LAST year's Celtic Connections featured a large helping of Americana - but this year the festival will have an African flavour running through it!

The details of the 16th annual festival have been unveiled and the event will see a wide and diverse range of acts descend on Glasgow, for what the festival's artistic director Donald Shaw claims is "the most international line-up ever."

Among the big names heading for the event, which runs from January 15 to February 1, are Youssou N'Dour, former Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews, dub reggae pioneers Sly And Robbie and Malian singer Oumou Sangare.

And while the variety of African artists may seem unusual for a jamboree that is still based around traditional Scottish music, Donald Shaw, now in his third year of picking the programme, feels it's a natural progression.

The founding member of Capercailie says: "This is the sort of direction the festival has been going. If you take traditional and Gaelic music, which is what this festival was about originally, its closest partner would be traditional African music.

"I think we've been becoming more international over the years, and a lot of that is to do with the fact that folk music and rootsy music has become part and parcel of all styles of music in the mainstream."

One of the biggest gigs next year will be the appearance of Youssou N'Dour, who plays the Royal Concert Hall on January 23 and is flying in specially from Dakar to appear. The singer is equally as known for his passionate politics as he is for his mesmerising music, which is why snaring the Senegalese born star is a huge coup for the festival.

"Having someone like Youssou N'Dour is extraordinary. It took a long time pursuing people, especially someone like Youssou who spends a lot of his time with Bono trying to save the world. He's a humanitarian who works a lot with the UN and the last time he would have been here was the G8 summit gig at Murrayfield in Edinburgh that Bob Geldof put on."

N'Dour's appearance is just one highlight of the African strand, which also includes a major event on January 17 at the Concert Hall when a host of artists will perform in a concert entitled Throw Down Your Heart, which is the first ever realisation in concert of the film of the same name by celebrated banjo player Bela Fleck. Oumou Saangare will be one of the stars appearing at this event, while a special screening of the film will be accompanied by a Q&A session with Fleck.

But there is far more to the Celtic Connections 2009 line-up than the world music strand. With the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth taking place during the middle weekend of the festival, organisers have planned several suitable celebrations. These range from more traditional events, such as the RSNO performing specially written compositions by composers inspired by Burns, to some more unusual offerings, such as the Jamaica Burns Night with reggae greats Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare at the Old Fruitmarket on January 16.

Donald explains: "We're using Burns as an inspiration really, and a catalyst. The gig I'm most excited about is Sly and Robbie, who are musical heavyweights who have worked with all the greats, the Stones, Dylan, people like that. They've agreed to arrange four Burns songs in a truly dub style so that's something I'm really excited about.

"The idea for the Jamaican thing was that Burns nearly went to Jamaica. He'd packed up, bought a ticket and planned to sail to Jamaica to live there."

The festival is well established as both a critical and commercial hit. Last year, the economic spin-offs from the shindig netted nearly £8million for Scotland, while it recently beat T In The Park to lift the Best Multi-Venue Festival award at the Scottish Event Awards.

To keep the success going, this year's line-up offers a huge list of international talent mixed with home-grown stars.

Eddi Reader, Kate Rusby, Blazin' Fiddles, the Battlefield Band and Edwyn Collins are all on the bill, alongside up-and coming talent including Glasgow indie popsters Attic Lights and Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. FIVE OF THE BEST ATTIC LIGHTS, ABC, January 17 Having started 2008 as one of Scotland's most promising bands, Attic Lights will open 2009 with an ABC appearance that should confirm them as one of the country's best acts. Debut album Friday Night Lights has deservedly won a string of compliments for its lush, summery guitar pop, and the Springburn quintet are even better live, and sure to banish those winter blues. DR JOHN, Royal Concert Hall, January 19 Some Cajun magic will be whipped up when Dr John brings his bluesy, boogie woogie back to Glasgow. Having started gigging back in the 1950s, the New Orleans-born musician has enjoyed a varied career that's seen him share a stage with the Band, have his work covered by Paul Weller and even pop up in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie. EDWYN COLLINS, ABC, January 23 After suffering a devastating brain haemorrhage in 2000 it was feared that Collins would never be able to walk again. But the former Orange Juice frontman's recovery has been astonishing, with this appearance following on from a show at Oran Mor earlier this year. THE BATTLEFIELD BAND, ABC, January 24 The legendary home-grown group will perform their classic album Home Is Where The Van Is, in its entirety, as part of the Classic Albums strand. Also appearing in this strand are guitar ace Richard Thompson, playing 1000 Years of Popular Music, and Catriona McKay performing her Starfish LP. CERYS MATTHEWS, ABC, January 25 The Welsh singer with the big, sultry voice may still be best known for fronting Catatonia, duetting with Tom Jones, and a stint in the jungle for I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here but she's now focusing on her own music. Her appearance is certain to draw a huge crowd.

And several stalwarts of the Scottish folk/indie scene - Karine Polwart, Sushil Dade and King Creosote amongst others - will join forces at the ABC on January 16 when the Burns Unit supergroup make their official debut.

According to Donald: "There's so much stuff happening. Mariza from Portugal is an amazing singer, and the last weekend of the festival has a Quebec theme with some great acts including La Vent du Nord and Yes Lambert plying. And Cerys Matthews is coming to do a special show too."

The 2009 programme will also feature a host of the smaller events that have become a trademark of Celtic Connections, from the education programme which lets youngsters sample and enjoy the diverse music played, to the Danny Kyle Open Stage.

Previous Danny contestants have included Breabach, Lori Watson and Karine Polwart's former band Malinky and there's no doubt that several soon to be famous faces will play this year too, something which Donald is keen to stress.

"Things like the Danny Kyle Awards are still a big part of the festival. You find that so many acts over the years do that and then become really popular themselves so it's a really important part of the event."

But Donald feels that at heart the winter festival's success is still down to the residents of Glasgow.

"It's a tribute to the audiences in Glasgow that they're willing to take a risk on a lot of new music when they don't know what it is, and are willing to get behind the festival. So, the festival has grown into an amazing event for the city."