The East Coast Music Association has chosen Buddy MacMaster, the legendary Cape Breton fiddler, to receive its lifetime achievement award at the upcoming awards gala.

The 81-year-old Celtic music icon will be honoured with the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award at the Feb. 27 award show in Charlottetown, set for live broadcast by the CBC.

Each recipient of the annual honour, chosen by the East Coast Music Association's board, is an artist who has had a "profound and lasting effect on the Atlantic Canadian music industry."

"The word 'legend' is sometimes overused — but not when it comes to Buddy MacMaster," ECMA board chair Marc Chouinard said in a statement.

"He truly fits the description. His influence spans decades and his contribution to the world of traditional music is immeasurable. We are very excited to be honouring him with this award."

Past winners include folk trio Ryan's Fancy, singer Rita MacNeil, fiddling legend Don Messer and guitarist John Allan Cameron, the godfather of Celtic music.

A member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, MacMaster was born into a Celtic-speaking, musical family in the northeastern Ontario mining town of Timmins. His family, however, was originally from Cape Breton and returned there when he was a toddler, moving to the town of Judique.

MacMaster began playing the fiddle as a teen and, although he worked for the Canadian National Railroad for about 45 years, he built a career performing his Cape Breton-style fiddle at concerts, dances, benefits and on CBC-TV shows like Ceilidh and The John Allan Cameron Show.

MacMaster began recording albums in 1989 — at the age of 65 — after he retired from his rail career.

The holder of an honorary degree from St. Francis Xavier University, MacMaster — the uncle of fiddler Natalie MacMaster — was also among a group of musicians invited to travel to Scotland to perform and teach the traditional Cape Breton Celtic style of music.