Connecting to the West through music

4 Feb

On a recent weekend trip to the West of Ireland my classmates and I were introduced to what some people romanticize to be the most authentic part of the country. As we drove through the various counties and past the numerous fleeting fields on our way to Galway, we listened to a selection of Irish folk songs. Many of the songs were sung in the Irish language. Irish is a one of the few remaining Celtic languages, and evidence of the language date back to the sixth century A.D., when the Iron-Age people referred to the Celts arrived in Ireland. Despite numerous invasions and conquests in Ireland the language has managed to survive, and is the official language of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is estimated that 260,000 people are proficient in Irish and 10,000 speak it as their first language. Though relatively few people speak Irish, it remains an important representation of the strength and autonomy of the country, particularly in its resistance from English rule. The Irish folk songs were specifically relevant to our trip to the West as it is a Gaeltacht area, or an area where Irish is spoken.

A folk song entitled “Bímse Féin ag Iascaireacht”, or “I Myself Go Fishing”, struck me on our journey. It is a folk song originating from the Aran Islands and is sung by contemporary artist Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola An Raicín Álainn and her brother Macdara Ó Conaola. The tune is a macaronic song, meaning it offers an interplay between the Irish and English languages – perhaps a reflection on current Irish culture. Primarily sung in Irish, it tells the story of a fisherman who becomes a father as he pursues and marries a young woman. I was first drawn to the song because of its fast-paced tempo and simplistic nature. I later learned that this type of song is referred to as a diddle or a lifting song. Diddles were popular as dancing music when instruments were unavailable. The description of a diddle seems quite fitting, as I find the song to be so contagious. I never thought I would enjoy a folk song so much, especially one in a different language. Since returning from the West of Ireland I have added the diddle to my own selection of music, and often enjoy it as I explore the more modern city of Dublin.


Sites Referenced:

Irish Language:

Futa Fata:

Gaelic League of Austin:

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