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Irish Musicians Saving Oral History By Recording Elders Singing Old Campfire Songs

The Collective of Song Collectors /Facebook

A small collective of intrepid and inquisitive young Irish musicians have taken it upon themselves to rescue a tradition of song when perhaps no one else was willing to listen.

With an emphasis on the Irish, Scottish and English traveling communities, her project aims to put the elders of an almost bygone generation in front of a microphone, to enshrine their songs and stories for musicians and folklorists to listen to and study for. forever. .

Anthropologists and linguists often warn about the amount of oral tradition that the human race loses to modernity each year. Well, that is not limited exclusively to places within the southern hemisphere or among the indigenous communities of the world. It can also be found in the most developed countries on Earth.

In Ireland, a country famous for its singers, the Collective of song collectors (SCC) celebrates that history by honoring the people who have kept its roots alive.

Those people are sailors, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, but most are from communities of lone travelers and sometimes difficult to approach. Their strong culture and their close families make them live gold mines of folklore and song.

Quite the characters

Rather than simply collecting words, each song can only be accessed by exploring the life and history of the person who sang it for the SCC, or the the so-called “Carrier of Tradition”.

Take Freda Black, for example, a Roma traveler and great-grandmother in her eighties. The daughter of a legendary gypsy boxer and a member of a family that roamed all over England, Black had such a vast repertoire of songs that she admitted she couldn’t count them. She would continue to appear on the recently released album by Mercury Award nominated modern folk singer and SCC member Sam Lee.

“I loved spending time on the knees of these old people,” Lee said. The Guardian in the subject. “I could have gone to college and got a music degree and learned from the textbook or just went to the well and drink from the most incredible fountain. I was very lucky. I caught the end of an era. “

Lee was also the host of a BBC Radio 4 documentary in this endeavor, which led him to Greece, Georgia, and other countries.

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In some cases, these elders’ words are captured on the microphone along with the songs, so you can hear their reflections on where they first heard the pieces and whether their mother used to sing the melodies to them.

The SCC writes that within the songs “there is a memory of the days of life on the road, in the tents and the music, singing and dancing that went hand in hand with this way of life.

“It is a common request that songs and stories be recorded and shared, as old ways are not passed on and this huge reservoir of knowledge of an ancient way of life is forgotten. In today’s era of accessible recording technology, there is no excuse not to document and share this rich but fragile tradition, ”writes the SCC.

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Copies of all songs are donated to the Irish Traditional Music Archive and the National Sound Archive in London, so they can be enjoyed for centuries to come.

Having collected hundreds of recordings from dozens of singers, the SCC is beginning to organize educational events and workshops, featuring some of these Carriers of Tradition, sharing their stories, and singing voices for those interested in hearing them, as well as how ordinary people can become collectors. in their own way.

(LOOK the Song Collectors video below).

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