Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Low-Key St Paddy's Day

It's a low-key St Paddy's Day for me, the second in a row due to the pandemic... can't be kissing strangers while socially-distancing, no matter how Irish or winsome they are.  I figure I'd post a couple of pretty songs on the occasion, and the traditional folk band Altan has an entire catalogue of lovely, low-key songs from a career which began in the 1980s when fiddler/singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and flautist Frankie Kennedy joined forces, eventually marrying. Sadly, Mr Kennedy contracted cancer in the 1990s and eventually lost his fight with the scourge. 

I'm choosing two songs in Gaelic by the band. The first is Moll Dubh a' Ghleanna, ostensible a love song about a dark haired country beauty from a glen, but in Donegal, the song is a cryptic message about illicitly distilled poteen. It's a gorgeous tune, whether about love for a ruddy-cheeked, black-haired girl or about love for a wicked strong distillate: 


The other song I'm posting is Dúlamán, perhaps the finest song ever written about seaweed, specifically Pelvetia canaliculata. Dúlamán, the seaweed, was commonly used as animal feed, and was used as human food during times of famine. Dúlamán, the song, is a dialogue between two seaweed-gatherers, one of which wishes to marry the daughter of the other, who meets his suit with skepticism, necessitating an elopement: 


As a side note, there are several edible seaweeds common to Ireland, among them the chewy, salty dillisk, which is another food which was integral to the survival of coastal dwellers during An Gorta Mór. Additionally, the various types of carrageenan, are ubiquitous, used as thickeners in everything from ice cream to toothpaste. I, myself, prefer the stuff prepared in the Jamaican style, as a punch, and might have to pick up a can at the supermarket before work tonight, even though I'd rather be drinking some Moll Dubh a' Ghleanna.

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