It was St. Patrick’s Day last week and a number of online commemorations passed across the Crotchety Computer Screen. Beyond rumours of partial Irish ancestry two or three generations back I have no connection with the Emerald Isle so, on the whole, they held only a passing interest. Indeed, those tributes to the people and places of Ireland were often tiring to read. You see, words have sounds as well as shapes and my English brain comes to a shuddering halt trying to pronounce those unpronounceable Irish names.
Take, for example, the Irish jazz guitarist known as Síomha. It seems reasonably safe to assume that the accented ‘í’ sounds something like the ‘i’ in ‘silly’ or, perhaps, in ‘wild’. But the tongue ties itself in knots when stringing together the rest of the letters. And when a reliable online oracle informs you that the word is pronounced ‘Sheeva’ the inner voice of reason protests angrily. If the Latin alphabet has any meaning at all ‘Síomha’ cannot sound like ‘Sheeva’.
Coming back to the article after that excursion into the byways of language and logic I had to wonder whether it was worth the effort of reading on. But the author, Thom Hickey, describes Síomha as both wholly Irish and wholly international. And he highlights elements of folk music, chanson and gypsy jazz in Síomha’s compositions. That had to be worthy of a few minutes listening time, and it surely was. Here’s the YouTube video that Thom offered as one of his tributes to Irish women:
That’s a lovely track that would be welcome at jazz festivals anywhere in the world; there’s nothing particularly Irish to my ear. But it was more than enough to send the Crotchety Elves into the archives to try to dig up some information about Síomha.
It turns out that Síomha Brock has been making music for quite a few years, playing live in her native Ireland, collaborating with other artists in London and touring North America. She has released a few videos and there are four singles on Spotify but her debut album, already funded through a Kickstarter campaign, won’t be recorded until the summer of 2019.
The July Red Sky video is an excellent introduction to Síomha and her band but it carries no hint of the Irish folk influences in her work and July is still a few months away so, instead, I have chosen Craobhacha as my Track of the Week.
This song has Irish lyrics (by Billy Magfhlionn) and features the straight flute known as the Irish whistle. But it has a jazz swing that would be recognisable anywhere. The title means ‘branches’ (or, sometimes, ‘victories’), but please don’t ask me how to pronounce it.