A unique form of Irish song that most have never heard of

A video of a unique form of Irish song that most have never heard of: Lilting.


Here’s the Wikipedia description:

Lilting is a form of traditional singing common in the Gaelic speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland. It goes under many names, and is sometimes referred to as “mouth music”, diddling, jigging, chin music or cheek music, puirt a beul in Scottish Gaelic, Canterach, or portaireacht bhéil (port a’bhéil) in Irish Gaelic. It in some ways resembles scat singing.

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  • 2centsworth

    Wonderfully infectious… Causes foot tapping, head nodding, knee slapping and humming. Take two or more pints and sleep through the morning.

  • I’m guessing it’s also an Irish response to the fact of English cultural genocide, which banned the native language.

  • orogeny

    Van Morrison has incorporated mouth music (with his own unique spin, of course) into his music for decades. He started out as a sax player, and you’ll often hear him imitating the sax when he songs.

  • BCPipes

    It’s also how the tunes are taught to be transferred to an instrument. And, it’s how you get the tune imprinted in you mind for transferring to the fiddle, whistle, Uilleann Pipes, etc. “If ye can lilt th’ chune, ye can play it.” -Sean Potts

  • Indigo

    Yes, very nice. My dad sang like that 50 years ago, maybe more. He called it “pub singing.” My mom didn’t like it at all, at all . . . I’m moved to confess that as I age, my face is shaped much like that singer’s and I even wear that style hat. Ah, the persistence of the Celts!

  • Sean_Clancy

    The Wikipedia description is a bit off. It’s not like scat singing in that the melody is not improvised, and it’s not actually in Irish (Gaelic), it’s just nonsense syllables. Lilting, or mouth music, is the singing of dance tunes that are usually played on instruments — fiddle, pipes, accordion, etc. — when you’re too poor to be able to afford instruments. The tunes are already known, but the choice of syllables is of course up to the singer.

  • Jim Olson

    Actually, anyone who’s seen Riverdance has seen this style of music. Might not have known what it was…

  • Jim Olson

    Interesting comparison. I shall have to contemplate whether “lilting” is in fact similar to “yodeling”. I think I’m going to come down on the side of saying that they’re related, (folk music using non-word syllables to phonate notes) but that from a vocal technique viewpoint, they are different things.

  • bpollen

    Here’s another example, albeit a more contemporary one:


  • Asterix

    …or what you sing when you can’t remember the words?

  • theophrastvs

    cool. thankee.

    remarkably little associated lip movement. it would make for an easy ventriloquist’s act.

  • Yes

  • Phil

    Similar to yodeling.

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