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This article is about the modern folkloristic genre and its history. For the music and instruments of the ancient Celts until late Antiquity, see Ancient Celtic music.

Celtic music is a term utilised by artists, record companies, music stores and music magazines to describe a broad grouping of musical genres that evolved out of the folk musical traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. As such there is no real body of music which can be accurately be described as Celtic, but the term has stuck and may refer to both orally-transmitted traditional music and recorded popular music. Celtic music means two things mainly. First, it is the music of the peoples calling themselves Celts (a non-musical, primarily political definition), as opposed to, say, "French music" or "English music." Secondly, it refers to whatever qualities may be unique to the musics of the Celtic Nations (a musical definition). Some insist that different ostensibly Celtic musics actually have nothing in common – such as Geoff Wallis and Sue Wilson in their book The Rough Guide to Irish Music – whereas others (such as Alan Stivell), say there is.

Often, the term Celtic music is applied to the music of Ireland and Scotland, because both places have produced well-known distinctive styles which actually have genuine commonality and clear mutual influences; however, it is notable that Irish and Scottish traditional musicians themselves avoid the term "Celtic music," except when forced by the necessities of the market. The definition is further complicated by the fact that Irish independence has allowed Ireland to promote 'Celtic' music as a specifically Irish product. In reality, the terms 'Scots/Scottish' and 'Irish' are purely modern geographical references to a people who share a common Celtic ancestry and consequently, a common musical heritage.

These styles are known because of the importance of Irish and Scottish people in the English speaking world, especially in the United States, where they had a profound impact on American music, particularly bluegrass and country music.[1] The music of Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias (Spain) and Portugal are also considered Celtic music, the tradition being particularly strong in Brittany, where Celtic festivals large and small take place throughout the year, and in Wales, where the ancient eisteddfod tradition still occurs. Additionally, the musics of ethnically Celtic peoples abroad are vibrant, especially in Canada and the United States.

Contents

Divisions

In Celtic Music: A Complete Guide, June Skinner Sawyers acknowledges six Celtic nationalities divided into two groups according to their linguistic heritage. The Q-Celtic nationalities are the Irish, Scottish and Manx peoples, while the P-Celtic groups are the Cornish, Bretons and Welsh peoples. Musician Alan Stivell uses a similar dichotomy, between the Gaelic (Irish/Scottish/Manx) and the Brythonic (Breton/Welsh/Cornish) branches, which differentiate "mostly by the extended range (sometimes more than two octaves) of Irish and Scottish melodies and the closed range of Breton and Welsh melodies (often reduced to a half-octave), and by the frequent use of the pure pentatonic scale in Gaelic music."[2]

Definition debate

At issue is the lack of many common threads uniting the "Celtic" peoples listed above. While the ancient Celts undoubtedly had their own musical styles, the actual sound of their music remains a complete mystery.

There is also tremendous variation between "Celtic" regions. Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany have living traditions of language and music, and there has been a recent major revival of interest in Wales. However, Cornwall and the Isle of Man have only small-scale revivalist movements that have yet to take hold. Galicia has no Celtic language today (Galician is a Romance language descending from Galician-Portuguese, although all the Western part of the Peninsula had Celtic languages in pre-Roman times, as did much of Europe, but Galician music is often claimed to be "Celtic." The same is true of the music of Asturias, Cantabria, and that of Northern Portugal (some say even traditional music from Central Portugal can be labeled Celtic). Thus traditionalists and musicological scholars dispute that the "Celtic" lands have any folk connections to each other.

Critics of the idea of modern Celtic music claim that the idea is the creation of modern marketing designed to stimulate regional identity in the creation of a consumer niche; June Skinner Sawyers, for example, notes that "Celtic music is a marketing term that I am using, for the purposes of this book, as a matter of convenience, knowing full well the cultural baggage that comes with it". The so-called "marketing" or "show-business" creation was popularized by the idealistic man who first (late 1960s) blended the music of all the Celtic countries with a modern touch in his recordings and concerts such as the 1971 album Renaissance of the Celtic Harp: the Breton Alan Stivell.[3] Although this composer is one of the main modern promoters of this kind of music, he did not create the term.[4]

Forms

Identifying "common characteristics" of Celtic music is problematic. Most of the popular musical forms now thought of as characteristically "Celtic" were once common in many places in Western Europe. There is debate over whether jigs were adapted from the Italian gigue, a common form of the baroque era,[5][6] for example, while polkas have their origin in Czech and Polish tradition.[7]

On the other hand, there are musical genres and styles specific to each Celtic country, due in part to the influence of individual song traditions and the characteristics of specific languages. Strathspeys are specific to Highland Scotland, for example, and it has been hypothesized that they mimic the rhythms of the Scottish Gaelic language.[8]

The Celtic music scene involves a large number of music festivals. Some of the most prominent include:

Celtic fusion

The oldest musical tradition which fits under the label of Celtic fusion originated in the rural American south in the early colonial period and incorporated Scottish, Scots-Irish, Irish, English, and African influences. Variously referred to as roots music, American folk music, or old-time music, this tradition has exerted a strong influence on all forms of American music, including country, blues, and rock and roll.[13] In addition to its lasting effects on other genres, it marked the first modern large-scale mixing of musical traditions from multiple ethnic and religious communities within the Celtic diaspora.

