Profile of Na Casaidigh

 

 

 

From left to right, Odhran, Aongus, Finton, Feargus and Seathrun O Casaide, sons of the Cassidy Clan Chieftain.  Not included is Ciaran. Three of the group's CDs are available from our gift shop.  The group has a delightful website -- www.thecassidys.com -- which has samples of their music.

  

The Irish Times, June 14, 1997

"Songs of the Children" by Deirdre Falvey


"Beidh aonach amarach i gContae an Chlair,

Beidh aonach amarach i gContae an Chlair,

Beidh aonach amaraeh i gContae an Chiair,

Cen mhaith dom e? Ni bheidh me ann . . .

Oro, bog liomn i, bog liom i bog liom i,

Oro, bog liom cailin deas donn . . . "

        The repetitive songs of childhood hold a resonance beyond their simplicity, comjuring up memories of times, which seemed to be always sunny, more straightforward, more truthful. A lot of that is rose-tinted rubbish, of course - and tricks of the mind - but the comfort of the familiar and the past is not to be underestimated.

        Many of us have fond memories of learning those songs - and Oro Se Do Bheatha 'bhaile, Trasna Na dTonnta, Baidin Fheilimi, Bheir Mi O - in school and in the Gaeltacht summer colleges. In the Gaeltacht they had a book, Cas Amhran - green, hardback, well-used - which grouped them together and formalised them. We learned them in classes in the morning, swam in the afternoon and danced at ceilithe in the evening. All very well regimented and monitored by an maistir, of course. But they are positive memories.

        Mind you, a colleague associates those "boring, awful come-all-yas" with being stuck indoors at school and force-fed them while she would have preferred to be out playing in the sun ... It is precisely these memories - preferably the better ones! - that Na Casaidigh hope to evoke with the release of Oro Na Casaidigh, Songs Of Our Childhood. So is this album, an RTE production with 14 mostly well known and loved songs, the latest manifestation of the nostalgia industry which was so successful in Faith Of Our Fathers?

        They say not so: "It's not a Faith Of Our Fathers as Gaeilge," says Odhran O Casaide, one of the five brothers who are Na Casaidigh. "Here are very popular songs that are less well known than they used to be. And the pitch on the album is very strongly contemporary. It wasn't a group going out and forming them or singing them in ways of old. This is a very modern treatment: in musical terms you'd have classical, traditional and rock fused together and you have a kind of new sound coming out of that through the album.

        The Faith Of Our Fathers recording was, on the other hand, traditional, its rendering attempting to recreate atmospheres past. Nonetheless the Na Caisidigh album is presented with a nostalgia market in mind, including publicity posters of 1950s-style children playing.

        "They were the songs we grew up with in the Donegal Gaeltacht, in Dungloe, and later Gweedore - we sang them as children in school," says Odhran's brother Feargus. There were 10 children in the family, which in, the late 1960s moved to Ranelagh in Dublin. Their father, Sean, was a school inspector during their Donegal childhood. We lived just across from Gabhla island."

        That's Gabhla of Baidin Fheilimi 'd'imigh go Gabhla "Gabhla was literally just outside the window - we visited while there were still people living there. It was a part of growing up. It was probably a song of fishermen. So the whole thing was very real for us, very much part of our childhood." Odhran adds:"Things have come and gone but these songs are still as vibrant."

        "The idea didn't come from Faith Of Our Fathers," says Feargus. "It was actually thought about before that ever came out." In fact it was born when Na Casaidigh were performing for the huge crowd which had come to greet US President Clinton at College Green; Na Caisidigh have for years toured in the US and Europe as well as having an Irish following. When they started playing Oro Se Do Bheatha bhaile, that day, the huge crowd joined in a song that all ages seemed familiar with. "We realised," says Odhran, "that here you have hits, in the sense that everybody knows them. So we got together the best, the top 10 or so, best-known songs in Irish.

        We wanted a sympathetic, con temporary treatment for each of the songs. Our Oro Se Do Bheatha 'bhaile is not so much rap as tribal, with a beat, like an aboriginal beat, and the song is spoken through the chant. Whereas Oro Bog Liom I is almost a kind of Simon and Garfunkel tune. La I bPort Lairige was a song considered unsuitable for the schools, in its day. It was not taught because the words were considered risque!" (I gather it's about a bit of lad in Waterford, and the last words are on the lines of: get me a priest, quick!)

