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Gaelic music

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Gaelic music (Irish: Ceol Gaelach, Scottish Gaelic: Ceòl Gàidhealach) is an umbrella term for any music written in the Gaelic languages of Irish and Scottish Gaelic.[1] To differentiate between the two, the Irish language is typically just referred to as "Irish", or sometimes as "Gaeilge" (pronounced "gehl-guh"); Scottish Gaelic is referred to as "Gàidhlig" (commonly pronounced as "GAH-lick"). Gaelic music is also classified under "Celtic music".

Gaelic music is distinguished from Anglophone musical forms in a number of ways. For example, longer narratives such as murder ballads, and songs chronicling the many woes of the singer's life (very common in England and lowland Scotland, and later, America), were seldom seen in the Gaeldom. Themes frequently found in Gaelic music include the great beauty and spiritual qualities of nature ("Chi Mi Na Mòrbheanna," "An Ataireachd Ard"), and laments for lost loved ones ("Fear a' Bhàta," "Ailein Duinn," "Griogal Cridhe"). These songs are nearly always sung from the female perspective, expressing deep grief if the male lover is dead or begging him to return if he is absent or missing. Another highly prominent theme is unrequited love, separated lovers, or songs from the point of view of an admirer (usually a male in this case; "Bruach na Carraige Báine", "Moll Dubh a'Ghleanna," "Bheadh Buachaillín deas ag Síle").

In Scotland, long complex piobaireachd, or pibroch, compositions (originally on the Celtic harp, but then transposed to pipes or fiddle as these instruments came into vogue in the Highlands, in the 16th & 17th centuries respectively), are also characteristic of Gaelic music, as is the highly ornamented style of Sean-nós singing ("old-style singing") in Ireland. Other subgenres include puirt à beul (mouth-music) and waulking songs. In the Western Isles of Scotland, the distinctive Gaelic psalm singing can be found in Presbyterian churches, though this is simply the Gaelic adaptation of an older English tradition that has become rare in the English-speaking world. This is one of the relatively few traditions that managed to spread from England to Gaelic-speaking areas, which (for the most part) tended to maintain their musical independence.

Dance music, such as reels, hornpipes and jigs, usually played on the fiddle (although other instruments have been introduced, such as accordion and tin whistle), were also common; for example, the strathspey, which likely developed in the Scottish region of the same name. These were usually considered to be "lower" forms of music in the Gaelic world, and as such, were often referred to as "ceol beag" ("little music") to distinguish them from the more elevated pibroch style ("ceol mór," or "great music").

Scottish Gaelic music could be found in pockets of the Cape Fear Valley, in North Carolina, until just after the Civil War. In Nova Scotia, particularly Cape Breton Island, many Scottish Highlanders arrived in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and there remains a thriving Gaelic music community. The northern side of the island is somewhat more Irish in its lineages and musical influences, and often referred to as "The Northside". Irish Gaelic music can also be found in Newfoundland.

Famous Gaelic songs[edit]

Gaelic song


  1. ^ "Sinn Fhein—Ourselves". An deo-grne: Monthly magazine of An Comunn Gaidhealach. 1906. pp. 18–20. Retrieved 3 June 2024.

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