Meet Catrin Evans, new singer-songwriter

Agus seo pìos eile, a’ sealltainn nach eil òigridh Uibhist gun tàlant san nòs ùr…

Island Voices - Guthan nan Eilean

Catrin Evans lives on Grimsay and studies at Sgoil Lìonacleit. And in her spare time she writes songs – songs which are making an impression. She’s started to be a regular performer at Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Taigh Ciùil, and she’s been away to the “Wee Studio” in Stornoway to make some recordings, thanks to family support and a Creative Scotland award for young musicians. Here, she talks to Gordon Wells about how she started writing songs, what the process is, and how the island environment inspires her. She also talks about the experience of recording in a professional studio, and how it’s boosted her confidence and desire to do more writing and performing:-

(If you’re an iPad or iPhone user you may need to follow this link:

Here’s the Wee Studio recording of one of her songs – “Battleship”. (And you can follow the words if you…

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Sianail Phàdruig

A piece from the day job blog, highlighting a new Ipadio channel from a younger communtiy member who values his traditional inheritance…

Island Voices - Guthan nan Eilean

Tha Pàdruig Moireasdan air sianail ùr aige fhèin a stèidheachadh air Ipadio. Ach an àite a bhith ga cleachdadh airson phonecasts a dhèanamh, tha e air tòiseachadh le faidhlichean MP3 a chur oirre.

Tha CD a’ dol leis an leabhar aig a sheanair, “Thugam agus Bhuam”, air a bheil Lachlann Phàdruig (athair Phàdruig òig) a’ gabhail feadhainn dhe na h-òrain aig athair fhèin agus e a’ còmhradh le Gordon Wells. Tha Pàdruig òg air an cur air-loidhne a-nis, gus an tèid aig luchd-ionnsachaidh is eile air an cluinntinn gu furasta. ‘S e goireas ùr cuideachail a tha seo. Agus ma tha sibh airson na faclan fhaicinn cuideachd chan fheum sibh ach an leabhar fhaighinn… Nach math a rinn e!

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Air Sgàth an Traoin

“For the Corncrake’s Sake” – an addition to my (very) occasional series on the theme of “Gàirnealaireachd Ghàidhealach”. If you’re thinking “RAF” or “bullseye” you may be on the right lines, but you’re still wide of the exact mark… (Click to enlarge.)

Music of the Muezzin

I’m just back from a short visit to Istanbul. With over 15 million people and over 3,000 mosques the contrast with Benbecula, with its 1500 people and 2 churches, could scarcely be starker – you might think. But there again, the waterfronts and ferry traffic, while on a completely different scale, provided at least one familiar point of reference.

It was a pleasure to cross the Bosphorus between Asia and Europe (for 2 Turkish Lira..) and wander down streets, through bazaars, and past mosques and museums. And what a tram service! (Also 2 Turkish Lira, flat rate.) Edinburgh, eat your heart out…

I snapped away with the iPhone, but the strongest impression made was not visual but auditory. Given there are over 3,000 of them in the city it seems like you’re never far from a mosque when the call to prayer goes out, and I made a few recordings. This one was at 4.30 in the morning on my last day – no need to worry if I’d set the alarm properly to get me to the airport on time…

Back home and googling “muezzin” I found some interesting links. While I had no complaints, the BBC reported some time ago that the musicality of some in Istanbul had been called into question, leading to extra training being delivered. And Sun Myung Moon’s Wikipedia-style “New World Encyclopedia” makes a link between Muslim Muezzin, Jewish Hazzan, and Christian Precentor. Being an adherent of none of these faiths, I’m happy to leave comparative theology in others’ hands – but a possible musical link does interest me. And I’m evidently not alone, judging from the comments section on this YouTube video showing some fine examples of the precentor’s melismatic role in leading traditional Gaelic psalmody. (I’m indebted to The Croft for bringing this clip to my attention, where further discussion of the local singing tradition can be found.)

So, perhaps the link from Byzantium to Benbecula, while attenuated in space and time, may not be as thin as first appearances may suggest…

April Lambs

Gambolling lambs are a feature of this time of year. Free entertainment tearing back and forth past our kitchen window. The iPad takes the video pictures and GarageBand allows the “Tritune” in my head to become a soundtrack…


April Lambs from Gordon Wells on Vimeo.

Avast there! Snow ahoy!

Catherine went for a walk in the snow, taking Morag’s camera with her, and humming a little tune to herself as she went along. The rest she explains below…

(Changed days from A. A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh… Morag, back in St Andrews, uploaded the pics to her Facebook account, from which Catherine picked a selection to put into Movie Maker using the PC we have back home, having already synched the Garageband file from the iPad. That may sound techie, but anyone who knows us will also know that “techie” is something we do not do. Amazing how easy to use this stuff is.)

