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Tag: Ireland

How to play Canadian bodhrán dog

Check out this useful lesson on playing your dog like a bodhrán.

I’ve been keeping myself sane by playing the bodhrán and taking lessons via Zoom. My dog doesn’t like the noise, but he’s pretty chill about my attempts to play him.

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Lullaby of the land

I wrote this song recently, after doing a “deep dive” into the Pogues’ music. It’s a contrafactum, a song in which the melody is similar to another song yet contains different lyrics. In this case, the melody is from The Lullaby of London by the Pogues.

I posted the lyrics for the original side by side with my version on social media and asked my musician friends if they wanted to give it a try. My friend John Linehan (who is, of course, Irish) volunteered. We polished the lyrics some more and he brought it to life by performing it.

I recorded it live at the Irish Session at St Brigid’s Well in Ottawa.

Have a listen!

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What is reconciliation? Memory of stones

Dusk was coming to the balcony of our Montreal apartment. We could see lights flickering on in windows of the city below the cliff. We lit cigarettes using the gas ring on the stove and I singed my hair. Standing on the highest balcony, I saw smoke drifting up and lights coming on: street lamps, flickering neon signs and high beams of cars, as I stood there with my friend and her brother.

He was visiting from his cabin in the woods near Peterborough. A small cabin with a wood stove that never gave enough heat in winter—where one night, when it was pitch black, an owl swooped down and startled him just after he had put the campfire out. His cabin was near a place called Silent Lake, not far from Curve Lake and the petroglyphs. The air is fresh up there and feels gentle and warm when summer is coming.

Back then, before the Good Friday Agreement, Ireland was on our minds: people were hoping for an end of the Troubles. Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) people from Kanehsatà:ke, Quebec invited the Northern Irish to speak to them of their struggles, so much like home—disputed borders and broken promises, guns threatening to fire, soldiers and police guarding all rights of way, armed checkpoints on the roads.

In 1994, four years before the Agreement, Gerry Adams spoke at the university in Montreal and people gave him a standing ovation, but I stayed in my seat. I knew he lived in a house surrounded by a fortress. How could he be a man of peace? I suspected him. Afterward, my friends and I were invited by an IRA supporter to have a beer at the nearby pub, in a private room, with Gerry Adams a few tables away. The whole time I waited for an explosion.

Years later, I visited Saskatchewan and a different friend, who took me walking on a flat, silent expanse of land covered in sage and short grasses. He showed me a tipi ring he had found near his home, and I stood in the circle. After dark, we made a campfire in his backyard, such a long way from my home. No trees blocked the night sky—it went on and on forever. There I remembered the campfire in the Ontario woods near Silent Lake and I remembered the owl, swooping down in the dark. I thought of all the campfires among the Pines in Kanehsatà:ke during the pow wow—everywhere I walked, the sound of drums and strumming guitars. I thought of the Easter Rising in 1916 and how the Good Friday Agreement completed a circle.

Near my friend’s home on the prairies, we listened to the crackling fire and talked about medicine wheels and stones, marking a year’s passing. We thought of how we were sitting under a slowly spinning night, under a wheeling sky. Our thoughts turned around and around the memory of stones.

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