Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Soldat Louis, Brittany and Celtic Music [Video and Audio Link With French and English Language Advisory]
The part of France known as Brittany fascinates me. A significant number of people in Brittany speak Breton, which belongs to the Celtic family of languages, along with Irish and Scottish Gaelic. The language is continuing to be passed on, thankfully to a younger generation. A paradoxical effect of the institution of the European Union is that regional languages such as Catalan in Spain and France as well as Piedmontese in Northern Italy are making a comeback.
I heard a story about a farmer in Brittany who was proudly Breton, and wanted to give his children Celtic rather than French names. The French government had a law that required people in France to give their children French names from an approved list.
This stubborn farmer, who had 10 children refused to give his children French names. The government retaliated by refusing to give the farmer his monthly subsidy for each child. He took the French government to court.
After years, he was allowed to name his children according to Breton traditions and received every Franc of monthly subsidies for the years that the case dragged on in court. As an added bonus, he received interest on the payments that were withheld from him, his wife and family. I wish I could find this story in the news. I greatly admire those who are willing to go to impractical lengths to preserve their heritage. One of the things that the Jews in Egypt did was very similar. They named their children with Jewish rather than Egyptian names.
One of my favourite Breton singers is a group with a lead singer named Soldat Louis, which translates as "Private Louis". Some of his songs express solidarity with the Irish in Northern Ireland. Breton Flags are a common sight at his concerts. Some of his music falls under the genre of French drinking songs. A lot of the music sounds like Irish music, with bagpipes and a Celtic beat. I have not found any Soldat Louis songs in Breton. I am looking for music in Breton that would fit into the folk rock genre. I'm sure it is out there.
I found a song "Juste un gigue en do", which translates as "Just a jig in C". I ran it through Google translate, which provided a very sketchy translation which was very sketchy and incoherent. I could tell that it was laced with French profanity and expressed anger and cynicism about the government. It sounded like me when I'm blowing off steam about politics after a few shots of slivovitz and some beer chasers. There are some IRA songs that curse out the British that have a somewhat similar feel.
I grew up around Boston, where the Irish influence is strong. My thoughts often return to Ireland, Celts and Celtic heritage, especially when I read of Israel's independence struggle against the British. I hope my readers will appreciate the music I have presented today.
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