Snow Pirates from Catherine Eunson on Vimeo.

Outside our wee cottage in the woods it snowed and snowed. Inside, thanks to Garageband, it got very piratey! Ha Harr!!!

Apr 2/3/4 2012


Abair spors a bh’ againn a-nochd le Carrageen agus “Gille an Fheadain Duibh” – sgeulachd le Pàdruig Moireasdan a tha ri fhaighinn san leabhar “Thugam agus Bhuam”. Chaidh a cur ann an cruth ùr dà-chànanach airson an àrd-ùrlair le Màiri Mhoireasdan agus Eairdsidh Caimbeul. Agus is iad a rinn dsioba math dheth!

Ach bha gu leòr eile an sàs sa phìos obrach seo – na sgoilearan ann an Loch nam Madadh agus Càirinis, a’ choisir aig Fèis Tir an Eòrna, Chris Spears – an neach-ealain a rinn obair ionmhalta a’ toirt beatha uamhasach dhan fhuamhaire agus dhan dràgon, Loriana Pauli – “Ban-rìgh na h-Eilbheis” – a thug puirt ùra dhuinn, gun ghuth air an obair bhidio is audio a chaidh a chur ris….  Tha liosta fhada ann.

Cha robh mi fhèin ach nam “second farmer” – ach tha fhios gur e promotion a tha sineach bho “third spear-carrier”, an triob mu dheireadh a bha mi air an àrd-ùrlar leis na Sinodun Players ann an Camelot air ais ann an 1973 – mas math mo chuimhne…

Abair na th’ ann de thàlant ann an coimhearsnachd bheag dhùthchail. Tha rudeigin sònraichte againn an seo. Agus  ’s e a’ Ghàidhlig as coireach, tha mi cinnteach. No, ga chur ann an dòigh eile, leis gu bheil dà chànan againn sa choimhearsnachd seo, tha beairteas culturach a bharrachd againn. Agus tha sin a’ tarraing dhaoine ealanta eile ann, a tha ag iarraidh a bhith a’ fuireach ann an àrainneachd a tha taiceil dha na tàlantan aca fhèin.

Cò na h-àiteachan eile ann am Breatainn far am faiceadh tu an leithid?

धोखेबाज़ कौन है? वह, या मैं, या दोनों भी?

मान लीजिए…

मैं जहां बसा हुआ हूँ, हिंदी बोलने-वाले लोग बहुत कम रहते हैं. वैसे ही मैं यहाँ पर अकेला हूँ. आमतौर पुर हिन्दी बोलने के मौके तो कभी मिलते भी नहीं.

इसलिए आज जब किसी ने इंडिया से फोन किया मैंने तुरंत हिन्दी में बोलना शुरू किया …

“Hello, may I speak to Mr Wells, please?” (उच्चारण से मैंने पहचान लिया कि यह आदमी हिन्दी या उर्दू का बोलने-वाला था.)

“जी हाँ, बोल रहा हूँ, आप कहाँ से फोन कर रहे हैं?”

“जी? मैं, मैं इंडिया से बोल रहा हूँ. Windows Technical Department के लिए काम करता हूँ, और हम को पता चला है कि आपके कंप्यूटर में कुछ मैलवेर घुस गया है.”

(अच्छा, यह कहानी मैंने कई बार सुनी है, और अच्छी तरह जानता हूँ कि यह एक स्कैम है. लेकिन आमतौर पर ये लोग अंग्रेजी में ही बोलना चाहते हैं. यह मैं पहली बार वही कहानी हिन्दी में सुन रहा था. मेरे लिए मौका…)

“अच्छा? यह तो बुरी बात है. रिपेर तो करना होगा, न? मगर आप पहले यह बताइये कि वहाँ का मौसम कैसा है, आज? कई साल हो चुके हैं जबसे मैं पिछली बार इंडिया में था. और यहाँ सर्दी बहुत है. इंडिया को मैं बहुत मिस करता हूँ.”

“जी हाँ, जी हाँ, यहाँ का मौसम बहुत ख़ूब है. अच्छा, यह तो बहुत ही सीरियस बात है कि आपके  कंप्यूटर में एक वाइरस है. ज़रा ऑन कर दें ताकि हम फिक्स कर सकें.”

“वैसे ही मेरे पास टाइम नहीं है, अभी. मुझको तो बाहर जाना है..”

“प्लीज़, एक दो मिनट लग जाएंगे, बस.”

“अच्छा, ऐसा करें, आप फिर से फोन कर सकते हैं?”

