Category Archives: Isle Of Man

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

Every year we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors is from NYC’s The Narrowbacks.

Starring Rigel Byrne as Santa Claus. Filmed by Tamara Lee and James Haag. Recorded at Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, 519 Second Avenue, New York. The Narrowbacks music available on iTunes and Amazon.

Buy The New Album- iTunes  Amazon
Contact The Narrowbacks-

FIRE IT UP!!

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Now go have a drink…

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS OUR BEST OF 2015!

Best Of 2015 (2)
One of the best things about doing this here blog-zine is the end of year ‘Best Of’s’. This is our chance to reward, for what it’s worth, and recommend those releases that tickled our collective fancies over the last twelve months. Where as in 2013 the Best Of’s were dominated by local bands and releases and in 2014 it was international bands that stole the show this years is more of a mix of the two. No shocks at the top I’m afraid. It was always going to be a slug out between the big hitters of celtic-punk with The Rumjacks just shading it from the The Mahones by the slightest of margins. One of the team commented that the only difference was that ‘The Hunger And The Fight Part 1’ was slightly better than Part 2. In third place came 1916 out of New York who only just sneaked in with the December release of ‘Last Call For Heroes’. The album came out so late we didn’t even get a chance to mention it let alone review it nevertheless it blew us all away with their brilliant combination of rockabilly and celtic-punk. Another one to file in the ‘shamrockabilly’ category. Overall no major surprises and all four admins lists pretty much tallied up with each other but it’s especially great to see some non-English speaking bands in there as well as some bands that were new to us in the last twelve months. I was particularly happy to see Skontra and The Cundeez make the grade representing celtic-punk as played in the celtic nations. As ever we have reviewed some, though not all of these albums, so click (here) after the title and you will be re-directed to our review. If your album is not here do not be downhearted. These twenty album’s are the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year in what was an outstanding year for celtic-punk. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

TOP 20 CELTIC PUNK ALBUMS

1. THE RUMJACKS- ‘Sober And Godless’  (here)
2. THE MAHONES- ‘The Hunger And The Fight Part 2’
3. 1916- ‘Last Call For The Heroes’ (here)
4. FEROCIOUS DOG- ‘From Without’
5. THE GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS- ‘The Thirsty Mile’  (here)
6MR.IRISH BASTARD- ‘The World, The Flesh & The Devil’  (here)
7.  THE DEAD MAGGIES- ‘Well Hanged’  (here)
8THE GO SET- ‘Rolling Sound’  (here)
9. MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘No Heaven For Heroes’  (here)
10. HAPPY Ol’ McWEASEL- ‘Heard Ya Say’  (here)
 11. JASPER COAL- ‘Just The One…’  (here)
12. THE CUNDEEZ- Sehturday Night Weaver  (here)
13. THE FATTY FARMERS- ‘Escape From The Dirty Pigs’  (here)
14. THE SHILLELAGHS- ‘Bury Me At Sea’  (here)
15. JOLLY JACKERS- ‘Sobriety’  (here)
16. MALASANERS- Spanish Eyes’  (here)
17. SKONTRA- ‘Foguera’  (here)
18. THE WAXIES’ ‘Down With The Ship’  (here)
19. KITCHEN IMPLOSION- ‘Selfish’
20. THE TOSSPINTS- The Privateer  (here)

TOP TEN CELTIC PUNK EP’S

Now onto the EP’s. These are classed as shorter usually four to six songs long and around anything right up to 15-20 minutes long. No shock here at number one as a unanimous vote saw this years new band of the year Mick O’Toole walk away with the title. They have been a solid fixture during the year building up quite a reputation and following. At number two it’s long been a well known secret that Indonesia is a hotbed of celtic-punk and Dirty Glass are one of the best bands in their flourishing scene and ‘Drunken Summer Nights’ ran O’Toole very close while another English band came in third. Matilda’s Scoundrels really hit the heights in 2015 and just like Mick O’Toole bigger and better things await them in 2016. The rest of the list is made up from bands from across the globe with Slovenia, South Africa, Hungary, Catalonia, Russia, Holland, France and Yorkshire all making the list.
1. MICK O’TOOLE- ‘1665 Pitchfork Rebellion’  (here)
2. DIRTY GLASS- ‘Drunken Summer Night’  (here)
3. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS- ‘Split w/ The Barracks’  (here)
4. ZUNAME- ‘Pipes Not Dead’  (here)
5. THE HYDROPATHS- ‘Wailing Away’  (here)
6. SOUTH SHORE RAMBLERS- ‘Open Room Sessions’  (here)
7. O’HAMSTERS- ‘Kiss My Irish Ass’  (here)
8. LOCH NESZ- ‘Leave The Captain Behind’  (here)
9. CIRCLE J- ‘Year Of The Goat’  (here)
10. SIGELPA- ‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’  (here)
11. THE MOORINGS- ‘Nicky’s Detox’  (here)

TOP TEN FOLK/TRADITIONAL RELEASES

As the blog is for (mostly) celtic punk so it is that we only review stuff that isn’t celtic punk if we really really (really!!) like it. All these rocked our boat and we loved each of them all to bits. If you like celtic-punk then you should not be afraid to give traditional folk a listen. Most of it is more punk than punk these days you know. It’s a direct link to the music that inspired celtic punk music and their are some amazing bands and performers out there. Hard to decide which order they should go in especially as O’Hanlons Horsebox could have just as easily won this years Best Celtic Punk Album as well! This is how the Top Ten ended up.
1. O’HANLONS HORSEBOX- ‘Songs And Stories From The Border’  (here)
2. BARRULE- Mannannans Cloak’  (here)
3. LE VENT DU NORD- ‘Têtu’  (here)
4. BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Wedgewood’  (here)
5. THE RATHMINES- ‘Ramblin With The Rats. Stolen Songs of Struggle’  (here)
6. ANTO MORRA- ‘Boudicca’s Country’
7. JACK OF ALL- ‘Bindle Punk’  (here)
8. JOHNNY CAMPBELL- ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’  (here)
9. FFR CELTIC FIESTA- ‘Fresh Blood’
10. THE PROCLAIMERS- ‘Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’  (here)
11. SKWARDYA- ‘Domhwelyans/ Revolution’

TOP CELTIC PUNK WEB-SITE

Celtic Folk Punk And More BlogAgain Waldo over at Celtic Folk Punk And More walks away with this award. There is simply no better site on the internet. Everything you would possibly need to know is here with a HUGE range of bands covered and there is no doubt in my mind that the site you are reading here now would not exist without the inspiration of Celtic Folk Punk And More. Sadly Waldo published a post on January 3rd titled ‘New Year, New Life’ (here) announcing the suspension of the site for a while. We wish Waldo well and look forward to his, and his fantastic web site’s, return.

* The lists were compiled from the scraps of crumpled paper, and one beermat, handed to me by the other three admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page and tallied up over several pints of beer in a seedy working man’s Irish boozer in north London.

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- 2015

all the major players in celtic-punk do Best Of lists so click below to check out what they thought

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

CELTIC-ROCK

PADDYROCK

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

remember any views or comments we would love to hear them…

CELTIC CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS and a MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

(Danish/Dublin band ROVERS AHEAD have released a new Christmas single for 2015)

CELTIC CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st, the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun.

Christmas

Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958.

However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games.

Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home.

Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour.

Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn.

On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets.

Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts!

Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday.

Finally, in older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.

Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats).

The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

support a fantastic celtic-punk band by giving just a measly dollar (or about 66p in Brit money) by downloading the new Rovers Ahead single below from Bandcamp)

Now go and have a drink!

ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (2015)

Rare Celtic Music from the Isle of Man

BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (2015)

Of all the celtic nations and their music it is perhaps the Isle Of Man that is the least known about. For years it was simply the place the ferry went past on the way to Ireland during the summer holidays, while in more recent years we get to fly over the island and see exactly how small it is. Nestled deep in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland is the Isle of Man, a small island but with just a little investigation you will realise it may be small but it does have an out sized culture.
It is home to the world’s oldest parliament and, of course, its ancient Gaelic traditions. The bracing jigs and racing reels of the old Manx songs of the island are the best kept secret in Celtic music today. I say best kept secret but that won’t be for long if Manx trio Barrule have anything to say about it. Made up of three master musicians, Barrule dig deep into Manx tradition on their new album, ‘Manannan’s Cloak’ and the result is magnificent.
Mannin
Manannan’s Cloak was recorded in December 2014 in the historic St. Bridget’s Chapel, in the Isle of Man’s Nunnery grounds. With producer Andy Seward at the helm, Manannan’s Cloak takes the trio’s emphatic sound to the next level, with guest performances from a supporting cast that boasts Paul McKenna on vocals, Calum Stewart on uilleann pipes, Dylan Fowler on lap steel and Tad Sargent on bodhrán, plus the home grown talents of regular collaborators David Kilgallon (piano) and Gregory Joughin (vocals). Barrule’s album presents a diverse collection of material from rousing marches, jigs and reels to sorrowful slow airs and beautiful songs sung in the Manx Gaelic language. Here, Jamie Smith excels in a Gaelic tongue that once nearly disappeared but is flourishing again, though their is still lots to do. The Manx songs on Manannan’s Cloak may sound old, but true to Gaelic traditions, they actually speak to very modern and current times. ‘Fir Hammag Yioogh’ translates as ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ and is a modern take on the rich, and ‘Yn Ven-Ainshter Dewil’ deals with a man whose female boss turns her position against him. It’s a part of Barrule’s mission to show that the old traditions have as much to say today as they did a thousand years ago.

The album is named in honour of the patron saint of the Isle of Man, Manannán mac Lir. He was a celtic sea god who watched over the islands, drawing his cloak of fog and mist around them to obscure them from intruders. The band itself is named for Mannán’s mountain from where he dispensed fiery judgment on the intruders that made it to shore. With such a mythic legacy, it’s about time for Manx music to take its rightful place amongst international celtic music and Barrule are just the group to make this happen. Made up of fiddler Tomas Callister, one of the leading lights of the young traditional Manx music scene, acclaimed Welsh accordionist Jamie Smith, who’s also known for his ground-breaking Welsh band Mabon, and guitarist/bouzouki player Adam Rhodes, who’s long been at the centre of the Manx revival, Barrule represent the traditions of the Isle of Man and while sharing common ground with their celtic cousins Manx music has retained its own particular and inherent Manxness. A music that speaks of the natural beauty of the island and the lives of the Manx people.

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ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (2014)

Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs

We here at London Celtic Punks love our celtic-punk and as much as we love our celtic-punk we really really love celtic celtic-punk!By that I mean there’s some fantastic bands from the States or Canada or Indonesia and Italy or Australia, in fact there’s some amazing bands from all over the world truly making celtic-punk an international thing. Saying that though there is something extra special about a band from one of the celtic nations taking up the gauntlet. In Ireland there’s Blood Or Whiskey, Wales has Kilnaboy and in Galicia there’s Bastards On Parade and The Falperry’s but no celtic nation has as many, and are as good, as those from Brittany.

We’ve touched previously on the blog on the history of Brittany as a celtic nation, in this review (here) of the Breton band The Maggie Whackers latest EP, so click there to stop us repeating ourselves! Suffice to say there’s a massive resurgence in both Breton feeling and the Breton language. Through centuries of oppression France has failed to absorb Brittany or kill off the Breton language and Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs are a perfect example of what’s happening in Brittany.

Formed in 2006 its members include Éric Gorce on the bombardon, Richard Bévillon on the bagpipes, the traditional vannetais singer Maurice Jouanno and Loran, guitarist from the the group Bérurier Noir. The most amazing thing though about Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs is that they sing in Breton, the ancient language of Brittany which is closely linked to both Cornish and Welsh. Their first album, ‘Dañs an Diaoul’ (The Dance of the devil) was released in 2007 by the former label of Bérurier Noir, Folklore De La Zone Mondiale. The singer Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician, guests on several songs on the album. Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs participated at the massive celtic festival ‘Festival Interceltique de Lorient’ in 2007, having performed outside the official programme. Back in 2008 they toured Scotland with the only band comparable to them Scot’s punkers Oi Polloi. Second album ‘Amzer An Dispac’h’ followed in 2010 and featured more of the same with  hardcore punk accompanied by celtic instruments and shouty  gang choruses and vocals. Guests from across the musical spectrum were asked to perform and did freely showing the lack of snobbery within the Breton folk/language scene. They choose to embrace Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs (not that it’s always been plain sailing) while Oi Polloi are put down and, even worse, ignored by their Scots compatriots despite all the positive work they are doing to promote gaelic in Scotland.

