their similarities,” she explained.

“I have always felt a strong ­connection to the songs that I sing and an affinity with where they come from, so to bring both Scottish and Catalan culture and heritage into one body of work has been a dream come true. I also feel very strongly about ­preserving minority languages, so to be able to play even just a small part in ­maintaining the presence of ­Gaelic, Scots and Catalan in the arts scene is very important to me.

“Music is a great way to reach out to wider audiences and can help to represent minority languages so that they are normalised and have a ­presence in a range of societies and cultures.

She added: “As a Gaelic language tutor myself, I have seen how ­music brings a lot of people to learn the ­language and a lot of the time it can be a learner’s first exposure to the language.

“It is also hugely important to ­preserve the traditions which belong to the cultures who speak minority languages, as most of these will have a rich history of songs, stories and practices. Music is just one way in which they can be preserved and be introduced to the wider public.”