Something a bit different today but still words related. I was at an event with Kelly from Love Books Group Blog at the National Library of Scotland on Thursday as part of Tradfest. It featured folk singer and songwriter Karine Polwart, Scots Scriever Hamish MacDonald and singer-songwriter Kirsty Law. At the session the relevance of the Scots language in contemporary word and music was explored. As always, you’ll need to excuse my phone photographs!
Karine Polwart started off the event singing a beautiful song called ‘Skipping Bar’foot through the Heather’. She explained it was a song she has known and loved for many years and had used it in her 2016 Edinburgh International Festival solo show, Wind Resistance. She followed this with a lullaby for a lost mother called Fala Flow. She enjoys discovering Scots words she is unfamiliar with and incorporating them in her songs. The audience joined in with a call and response song inspired by a poem called Love by Douglas Young. We heard that the inspiration behind one of the first songs she wrote in Scots, Whaur Dae Ye Lie, was a visit from three women from Srebenica in Bosnia who had come to raise awareness of the massacre there. It was very moving to hear her sing this song and again to join in with the chorus.
Next Scots Scriever Hamish MacDonald entertained us with some slam poetry and songs. His reduced Immortal Memory was a very funny potted history of the life and work of Robert Burns in about two minutes! He sang a song he would use with Primary School children all about the people you might meet in any Scots town using loads of Scots words including my personal favourite tapsalteerie (topsy-turvy). I really enjoyed listening to his poetry and songs, including the bang up-to-date Democracy.
Kirsty Law and Karine Polwart then had a chat about song-writing and how Scots lends itself to different genres of music. I was surprised to hear that it is very strong in hip-hop just now. Kirsty talked about how she is inspired by fragments of music, songs and poetry which already exist. For example, her song Riddles is made up from pieces of children’s rhymes which you might hear in playground games. You can listen to her perform that here. Kirsty is songwriter in residence at Dunbar’s Coastword festival in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to hearing her again there.
It was a really entertaining afternoon with a great mix of beautiful singing, emotional songs and fast-paced poetry all going to prove that the Scots language is alive and kicking in the contemporary music and poetry scene.