Sights and Sounds of Ireland Part 1

A sunny day in Grafton Street, Dublin

On a beautiful, sunny Summer’s day in Dublin in August 2014, I stumbled across a band busking in Grafton Street. I stopped. I filmed. I enjoyed.

I bought the CD.

How often have you done that? Listened to live music on holidays and thought, Yeah, he/she/they were great I want to remember him/her/them when I get home. I’ll buy the CD.

Then you get home. You want to relive that special moment so you play it a couple of times. But it’s not Grafton Street, or a piazza or a South Pacific island and he/she/they don’t sound the same in your car, lounge room or on your iPod. You play it for friends and family but they don’t quite get it and look at you strangely. It’s almost embarrassing. Did you really think they were that good? You start to wonder, what was I thinking? Then you put the CD away. Maybe forget about it until one year you rearrange the furniture and you drag it out and you tell yourself, this was great, and you play it. For a brief moment you’re back on that holiday but just as quickly you’re back in your lounge room and you turn it off. But you won’t part with it; it’s special to you and whoever you shared the moment with. Stick it back in the cupboard.

Of course, it’s fantastic when you’re in the moment. You’re on holidays. Your senses are heightened. You want to remember the ‘moments’ any way you can.

In 1983, during a stint in Rome on the big European trip some of us are lucky to have done in our 20s, my friend and I walked to the Piazza della Repubblica every evening to listen to a band.

The nights were balmy and the music was romantic. And no doubt our feet were sore from traipsing around all day so it was a pleasure to sit, relax, drink some wine and listen to Mario Rovi’s Italian version of Delilah.

I remember pinching myself that I was there, actually in Rome, with all that magnificent history around me. It was special, as Bruce would say.

I bought the cassette.

I may have listened to it once or twice when I got back but it sounded different in Aussie suburbia. For a start there were no piazzas to go and sit in; no surround sound. The cassette got pushed to the back of the record cabinet and life moved on.

As I’m writing this piece I dragged the cassette out and played it on my one and only device that will still play these antiquities. Yes, the memory of those nights in the piazza did return but they are oh so vague now. I do recall our joy in just being there and soaking up the atmosphere but I don’t recall the band, or Mario.

From 1979 to 2010, I visited Fiji for holidays seven times. I love the Fijian people; their friendliness, silly humour and their relaxed lifestyle are very endearing qualities. Like most people of the South Pacific they are very musical. The staff of the resorts double as dancers and singers for the tourists’ entertainment each evening. And when the tourists are leaving, a group of staff members will sing them ‘off’ with the good-bye song, