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RTE Television

Guth na nGael

Guth na nGael is a new landmark music documentary series which explores Irish song through the ages to see if there are discernible thematic threads in our music and song. In each of the six programmes, singer and musician Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan) embarks on a musical journey of discovery around Ireland, and by jamming and chatting with a host of traditional and contemporary musicians, she endeavours to explore the recurring themes in our music. What particular hang-ups do Irish songwriters have? What threads emerge in our songs that define us as a people? Just why is it that all our wars are merry, and all our songs are sad?

This six part series traces the story of our songs and sounds under the following heady themes: Home & the Homeland; Rebel Songs & Defiance; Unrequited Love; Spirituality & the Gods; Liquor & Lust; Keening & the Blues. This unique series parses these subjects with Irish singers ranging from balladeers to sean-nós singers to contemporary singer-songwriters, and features spellbinding musical performances filmed in stunning locations around Ireland.

Episodes

Episode 1: Home & the Homeland

Featuring Mary Black, Luka Bloom, Eddi Reader, and Cork troubadours Ger Wolfe & John Spillane

Mairéad begins by exploring the lyrical songs of the past that pine for the native shore and sees how this displacement from Ireland affects our musical undertones and lyrics. She also delves into local songs in our tradition to see how land and the landscape has inspired music over the centuries and explores if this is still a fertile furrow for contemporary songwriters.

Episode 2: Rebel Songs & Defiance

While the lyricists of our past had to disguise their treacherous words in the form of an Aisling, the spirit of protest would appear to be dying out in today's Irish songwriters? In this episode Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh takes on the challenge of 'Rebel Songs & Defiance' with musical contributions from Damien Dempsey, Wallis Bird, Eleanor McEvoy & Seamus Ó Beaglaoich.

Ep.4: Spirituality & the Gods

In the fourth episode of this landmark music documentary series exploring the themes that emerge in Irish song, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh parses the national songbook for songs of spirituality. With musical contributions from Sinead O'Connor, Nóirín Ní Riain, Liam Ó Maonlaí, the Monks of Glenstall Abbey and Galway's Julie Feeney, she explores why we have a dearth of spiritual music in the Gaelic tradition and wonders whether recent religious upheavals have led to contemporary singers exploring a more personal spirituality in their music.

Episode 5: Liquor & Lust

There's no doubt that our twin vices of liquor and lust have proved fertile for Irish singers throughout the ages.

In the penultimate episode of this music documentary series, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh questions if the Irish have a penchant for bawdy songs in our tradition, and whether the nation's complicated relationship with the demon drink has been a help or a hindrance to our songwriters.

Featuring musical contributions from Damien Dempsey, Mary Coughlan, Peter Sheridan, balladeer Barry Gleeson & Donegal sean-nós singer Brian Ó Domhnaill.

Episode 6: Keening & the Blues

The final episode of this landmark music documentary series exploring the themes that emerge in Irish song includes musical contributions from Declan O'Rourke, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Susan McKeown & The Voice Squad. Presenter Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh examines our tradition of keening and explores if the influence of keening still resonates in our music or has that link with our blues-ey past been lost on our singers and songwriters.

Guth na nGael
  • RTÉ One, Friday, 7.30pm