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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Oran Bagraidh 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Oran Bagraidh 
Knockengorroch Off Site Productions 

The Oran Bagraidh project offers a fascinating glimpse at a forgotten part of the Scottish Gaelic canon. It takes as its source the song, Oran Bagraidh, or Song Of Defiance, which is allegedly the only known example of Galloway Gaelic spoken across South West Scotland from the 5th to 18th century. Along with other Gaelic, English, Early Welsh and Scots songs, the group uses this as a basis for creative exploration and academic musicality. The song itself is a stirring root and compelling opener to this experimental album.

On the surface, Oran Bagraidh is perhaps a piece of revisionist history. But when viewed from an artistic viewpoint it succeeds in its vision to create a body of song that echoes the twined song traditions of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Having musicians and singers from those backgrounds involved, the treatments of the ancient and newly found songs contained herein are both contemporary, traditional, ambient and post classical by turn, each revealing its melodic charms by continued exposition. Some of the songs are rendered unaccompanied, as in a trio of Mouth Music pieces featuring Gwyneth Glyn, Lorcán Mac Mathúna and Josie Duncan, all three songs and styles nestling happily together. The early Welsh Pais Dinogad has an ambient semi-classical feel, with Gwyneth Glyn’s melodic vocals out front and eastern European-type musical backing. Uryen Erechwydd Part A initially provokes with Bragod’s banshee wails and strummed backing, while Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde’s rich Gaelic singing and Lorcan MacMathuna’s lilting Irish vocal also find their space within the map of diffuse sounds and varied arrangements.

This is a richly hewed cosmopolitan melting pot of varied sounds – native voices mixed within a cauldron of heady neo Celtic/classical, ambient and post rock sounds. It demands concentrated attention but yields manifold rewards. Oran Bagraidh is a stunning and compelling collection of styles, sounds and ideas and defies classification.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine