Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gaelic and Irish on television

There’s now a television channel in Scotland which broadcasts in Scots Gaelic. It has studios on Lewis and on Skye. It’s called BBC Alba, and is available on Sky Channel and freesat, and is expected to become available on cable as arrangements are worked out.

BBC Alba is still ramping up its program schedule; however it is expected to provide an additional outlet for Gaelic speaking musicians, as well well as broadcasting sports, drama, and programs for those learning Gaelic. Speaking of musicians, the debut programming on BBC Alba included a movie about Elvis, whose family actually has Scottish roots. And next time you’re in the Prestwick airport, near Glasgow, look for a marker commemorating his visit there.

In Ireland, the Irish language channel TG4 has been around for some years and has a full range of programming, from music to chat shows to soap operas to documentaries. The English language television broadcaster in Ireland, RTE, is running a series on its web site called easy Irish, to assist with learning or remembering conversational Irish.

What does all this have to to with music? There’s a thought that the rhythms of language are related to the rhythms of music. There are also songs with lyrics in both languages. And there’s a thought that language and poetry and music are related to landscape. There’s fine song writing, past and present, in Irish, English, Gaelic, and Scots, languages which are each, in their ways, related. Learning more of each adds to the appreciation of the music.

A number of the artists you’ll find here along the Music Road sing in these languages, including Julie Fowlis, Muireann nic Amhlaoibh, Emily Smith, Cathie Ryan, Mary Black, Mary Ann Kennedy, and John Spillane. There are, of course many more who do also. BBC Alba, BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland, RTE, and TG4 all have web sites, each with some programming available online. Even if you do not plan to study the languages, it will add dimesnsion to your music listening to hear them spoken.

link to a video of Cathie Ryan singing in Irish
Music Road: now playing: a short film about julie fowlis

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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