Caipíní – Amhráin agus Ceol Traidisiúnta Ó Chorca Dhuibne
Sibéal Teo DDST001; 74 minutes; 2004
Caipíni means ‘caps’ and refers in part to the time when every man (and a number of women too) in West Kerry sported such headgear. Of course, this was not just a local phenomenon as a look at any picture of a football crowd from the 1930s or even 1950s will prove, but Na Caipíní has come to take on a special significance in West Kerry for it is those who still wear the caps, whether actually or metaphorically, who carry the music and songs passed on by their forebears.
As Brendan Begley recounts in his introduction to the liner notes, this album origins lie in a television programme which he co-produced with Niamh Ní Bhaoill and Philip King for TG4 in 2000. The trio recorded some thirty hours for their one hour programme and this CD of the same name features some of the material previously broadcast as well as other songs and tunes.
Of course, this is not the first album to focus on older singers and musicians from West Kerry, but its predecessor, Beauty an Oileáin, very much focussed upon the traditions of the Blasket Islands whereas Caipíní’s subjects come from the area around Ballyferriter and Ballydavid.
There are many similarities, however, and one is the utter dominance of the button accordion as the instrument of choice. Many theories have been posited as to the popularity of the concertina in County Clare, but this reviewer has yet to read any similar explanations for the accordion’s strong hold on West Kerry musicians. Perhaps Brendan or Séamus Begley would be the people to ask!
The instrumental tracks are typically perky and almost all consist of just one tune, harking back to the old style of playing. Therefore, most are pretty short and tend to serve as musical interludes for the singers, although Harvest Home features some seemingly impromptu step-dancing.
Like the music, the singing is of variable quality and clearly reflects the age of the participants, though some must obviously have owned great voices in the past. Still there is plenty to entice, although perhaps the rendition of the Dean Martin song Amoré might pale after a couple of plays. Most of the others are in Irish and the longest track is actually a Scéal Fianaíochta, a tale whose meaning will be lost to non-Irish speakers. Barring a translation of Brendan’s introduction, the liner notes are also entirely in Irish.
Caipíní may not match the splendours of Beauty an Oileáin, but it does have many delights of its own and is a fine testament to the cap-bearers.
19th March, 2005
Update, April 2008: sadly, this CD no longer appears to be available.