Much like all other forms of evolving music throughout the world, Celtic music tells a story of history, people, and ordinary folk. However, unlike other forms of music, Celtic music is an untapped vein of rich and deep history.
The music tells stories of war, peace, love, tragedy, and industry, often in much greater detail and with more emotion than a typical textbook. It started with the music of the Gael and gradually came into its own being, to where traditional songs and music are still being written in the present day.
The Songs of the Gael
In the olden days before everyone could read and write, music was memorized and passed down by storytellers and singers by mouth and taught from generation to generation. The songs of the Gaelic were often more like literary poems that were long and beautiful to listen too.
These songs were as important as gold to the Gaelic tribes and soon began to morph into the folk music of Ireland and Scotland that we know of today.
Celtic folk songs and their comeback
Celtic folk songs didn’t have a specific set of rules once the Gaelic music began to be written down and understood by collectors and outside historians, and it was simply sung to be sung. Most of the songs are sung in Scots (the language of Lowland Scotland) and many of the traditional folk songs that are known now are versions that were cleaned up.
These versions of Scots songs, often sung in English, are argued to not be real Scottish folk songs since they’ve been altered by non-Scottish artists. These arguments died out, however, when the folk music scene began to change and musicians embraced the diversity of their music and saw it as a strength.
Songs of peace and war
While Scotland and Ireland weren’t friendly with the English crown during their past, the wars did give historians some amazing music that focused on the different tribes and units that fought together in battles.
Called ‘Border Ballads’ due to their creation during the border wars of the era, these songs place a long tradition of singing about victories and defeats, ensuring that history is never forgotten.
Other songs focus on the Celtic industry such as Whaling, Millwork, trade, and even day to day farm life in the towns and Hamlets that dotted Scotland. These songs often copied tunes from one another, often using the same tune for different verses, and to tell different stories about the same or similar events.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for Celtic music, but there’s always more history to discover in both the great and the mundane in Celtic life, and the songs of Scotland and Ireland will ensure that that music is both interesting and fun to listen too.
By understanding the history and life behind not only what the music is saying but also why the music was written, listeners can get a clear view and a deeper connection about what the life in Scotland and Ireland was really like.