As its impossible to comment on the lyrics I have to talk about the music and the feelings that the album gives me. Knowing a little about the band through a Breton friend the first thing that strikes you when looking up the band is how they have managed to cross generational boundaries and I must admit to a tear in the eye at one video where in front of the stage is a huge crowd of young punks moshing about while at the back a huge crowd of, ahem, more elderly fans are performing traditional dance to the same song. Its this link to the past that makes them so special. The ability to connect the struggles of the past to the struggles of the here and now and even of the future. In an age when there is a revival in celtic awareness its in the language movement and especially in celtic music that people are finding their roots and their pride. Celtic-punk is but a tiny part of that but in Brittany, thanks to bands like Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs, The Maggie Whackers and the Sons Of O’Flaherty, its helping to lead the way.
Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs
Musically the album doesn’t break any new ground from the first two LP’s but as they were both bloody brilliant that doesn’t really matter! They’ve a new singer in tow but the same chugging guitar, metal riffs, industrial style drum machine drumming and all with clear shouty hoarse vocals and no bassist that keep the toe tapping going while the celtic instruments are played with absolute gusto by champions in their fields. Eleven explosive songs clocking in at just under 45 minutes and all originals except a fun cover of The Adicts 1980’s punk classic ‘Viva La Revolution’. The best way to describe the music I think would be to say you’d find it impossible to stand still listening to this. Within a minute or two you’ll be be slapping yer thigh and a-tappin them toes. Catchy just doesn’t come into it. Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs are not just a celtic punk band they are a movement and one of which in everyone with a interest in celtic affairs should keep abreast of. Who said music cannot change the world?
Contact The Band
email- contact@ramoneursdemenhirs.fr
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here’s a list of YouTube videos here mostly from 2014 well worth trawling through on a quiet night accompanied by a few beers!

for easily the best english language web site concerning Brittany then check out THE BRETON CONNECTION “a portal to the Breton movement for self-determination and cultural rights”.

FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK

AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL - AGAINST MODERN MUSIC

The history of all of the various celtic nations is one made up of oppression, intimidation and emigration. Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany (north west France), Asturias (north west Spain), Galicia (north west Spain) have all been for generations occupied by foreign countries who have tried everything to crush the culture, language and spirit of their people.

But first lets go back in time to the 17th century when the English invaded Ireland. The Irish rebelled against them but are finally subjected after many wars and battles and atrocities are committed. They never fully integrate into the English system of government in the same way the Scots and Welsh did, and rebellions carried on and with every generation their have been major uprisings against English rule.

Music was a continual form of expression which made it very important to the culture of the Celts. With the prohibition of native languages and songs just speaking or singing could see you exiled or worse.  Misrule and a deliberate policy of starvation forced millions to emigrate away from Ireland while at least another million died while hundreds of tons of food a day was shipped out, under British Army guard, to England. In Scotland the forced clearances for land to give to rich barons to exploit for cattle and sheep farming sent tens of thousands of Scots to a new life in Canada. Other celts, for example many Cornish left when the tin mining industry went into decline, emigrate to the Americas in the 19th and 20th centuries and right up to the present day it remains high. Why the Americas? Despite those early settlers facing exactly the same kind of oppression, racism and bigotry that they had escaped from, it gave the little guy a new beginning. A sense that anyone could make it in this new world with hard graft and a little luck…plus it was away from the Empire that had held them down for so long, and even in the Irish case even tried to murder them!  Later revolts in Ireland established a republic separate from England, yet the north is still in English control. This was never accepted by all and so began a bloody war to unite Ireland that continues to this day.

