Burn’s Night celebration with a feel of Spain
Address to a Haggis?
To commemorate the Scottish national bard, Robert Burn (1759 - 1796), ‘Burn’s Night’ is annually held on his birthday, 25th January, a date still not too late to reflect upon past times and feel the new beginning. Traditional Burns Night would involve social gatherings and suppers with haggis as well as whisky, not only in Scotland but also in various places around the globe, wherever Scottish culture is loved.
This year, we’re physically grounded but our minds are free. On this occasion, I’d like to undertake an unconventional adventure to enjoy both Scottish and Spanish cultures at the same time. Let’s fly over the Highlands towards the Iberian Peninsula through Burn’s poetry and a music tool to connect both ends - Auld Lang Syne, and the bagpipes.
Auld Lang Syne / Por Los Viejos Tiempos
Burn’s most celebrated work ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (since long ago), written in 1788, is sung in a form of Scottish folk song, most famously at Hogmanay but also at a traditional Burn’s Night, symbolising the ending of a phase as well as the new beginning:
Auld Lang Syne - Highland Saga Official Version
Culturally, the song has gone beyond the Highlands to prove the universal value of Burn’s works. Widely known even to those who don’t know the name of this poet, you don’t need to be a Scot to feel nostalgia from this song. Just like most Japanese kids growing up listening to its Japanese version at occasions of farewell, it’s also been absorbed in other cultures including Denmark, the Netherlands, Thailand, and elsewhere.
While it’s not easy for many of us to grasp something written in Scottish language, poetry in general is often hard to translate into other languages without altering the meanings and nuances. The Japanese edition of Auld Lang Syne, for example, made it a completely different poem from the original of Burn’s by the appearance of a little firefly. I tried to find a Spanish version, but couldn’t find a good one with actual singing. Instead, this version below, sung in modern English, is accompanied with Spanish translation, so that we can appreciate the precious essence of the poetry in two ‘comprehensible’ languages:
Lea Michelle ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (sung in modern English with Spanish subtitles)
As beloved internationally, this song has inspired many musicians of diverse genres. Let’s have a listen to this Salsa version created by Scottish musicians, and get ready to travel further to the Spanish-speaking world:
Auld Lang Syne by Salsa Celtica
The pipes to play and connect
As well as haggis, bagpipes are one of the unmissable elements in Burn’s Night. This woodwind instrument is often associated with Scotland, but it’s actually a cultural pipe connecting Scotland and other continents, historically panning Europe, northern Africa as well as western Asia, then later the countries influenced by the ‘British Empire’. Although it’s hard for untrained eyes (like myself) to tell structural differences of various local types, ‘the sound of bagpipes’ is recognisable even to untrained ears.
For flamenco fans, the bagpipes, la gaita, are related to flamenco not with its sound but in a letra of Farruca:
Una farruca en Galicia amargamente lloraba
porque se le había muerto el farruco que la gaita le tocaba…
(a lady of Galicia was crying bitterly, because the Galician man who played the bagpipes for her had died…)
La gaita represents the northern regions of Spain, including Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country as well as a part of Cataluña. Through the pipes, our minds can easily travel through from the Caledonian scenery to the Iberian Peninsula. Some historians insist on the Celtic connection.
The sounds of bagpipes/gaita are usually nostalgic, in some cases rather rustic, but it could also be exciting. We can even see its rare presence in a flamenco fiesta setting, where appeared the famous gaita player, Carlos Nuñez. At the climax, you can see the dancer bring in folk dance steps in his pataita de Bulerías:
Carlos Nuñez - Gaitero de España
After enjoying the folkloric Bulerías, let’s conclude our journey in Edinburgh where this folk dance group from Galicia is performing their traditional dance Muiñeira to the bagpipe sounds. Now we’re back in Scotland with the feel of Spain.
We’re currently distanced, but we could be connected through music and dance. Let’s enjoy this year’s Burn’s Night with a sense of conviviality, wherever we are. Auld Lang Syne is about friendship, after all.
Galician traditional folk dance: Muiñeira de Sarandona (2011)
Robert Burns - Auld Lang Syne - BBC
A Short Overview of the Bagpipes from the Iberian Peninsula