Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sheila Chandra



This is the music video for Sheila Chandra's version of the Scottish folksong, McCrimmon's Lament. (Chandra is most famous for her single 'Ever So Lonely' back in the 1980s, with Asian-Fusion band Monsoon. As her website's biography says of her current popularity, rather starkly: 'Not much interest in the UK now or formerly except with singles. None at all in India.')

But I love the song, partly because its musical fusion of east and west illustrates the idea that Gaelic and Indian traditions have much in common, which was very popular in Academe fifty or so years ago. (As a concept, it's a great deal less fashionable these days, and is basically agreed now to have been misguided.) But in musical terms, the shared technique of using drones and half or quarter notes is immediately clear and makes for a beautiful cross-cultural encounter. Chandra, who is from London, adopts a very wierd Scottish accent. She wanders around by a loch, half the time decked out in a fetching turquoise sari, and the other half of the time wafting around in white and leaning down on the moss to do something vaguely pantheistic and pre-Raphaelite by a foaming burn.

I also like it because the wistful, campy mixture of Ganges Dawn and Celtic Twilight would have been instantly familiar to my hero, Yeats' friend George Russell, also known as AE. Russell was a genuine visionary who wrote the most awful tripe about Irish mythology in the 1890's, after overdosing on Theosophy under Mme Blavatsky. (His attempts to find analogues to the third eye, Yoga, and the Upanishads in Irish medieval tales are hilarious in their misplaced sobriety.) But he had a huge heart, great practicality, and tremendous kindness. So this one's for AE.

Round Cuillin's peak the mist is sailing
The banshee croons her note of wailing
But my blue e'en wi' sorrow are streaming
For him that will never return - McCrimmon

No more, no more, no more forever
In war or peace shall return McCrimmon
No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back McCrimmon

The breezes on the braes are mournfully moaning
The brook in the hollow is plaintively mourning
But my blue e'en wi' sorrow are streaming
For him that will never return - McCrimmon

No more, no more, no more forever
In war or peace shall return McCrimmon
No more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back McCrimmon

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