Celtic rock

Capercaillie are a Scottish band who combine traditional Gaelic folk music and elements of rock music. Their sound is a fusion of the two styles and could be described as Celtic rock.

The Skye Waulking Song (Chuir m’athair mise dhan taigh charraideach)

Capercaille performing on stage

Capercaille performing on stage

'Chuir m’athair mise dhan taigh charraideach' translates into English as 'My father sent me to the house of sorrow'.

The Skye Waulking Song:

  • has a 12/8 time signature
  • is mostly based around three chords – C, E minor and G
  • has eight verses and an instrumental section
  • opens with an intro and fades out with an outro
  • is from a collection of Gaelic folk songs compiled by the folklorist Alexander Carmichael

A waulking song is a work song, sung by women workers processing cloth.

Capercaillie sound

The song combines folk and rock instruments. The (amplified) instruments associated with rock music are:

  • synthesiser
  • Wurlitzer piano
  • bass
  • drum kit

The (acoustic) instruments associated with folk music are:

  • violin (fiddle)
  • accordion
  • pipes
  • bouzouki

The Wurlitzer piano is a keyboard instrument without strings. The sound is produced by a combination of steel reeds, hammer action and an electrostatic pickup system.

The bouzouki is a Greek long neck lute played with a plectrum. In recent years it has been used in traditional Scottish and Irish music.

Gaelic music

Capercaille performing on stage

Capercaille performing on stage

Other Gaelic influences include:

  • the compound time signature
  • the pentatonic vocal line
  • the use of a refrain – refrains are included after each line of a couplet (a pair of lines of verse)
  • the use of nonsense words in refrains
  • the narrative element – the song tells a story
  • the use of a Scotch snap rhythm (a short accented note before a longer one) on the words 'O hi a bho ro hu o ho'

Composing ideas

Choose a folk song and arrange it for rock band plus one or two acoustic instruments (or you could use acoustic folk instruments and add a drum kit). Use a simple harmony and limit yourself to a few chords. Add an instrumental section where the soloists can improvise.

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