Ruth Keggin: Sheear

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Tongue Tide Rising

Listening Post 43. When UNESCO pronounced the Manx language extinct in 2009, it received incredulous letters from the Isle of Man—written in Manx. A prime ingredient of the island’s linguistic revival is it’s lively music scene, at the head of which stands Ruth Keggin. Sheear (Westward), her debut solo album, is a collection of traditional and contemporary Manx ballads and carols with gentle arrangements that highlight her enthralling voice, at once soft and robust. Fin as Oshin (Finn and Ossian) is an 18th century song focused on two figures from Gaelic mythology who “…went out to hunt/With a valiant company and hounds/No fewer than a hundred men” (video 1). The message of She ‘neen aeg mish as aalin (I am a young and beautiful girl) is that maidens should avoid marrying older men: “His words were honeyed/His manners were modest/But he’s a terrible miser/And I am in prison,” sings the central character, who eventually finds herself a young lover (video 2). In Arrane y skeddan (Song of the herring) Keggin pays homage to one of the historic mainstays of Manx life: “Let us heartily drink to our own company/We are the most cheerful of men, through casting the net” (video 3). One more album standout is Graih foalsey (False love), the lovely lament of a man who made a romantic mistake. UNESCO, meanwhile, recanted its error; like the Isle of Man’s cats, the story of the Manx language is a tale without an end. (Purt Sheearan Records)

 


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