Karine Polwart on music and motherhood
If an alien landed on Earth and listened only to mainstream pop music on mainstream radio, it might be forgiven for thinking that the only kinds of love, heartache, fear and joy that human beings ever experienced in their lives revolved around romantic entanglements.
I have a brand new tiny two week old daughter called Rosa. Goodness knows where I found the time to write this blog... but it's got me thinking in particular again about what songs have to say about motherhood. I felt this intensely after the birth of my son three years ago, when I was gripped by the grief-stricken mother in The Wife of Usher's Well, the stark perils of childbirth in The Death of Queen Jane and the brooding lost-child anxiety and foreboding of Northumbrian lullaby Felton Lonnen.
I was compelled also to write three new songs of my own from the perspective of mothers. Rivers Run, played on Mike Harding's request show this week, is the most sentimental of these, though intended to have something of a point about the kind of world we want our children to inherit. I wrote it specifically for my son. And, well, if you cannae be a wee bit sentimental about your own newborn then what's there left to be sentimental about?
Most of all, though, the arrival of my two small children has once again made singing - whether it's folk songs, Stevie Wonder classics, Bob the Builder, or made-up daft ditties for changing nappies - an everyday activity, not something I do away from home 'for a living'. The same old Ally Bally Bee lullabies my mum and my granny knew sit side by side at bedtime with The Gruffalo and Hairy Maclary and my own cheesy rhymes. And young Arlo, now nearly three years old, inspired by piano-playing Roger from 101 Dalmatians, and, perhaps, just a wee bit by me too, has taken to making up his own songs for his baby sister. Long may it continue!