This one is a piece of Gaelic mouth music called Ciamar a nì mi an Dannsa Dìreach? (How Can I do the Dance Properly?) that is closely related to the four-part pipe jig Paddy’s Leather Britches.
Mouth music, or port-a-beul, is a form of dance music found today primarily in the Western Isles that came about due to the lack of an instrument to dance to. Instead, words were put to music and the singer(s) provided the music instead.
Here’s a version of our tune from the Tobar an Dualchais/ Kist o Riches archive, by Dr Allan MacDonald of Uig, Isle of Skye, recorded in 1953. The words ask “How can I dance properly, when the pin has come away from the bottom of my dress?”
I first heard this on a record by Sprangeen in in the early ’80s, where it was paired with Paddy’s Leather Britches. The version we are learning comes from Ceol nam Feis 2, a bilingual repository of tunes taught by Fèisean nan Gàidheal. This community-based Gaelic arts organisation runs events all over Scotland.
A key to learning jigs, especially when new to them, is to slow them down into 3/4 or waltz time. This retains the sense of the timing and relationship of the parts of the tune without feeling that it is about to run away too quickly.
Resources for this and other music we are learning can be found over at The Flow.
Photo: A Basket-full of Ceilidh Dancing by Derek E-Jay, some rights reserved.