In production on next week's homage to the late John O'Donohue, I have been researching Celtic music, attempting to not have a show full of jigs and reels, but to have a good cross-section of this genre. I came across this style of Gaelic singing, sean-nos, meaning "in the old style," in a YouTube video of Iarla O'lionaird (fronts the band Afro Celt Sound System) singing in a pub.

Imagine yourself in a tucked away nook of Ireland, hearing this haunting, sad melody, carrying you back some thousands of years. It is just beautiful.

Also fun is trying to follow along with the words...

Bog braon, bog braon, bog braon don tseanduine,bog braon, bog braon, bog braon don tseanduine.

Cuir a chodladh, cuir a chodladh, cuir a chodladh an seanduine,
cuir a chodladh is ní a chosa is bog deoch don tseanduine.


Ubh chirce, ubh chirce, ubh chirce don tseanduine,
ubh chirce is blúire ime is a thabhairt don tseanduine.


Feoil úr, feoil úr, feoil úr don tseanduine,
feoil úr is braon súp is a thabhairt don tseanduine.

Share Your Reflection



Mitch - I'm always intrigued to hear your music-choice on the SOF programmes. I'm a big fan of Sufjan, so have been delighted at your choices - being an irishspeaking irishman in Ireland, I'm also delighted to hear you're using the silken voice of Íarla for the show on John O D. If you enjoy this kind of music, Lasairfhiona Ní Chonaola is also a great woman to check out - she sings in the dialect of Irish that John spoke (from Connaught as opposed to Íarla's Munster dialect).
I'm delighted at this blog - SOF is a weekly trip into insight, questions, musing, and humanising conversation - all of the production team have reason to be proud.

Thanks for these wonderful sean nos examples, Mitch! There is something about the Celtic soul that was so very much a part of John O'Donohue's work that also finds expression in the examples you've posted. What an amazing soul he was. One of the things I love are the blessings and the curses John wrote. A new book of blessings is yet to be released in the U.S., but is sold in the UK and Ireland as "Benedictus," and one of his curses -- for the depression suffered by a friend -- is part of a memorial remembrance on John's website: "May those feckin devils stay far from your door and NEVER TOUCH YOU AGAIN."

I own all of the Afro-Celt sound system CD's... they are fabulous !!! One day I will go to my homeland and greet my kinsmen of Ireland... Many priests sat at our dinner table and spoke in the "old Celtic tongue" when I was a child, a beautiful language from a gracious people. I am Third generation American Irish, my grandmother Kathrine Kitt was from County Cork, a fishing town near the sea. Keep up the good work Mitch !

We have been to John's stomping ground (s) and were totally blown away by the beauty, quiet, contrast and the all of it all! Big fans of John, SOF and love this musical piece. Keep up the great work all of ye!

Gary and Katie (Moriarity) in NC

I just listened to the podcast with John O'Donohue, what a beautiful soul. The music from Afro Celt Sound System brought me to the blog in search of more. The Old School Irish singing above is haunting, it's calls from deep to deep. Keep up the good work!

Would have been nice if you had translated the words into English so we'd know what's being sung.

I love Afro-Celt Sound System. Are solo songs like this available?

Iarla has solo albums.  Heard him sing and speak at a Womad show once.

where are the women?

try eabha mc mahon singing Mairin de Barra on u tube. She is the youngest member of a group called Anuna.

I was born in Connemara and my father used to sing this song and songs like these some in Irish and in English. He also composed his own songs commenting on local life and his friends' antics. He is still well remembered for his sense of humour and fun in these compositions though he died in 1971

You don't happen to have any recordings of your father singing his compositions, do you? I'd love to hear them!

Listening to John O'Donohue's interview and to this song selection was a great to help me prepare for my recent trip to Dublin. I spent one week there and was lucky to see a group of people singing sean-nós at The Teachers' Club. A wonderful, unforgettable experience! I also bought one of Lasairfhiona Ní Chonaola's CDs and am enjoying every bit of it! Plus, as I bought O'Donohue's books at a bookshop called 'Books Upstairs', the salesperson told me: 'what a great loss... he was an incredible man and he used to be our customer', and we talked a bit about him. My experience in Ireland was certainly better because of what I learned in this program. Thanks always!


Beautiful, wish I could go to Ireland and see them. Sheila Stephens from Eau Claire, WI, USA

I enjoy music from all over the world including the many eras of American music. sean-nos is without a doubt one of my all time favorites. wish there were more of it recorded by the original singers (not foreigners imitating, as I found trying to purchase it when living in Ireland).

Deep thanks for this work and for the link to music Erie old style. Calls to the great depth that is truly human
New Zealand

I love Irish music and have a son, Patrick Sean O'Brien who is totally paralyzed, but not his creative mind luckily with NMD, lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts and he has a 7 year old son he almost never sees, Sean Patrick. I wonder if you could send a translation in English so we Irish Americans without benefit of Gaelic, might learn more of the old songs with all their heart. I can see the men were mightily touched. It is haunting music sung really well. Thanks ever so much.

Most beautiful.