In the 1960s several bands put forward modern adaptations of Celtic music pulling influences from several of the Celtic nations at once to create a modern pan-celtic sound. A few of those include bagadoù (Breton pipe bands), Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Horslips.

Later, beginning in 1982 with The Pogues' invention of Celtic folk-punk, there has been a movement to incorporate Celtic influences into other genres of music. Today there are Celtic-influenced sub genres of virtually every type of popular music including electronica, rock, metal, punk, hip hop, reggae, new age, Latin, Andean and pop. Collectively these modern interpretations of Celtic music are sometimes referred to as Celtic fusion.

Bands like Flogging Molly, Black 47, Dropkick Murphy's, The Young Dubliners, The Tossers introduced a hybrid of Celtic rock, punk, reggae, hardcore and other elements in the 1990s that has become popular with Irish-American youth.

Other modern adaptations

Outside of America, the first deliberate attempts to create a "Pan-Celtic music" were made by the Breton Taldir Jaffrennou, having translated songs from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales into Breton between the two world wars. One of his major works was to bring "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" (the Welsh national anthem) back in Brittany and create lyrics in Breton. Eventually this song became "Bro goz va zadoù" ("Old land of my fathers") and is the most widely accepted Breton anthem. In the 70s, the Breton Alan Cochevelou (future Alan Stivell) began playing a mixed repertoire from the main Celtic countries on the Celtic harp his father created.[4]

Modern music may also be termed "Celtic" because it is written and recorded in a Celtic language, regardless of musical style. Many of the Celtic languages have experienced resurgences in modern years, spurred on partly by the action of artists and musicians who have embraced them as hallmarks of identity and distinctness. In 1971, the Irish band Skara Brae recorded its first and only LP (simply called Skara Brae), all songs in Irish Gaelic. In 1978 Runrig recorded an album in Scottish Gaelic. In 1992 Capercaillie recorded "A Prince Among Islands", the first Scottish Gaelic language record to reach the UK top 40. In 1996, a song in Breton represented France in the 41st Eurovision Song Contest, the first time in history that France had a song without a word in French. Since about 2005, Oi Polloi (from Scotland) have recorded in Scottish Gaelic. Mill a h-Uile Rud (a Scottish Gaelic punk band from Seattle) recorded in the language in 2004.

Several contemporary bands have Welsh language songs, such as Ceredwen, which fuses traditional instruments with trip-hop beats, the Super Furry Animals, Fernhill, and so on (see the Music of Wales article for more Welsh and Welsh-language bands). The same phenomenon occurs in Brittany, where many singers still record songs in Breton, traditional or modern (hip-hop, rap, etc.).

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.chincoteagueculturalalliance.org/articles/article/5493371/95457.htm
  2. ^ translation by Steve Winick
  3. ^ Bruce Elder. All Music Guide, http://www.answers.com/topic/renaissance-of-the-celtic-harp (last accessed 15 July 2009)
  4. ^ a b JT Koch (ed). Celtic Culture. A Historical Encyclopaedia ABC-CLIO 2006 pp 1627-1628
  5. ^ The origins of Irish traditional music
  6. ^ google books
  7. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary, "polka"; Compact Oxford English Dictionary, "polka"]
  8. ^ Traditional Gaelic song and singing sean-nós
  9. ^ "Celtic connections:Scotland's premier winter music festival". Celtic connections website. Celtic Connections. 2010. http://www.celticconnections.com/. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  10. ^ "Site Officiel du Festival Interceltique de Lorient". Festival Interceltique de Lorient website. Festival Interceltique de Lorient. 2009. http://www.festival-interceltique.com/le-monde-des-celtes-et-de-la-celtie.php. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  11. ^ http://www.intercelticosendim.com/
  12. ^ "'Hebridean Celtic Festival 2010 - the biggest homecoming party of the year". Hebridean Celtic Festival website. Hebridean Celtic Festival. 2009. http://www.hebceltfest.com/. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  13. ^ Irish Folk, Trad and Blues: A Secret History" by Colin Harper (2005) covers Horslips, The Pogues, Planxty and others.
  • Steve Winick
  • Sawyers, June Skinner (2000). Celtic Music: A Complete Guide. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81007-7. 

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