“जी हाँ, जरूर. किस दिन पर?”

“आप मंडे को कर दें.”

“किस टाइम पर?”

“कोई भी टाइम. मैं घर पर हूँगा.”

“अच्छा, मंडे को फिर करूँगा फोन…”

“अच्छा, ठीक है …”

आज का हिन्दी क्लास खतम, बिना खर्च करके. फिर भी, कुछ ठीक नहीं लगता…

“दूसरी भाषाएँ”

हिन्दी चलती है – ब्रस्सल्स में भी! tools4clil के ब्लॉग से..

“Clilstore is not restricted to servicing solely the languages of the TOOLS project teams. Here’s another experiment from “HindiMovieFan” (aka Gordon Wells) with a transcript of an interview with Bollywood’s greatest movie star, Amitabh Bachchan.

So, clilstore appears to handle Hindi quite as comfortably as Arabic! Again, just click on any word to go to a dictionary entry….” (See more.)

Only Connect – back to the croft

Question: How do I get from Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to All American renaissance man Paul Robeson via the Reverend George Reginald Wells (alias my dad) in less than six degrees of separation? And end up at home in the Hebrides?

Answer: Follow the musical trail…

Step One. Here’s the Qawwali master in a spell-binding performance in the video clip below of “Ye jo halkaa halkaa suroor hai”. (Follow this link for Romanised Urdu lyrics and English translation of the basic text.) The clip takes you through a transcendental Sufi meditation on “light intoxication” in the presence of the divine. Recorded live in Birmingham in 1983 – the year I started working there – it’s a full seventy minute rendition. (I wasn’t at this performance, but did get to see him performing some years later.) If you’re in the mood, stay with it right the way through. Alternatively, after several introductory “scene-setting” verses, just check the introduction of the main theme at 5.15. The central lyric and melody are gradually expounded over the next couple of minutes, before the musical ante is raised again from 7.20. Having now clocked the tune, feel free to move on “from the sublime” straight to Step Two. But be careful. It’s quite a jump.

یہ جو ہلکا ہلکا سرور ہے

Step Two. Now check this song “Chale jaise havaien” from  the Hindi film “Main hoon na”. Recognise that tune from somewhere? Yes, it’s a classic example of the Bollywood capacity to “borrow” musical patterns that work, and “recycle” them to mass popular acclaim. Note also the location of the film, shot at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling.

चले  जैसे हवाईएँ

Step Three. Wind back the years to the Second World War. Same location. Very different ambience. This is pre-Independence India, and St Paul’s, originally an Anglo-Indian school, is in its colonial heyday – run on traditional English Public School lines, complete with the then young (but to be long-lived) school “padre” fresh out from Blighty, George Reginald Wells. Despite (or maybe because of?) his intensive choral training at King’s College, Cambridge, Dad confessed to having a poor ear for Indian musicality, so quite what he would have made of the Ustad I’m not sure, but I fear he would perhaps have been “less than impressed” by this Bollywood jollity in a setting he always looked back on with deep and serious affection, bordering on reverence. Which cues a return from lighthearted if skilfully executed fun and exuberance to something rather more spiritual.

Once in Royal David’s City

Step Four. Dad was actually the only one of four Wells brothers who didn’t get to do the opening treble solo at the annual festival of carols, but he did become a very fine bass-baritone himself, and he appreciated the talents of others too when he recognised them, which took him to Sheffield Town Hall, even before his Darjeeling days, to see and hear Paul Robeson in concert, another experience he liked to recall in later years. “Deep River” was one of his favourites, but this clip, wherever it was recorded, is worth listening to right through, as it gives an impression not only of Robeson’s singing talent, but also of his wider humanitarian drive and motivations. Often described as decades ahead of his time, was he also an early exponent of what we now call “World Music”?

Deep River (and then some)

Step Five. Here in Benbecula, I’m left wondering if Robeson’s rendition of the “Eriskay Love Lilt” (from 4.58) was Dad’s first introduction to Gaelic music, an initial Hebridean connection before meeting and marrying Uist crofter’s daughter Anna Sheonaidh ‘ic Ghilleasbaig  – “Ban Uibhisteach ann an India”?

And the rest, of course, is history…

Have I woven an unusually complex web? Well no, I don’t think so, though I’m pleased to have inlaid a couple of sparkling gems in the pattern, despite my “humble” crofting stock. If we’re all a maximum of just six steps away from everyone else, metaphorically if not literally, then we’re all capable of intricate variations on this kind of theme. It’s a great game. Just pick a couple of big names from the worlds of music, sport, politics etc, and trace a linking path through a family connection. We can all be touched by distinction or genius. Everyone should try it!

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