Rivers and other bodies of water have been the inspiration for countless songs in the Sean Nós tradition throughout history and the motif of river is a common locus for the drama of many of our native love songs. The poet awaits by the river, slips into a reverie and encounters a woman of uncommon beauty, sometimes signifying Ireland. The encounter is usually brief and shrouded in symbolic meaning. But love can be expressed in manifold ways, love of place of history of memory and of heroic times past. In our history as human beings water and the habitations and culture that developed around those spaces have also a rich and altogether more strategic value. These special junctures of engagement acted as boundaries, right of way, and locations for the development of complex living, food making, commerce and craft. Drawing from innumerable streams of meaning that issue from our thoughts on water we can see a tapestry of possibilities of its meaning in our existence through time as thinking, dreaming, creative beings. The mountainsides that each farmer and child knew as well as a brother would another; the dark pools explored in a summer’ swim, field’s, houses, forests, tillage, grazing, fishing; the entire matrix of lived life had connection to the primary water course, marking out as it still does, their land, their world, their cosmos known and unknowable more than any map can.

Places of water get all this attention because they are special places, their motion, their play with light and their sounded susurration becalms and completes us; their darkness may beguile or terrify us. They sound out a constant acoustic of flow and motion. Small wonder then that the poetic spirit within us would seek out a relationship in song and appellation.

Ceol na n-Uiscí is a collection of songs from the Sean Nós tradition that navigate the links between man and water, that most mysterious material and source of endless inspiration across all cultures.

notes by Iarla Ó Lionáird


Olesya Zdorovetska

photograph by Olesya Zdorovetska


video by Olesya Zdorovetska


photograph by Nick Roth