Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alan Stivell: Brian Borou

It’s Traditional/Roots Tuesday and today’s feature is an artist that I became acquainted with in 1974 when I purchased his first LP: “Reflets.” Alan Stivell is a master of the Breton harp and has fully embraced the culture and the music of Brittany in France. Stivell sings in a combination of languages during this tune: Irish Gaelic and in Breton.

Breton, the Celtic language of the region, is akin to Cornish and Welsh in its construction and shares words and phraseology with both of these languages. The song, “Brian Borou,” is a traditional Irish tune that honors the memory of the legendary king that united the various Irish tribal leaders in opposition to Viking oppressors. Before starting this blog, I featured this on my Facebook site – so for those Facebook friends, it will be a repeat. For everyone else, enjoy “Brian Borou” for the first time here.

Even though English speakers cannot understand what Stivell is singing, his beautiful voice and mastery of the harp transcends all language showing that music is universal and we can appreciate the beauty in the sound without fully understanding the words.

The monochromatic striped flag that is seen throughout this video is the flag of Brittany – one of the six Celtic nations. The other participants of the Celtic league include Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. The flag of Cornwall is only black and white like the flag of Brittany.

Created in 1923 and inspired by the flags of the United States and Greece, the Breton flag was at one time suspect in France due to separatist political ideologies. By the 1960s, the political connotations subsided. The flag’s canton has the heraldic symbol for ermine fur which was used on the arms of the Duchy of Brittany in the middle ages. The nine stripes represent nine diocesan divisions of the traditional territory of Brittany. Five white stripes represent the French speaking dioceses while the four black stripes are for the Breton speaking regions.

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