        "We decided to do something a bit off-the-wall for that one we put a repetitive base to it and it's sung in a deadpan way. And dropped on top of the tracks in parts is an inane, unrelated radio commentary, recorded off longwave." That last was a spur-of-the-moment touch - "We got carried away!"

        For that song they wanted what Odhran calls "a surreal feel, of somebody that was detached, singing the song with maybe the radio going in the background. The song is saying very bold things in a matter-of-fact way and we thought, you know, here's an opportunity to do something different."

         And indeed the new recordings are anything but traditional; what were simple, mostly but not exclusively children's (Fainne Geal An Lae is, for example, a 17th or 18th-century love song), songs have a variety of unusual treatments; some listeners will love the innovation, others may feel they have been over complicated. "We felt very strongly that to Just do another album of these songs and sing them in a traditonal way would not really be doing anything new; you had to present them in a new way - there had to be something about the way you did the songs that was different 10 the way they were sung 20 years ago.

        "I think that a traditional version of Oro Se Do Bheatha 'bhaile is something that you would get in archive here and there," Odhran says: "We wanted the album to be both new and old. We particularly felt that these songs are fading now - my own nieces and nephews of six and seven don't know these songs. It's kind of sad

        "The approach that we took was that the arrangement wouldn't become a dinosaur, that the linear line of the music and the integrity of the words would not be tampered with - you actually have a rendition of the song despite what's going on around it.

        Feargus adds: "The musical ear of the public has moved: they expect to hear base, drum, lead guitar, especially anyone listening to 2FM."

        They may have played about with arrangements, but Odhran comments that "traditional music is in very safe hands: You have people like Pagdy Glackin who are presenting it in a very pure way. And then, you have people like Micheal O Suilleabhain who are extremely inventive and are challenging you as a listener all the time, and finding nuances, relationships between tunes and adding to it. And then you have the likes of ourselves who are also open to influences, open 1p change. I think, that the conservation of the music in its authentic form is alive and well. The country is well endowed, with very, very fine traditional singers and players who present that music in its original form with all its integrity., But I think it's also good to have people who are going to be open to influences, to change. The very fact that you have both is a good thing, ... and we had a lot of fun doing it too!

         "If you see traditional music as an archive, an unchanging national resource, then what we're doing obviously is not presenting it in the way it would have been sung years ago. On the other hand, if you see it as a living force that's open to change, and must change to survive, then what we re doing is relevant. And we would be in the latter."

         Their musical influences as children were mixed: traditional, classical, pop. "The current pop music; was on all the time. It was a mixtures of musical influences, a fusion. It was a natural environment of music rather than one that was exclusive and enforced."

        The album has received plenty of airplay on RTE radio, and has a bigger profile than their other albums released here, helped in large measure by RTE backing. It entered the charts at number 8, which was the highest position that week for an Irish album, aside from U2's Pop.

Sean and Noirin Caisidein 1997. Sean is also in the black and white photo wearing a hat with his children in the images at the top of this page.  To purchase Na Casaigigh CDs, visit our gift shop.

         "One of the reasons is because it has touched an awful lot of memories," says Feargus. "These are memories, that are by and large happy, before, the rigours of study and secondary school. People look back, I certainly look back, and I remember this," he shows me a photograph of his mother Noirin with some of the children in Donegal. "I remember the sand dunes. The Donegal Gaeltacht was an unbelievable place to grow up - the wildness of it, the language, it was very musical, vocally especially. It was a musical society where singing was just part of the people. These songs didn't just happen there. What we're realising now is that in every parish and school and hall in Ireland these songs seem to be making an impact."

        They chose songs from different parts of the country. "Oro Bog Liom I is from Kerry," says Feargus. "I have a very early memory of being on my grandmother's knee down on Valencia Island, while she sang it." Their mother is from Valencia and the whole family used to go down there when they were children.

        "Our father had a little Morris Oxford," says Feargus. "And we used to crowd into it. It took three days to go down and we'd camp along the way. We would sit in three rows - you wouldn't get away with it today. Our father used to put a second seat in the back seal - a plank along the arm-rests - for the smaller children. And the smallest ones, like Odhran, would sit on a biscuit tin."

 


The Cassidy Clan is pleased to announce the release of the book "Speculated Truth: A Genealogical Journey of Truth and Speculation" by Clan Secretary Brent Cassidy. The book is for all persons interested in Cassidy genealogy, Irish culture, traveling to County Fermanagh and Ireland.  Please click here to read more about the book and learn how to order a copy.





Inch Strand in County Kerry on the Dingle Peninsula by Sarah Cassidy.
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