New Dawn for Ceilidh Culture
FOR countless generations, ceilidhs have been at the heart of Celtic life. On dark winter nights, tunes would be played, songs sung and stories told round the fire.
The noun ‘ceilidh’ translates from Gaelic simply as a ‘visit’. A cup of tea and a blether at a neighbour’s house or dram and jam with friends is every bit as much a ceilidh as a full blown dance in the village hall.
Children are inspired to play and perform from an early age. Company and fun are enjoyed, cross generational friendships formed, young learn the arts from their elders. The love of music brings people together, listening, dancing. Nourished in this sociable and natural way, creativity flourishes.
The last two decades have seen a fresh generation of musicians revitalise the Scottish traditional music scene. Piping and fiddle styles learned across generations are being blended to create exhilarating fusions. Check out India Alba, Session A9, Babelfish, DJ Dolphin Boy and the late, great Martyn Bennett for some sounds that have been fuelling the feet at community festivals and ceilidhs in the Highlands and Islands.
Traditional music is no longer a languishing art form - innovation and energy are carrying it forward in all sorts of exciting directions. Likewise Transition blends the best of the old with the new. Many skills vital to local resilience now need to be relearned; and often old techniques can be given a modern twist. Reskilling encompasses the making and playing of instruments; in a society with plenty of musicians on hand, ceilidhs of all sorts will be commonplace.
At the start of this year Transition Black Isle (TBI) celebrated the culmination of a year of hard work with a rollicking ceilidh with local band the Scone Fairies. As well getting the chance to work off some of excess food, a ceilidh is great way to strengthen relationships with everyone in the room as you generally can’t miss them on the dance floor!
TBI member Bob Bull is nurturing local talent and bringing music fans together through running a monthly folk club at Glachbeg Croft. One recent guest at the club was Henry Fosbrooke of the Woodland Orchestra, who also rounded off proceedings at TBI’s Festival of Firewood Forests and Films in November with some tunes on his Scottish wood didgeridoo.
Cross pollination between Transition groups is vital as the movement grows across the world. This social reporting project has rekindled my enthusiasm and curiosity about what’s going elsewhere. The downside is it’s leading to my feeling more enslaved by the computer than ever.
Another way to connect us all, enable us to hear each others’ voices, interviews with from local people in our communities music, stories and voices, might be some form of Transition Radio. Podcasts featuring interviews, music and conversation could be created and downloaded to be listened to on MP3 players. Unchain ourselves from cyberspace, listen and dance and be free. Yippeee!
Pictures: Fireside tunes on Eigg; Scottish didgeridoo.