History of Scotland
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What is Scottish mouth music?



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Mouth Music ?

I'm from Glasgow, Scotland and I'm sorry to say I've never heard of Scottish Mouth Music. Maybe it is played in the Highlands and/or Islands of Scotland where much of the traditional folk music comes from.

Yes, it exists!

I'm from Edinburgh, Scotland, and I can confidently say that mouth music, or Puirt a Bheul, was a major part of Scottish culture in the 1700s, after the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745. The Government tried to put down everything Scottish(wrong Highland), banning kilts (but only in the Highlands not the lowlands), bagpipes (wrong - myth) and Scottish folk dancing (wrong). To combat this, mouth music basically is like a Celtic form of scat, imitating instruments with nonsense words in Gaelic. A famous example is Brochan Lom, which has the (nonsensical) Gaelic words 'Brochan Lom, Tana Lom/Brochan Lom an Suin' repeated many times to the tune of 'Orange and Black'

It has since gone into a bit of a decline, which explains my fellow countryman's lack of knowledge.

The main purpose of mouth music was the conveyance of music in the absence of scripted music. In some instances the mouth music was incorporated into the song. It's a bit like having an instrumental in the middle of a song - except it's played by the voice instead of an instrument. Pipers still use mouth music to orally explain fingering, runs, throws etc in a particular piece. Mouth music may have become more popular with the banning of the pipes (never happened) after the 45 but it was practiced well before CE Stuart traipsed about the heilins. The instrument that really took hold with the banning of the pipes (never happened) was the fiddle with great composers such as Daniel Dow producing their work in the late 18th century. The decline of the pipes had more to do with the breaking up of the clan system and the lack of sponsorship by the Chiefs combined with economic migration to the cities and colonies, not very romantic I know.


It may exist but the reasons cited above for it cited have long been disproved. The Pipes (nor Scottish folk dancing) were never banned after Culloden and for Scottish above read Highland. For answers on the banning of Kilts and Pipes see separate answers.