Ein Interview mit der Folksängerin Julie Fowlis, unlängst nominiert für den Johnny Walker Blue Label Great Scot Award 2011, über die Folkmusik in Schottland.
Q: Julie, as one of the most popular artists of the Scottish folk scene, what is your opinion about folk in general and its importance for Scotland as a country and the people?
A: I think it’s extremely important. Traditional music in Scotland is not only an enjoyable passtime, it is a vehicle for the expression of our culture and the telling of our history. It enriches the country and helps us understand who we are and who/where we came from.
Q: Is Folk also popular for the younger generations?
A: Yes, and becoming more so all the time which is very encouraging.
Q: Does your work encourage the youth to look closer into your music and do they contact you and ask for help or about own ideas and maybe lyrics?
A: Yes – I do teach classes/workshops when I can, and younger singers and musicians regularly get in touch, which is always nice.
Q: How important is folk for keeping the Gaelic language and culture alive?
A: It’s essential. There is an old Gaelic saying ‚Tìr gun teanga, tìr gun anam‘ which translates as ‚A nation without language is a nation without soul.‘
Q: Gaelic, that´s my personal opinion, is the best language to be sung, it creates a perfect harmony in company with the traditional instruments, it sounds just beautiful with a glimpse of mysticism, even though it is – at least for a foreigner – almost impossible to sing along. What do you think is the secret of Gaelic?
A: I think over a thousand years of history and culture are present in these songs. They represent in many ways an ancient culture and a way of life which has managed to survive – against the odds – on the remote fringes of Western Europe. The songs have poetry, wisdom, humour, depth, meaning and are a lyrical window to our past.
Q: Watching folk-concerts and events like Celtic Connections I get the impression that people playing folk-music are one big family. Is that true, and if so, where are the reasons for that?
A: I think that *most* traditional musicians have something special in common, and at festivals and other gatherings that is shown by the intuative sessions and brilliant collaborations which take place – most without rehearsal or planning. I think musicians of all genres have an immediate connection of some sort, but traditional music is often more grounded, more organic and therefore it is often likely to result in sessions, songs and music without much warning!
Q: Could you just give a brief summary of your career (the beginning, your idols, musical influences etc.) and maybe also about your future plans?
A: I have always played and sung traditional music since I was a young child. I started performing professionally when I was around 20 years old I think. My musical influences have always centered around my family background from North Uist in the Western Isles. My father plays music, he is a keen singer and plays the guitar and he always encouraged us to play music. My mother too. I went on to learn the pipes and the oboe and concentrated on playing instruments rather than singing, especially during my degree at the University of Strathclyde. But I always did a wee bit of singing on the side and that’s what I ended up focusing on. And it was the Gaelic language and songs that I heard growing up that shaped what I do today. There is lots on the horizon – this Summer we play a select few festivals in Norway, Spain and Scotland, then I am busy writing a new commission for a festival in Scotland in the Autumn. September, October and November will see us performing and touring around the UK and the USA. I’ll also be undertaking a voyage in July with the London charity Cape Farewell, sailing around the Hebrides and St Kilda on a campaign to raise awareness about climate change.
Q: Your singing sometimes is very, very fast. Are there any special techniques for learning this or is it just the character of the Gaelic, which allows fast singing?
A: Technically you have to be able to support any type of singing correctly but the puirt-a-beul or ‚mouth music‘ demands you to support that little bit more! I think the fact that I play other wind instruments has helped me alot – I had alot of training in using my diaphram for playing instruments, and although I have no formal training in singing, that has helped.
Q: I know, you have got a little daughter. What is her favourite (gaelic?) lullaby?
A: One called ‚Cadal ciarach mo luran‘
Julie, mòran taing!
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Fotocredits: Udo Haafke / Julie Fowlis