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Old Tunes & The Flip Side
Cape Breton music stems from a long history of song and instrument. Some tunes played today by our traditional musicians on Cape Breton Island could actually be hundreds of years old. They are old, and they sound old. And that is a very good thing. An old, dirty sounding tune (as we authentic Cape Breton Gaelic culture fans like to refer to them as) is quite a find and is marked in the memory of the piper or fiddler, marked and remembered for sharing at the next dance or house party. The Gaelic culture that we call our own here in Nova Scotia, specifically Cape Breton Island, resonates through these ancient traditional tunes. Some are pipe tunes, some are fiddle tunes, and some are melodies that perhaps originated with a Gaelic song. Then of course, some of these old tunes are Gaelic songs and are sung in the form of Puirt a Beul which is Mouth Music.
On the flip side of an old traditional tune are the emerging composers of this century’s generation of musicians in Cape Breton. There are a number of them, and they have and are continuing to make quite a name for themselves, or should I say, their tunes are making quite a name for themselves. We’re talking here about people like Brenda Stubbert, Andrea Beaton and her father Kinnon Beaton, Fr. Angus Morris, Shelly Campbell, Paul K. MacNeil, Ryan J. MacNeil, only to name but a few of the talented composers we have here. Now, a person could argue that there is no need to write new tunes because there are so many (thousands and thousands) old tunes; and those other thousands of tunes are excellent! The great thing about new compositions, or at least the ones that are coming out of those names I have mentioned above, is the fact that there is a re-birth of the Cape Breton tradition. It may have a bit of a twist with the infusion of this new repertoire of medleys, but the progress made in this bit of a change, is evidence to the fact that our Gaelic culture is definitely alive and well on Cape Breton Island!