Just like the original Irish music pub sessions didn’t originate in Ireland neither did celtic punk. The Pogues formed in post ’77 era London during the ‘troubles’. Bombs going off in the streets of England and shootings were common, anti-Irish racism was a fact of life for many. Many Irish lived together in the same areas of London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham etc., creating, for want of a better word ‘ghettos’ where Irish life carried on despite being in a foreign and unwelcoming land. Punk music started by posh art school kids rebelling against their parents soon spread out to the working class communities and the 2nd and 3rd generation Irish youth of those communities were no different from their english counterparts in lapping it up. The idea of fighting against authority made celtic music highly compatible with punk. Many of those original english punk bands had Irish members but punk bands in Ireland didn’t want to sound Irish they were just trying to sound punk (i.e. Radiators From Space, Stiff Little Fingers). Punk music was able to gain popularity from the people with celtic roots because it represented something unique to their heritage. Punk reminded them of what it is to be celtic to stand against authority, independent and defiant.

The Pogues were the original celtic-punk band. Made up of 2nd generation Irish, Irish and English members they were the first to combine the two genres of punk and traditional Irish music together creating a totally new sound. They had plenty of plaudits and recognition and even managed to break out of the ‘Irish scene’ and became a genuinely popular band here in Europe and the USA. Shane MacGowan, their iconic lead singer and writer of the critically acclaimed Fairytale of New York, is now considered one of the best songwriters of his generation! At the time though many folk ‘traditionalists’ scoffed at them as being just a bunch of ignorant English pissheads out to ruin Irish music but this was before anyone realised there was about to be a massive outpouring of ‘Irish pride’ from thousands upon thousands of second and third generation Irish from outside the isle of Ireland. The Pogues spearheaded this and along with Celtic F.C and the Irish football team (itself packed to the rafters with 2nd and 3rd generation Irish players) came to represent us in our Irishness. The thing the traditionalists didn’t understand was that even though we were into modern music we’d grown up listening to The Wolfe Tones, Dubliners, Clancy Brothers etc., (even Country’n’Irish!) as children so a band like the Pogues coming along wasn’t a shock to us but the folk establishment sure as hell didn’t like it!

Jump to today and its the Dropkick Murphys who are the worlds celtic-punks most popular and famous band. They started off as a Oi!/punk band with no Irish/celtic music only some Irish imagery on their record sleeves and merchandise. They kind of, in their own words, “started out as a joke” and didn’t seek out acclaim, but they rapidly grew in popularity due in no small part to the many, many people in the US who have celtic heritage and celebrate it. Over the years they’ve adapted Irish music and instruments and songs into the mix to create today’s celtic-punk. The Dropkick’s represent what it is to be celtic/Irish in modern day America (being working class, the fight against oppression, overcoming adversity, toughness, family bonds, religion/ Catholicism etc.,) but overall its still The Pogues that best embody celtic-punk. They were the first band of the scene and their music and lyrics are closer to the source. The Dropkick Murphys put more of an Irish-American spin on their songs, The Pogues are more about the history therefore, especially to those of us outside North America, the songs of The Pogues are more authentic with more Irish themes and fewer American ones.

The globalization of celtic music through emigration, in which oppression and poverty were the main reasons people left, has spread the influence of celtic music across the globe, even outside of the usual haunts of the Americas, Australia, NZ and here. Celtic-punk bands exist in pretty much every country where a son or daughter of a celt has set foot. It has also spread to the land of origin of the other celtic nations, with very healthy scenes in Brittany and Galicia helping to rejuvenate the native languages. Use of traditional instruments- fiddle, tin whistle, banjo, accordion, bagpipes is higher now than it has been in decades, again due in no small part to the popularity of celtic-punk.

Celtic-punk reflects the heritage of celtic people and the fight against oppression. It embodies the history of what it is to be celtic and what it is to overcome hardships and to finally come out on top.

It is where we come from but don’t you worry this is no exclusive club… everybody’s welcome to the hooley.

This isn’t meant as an introduction to celtic-punk or even a potted history it’s just one man’s small attempt to unravel what it is that makes the music so appealing to himself and countless others. If you agree or disagree we’d love to hear your comments…

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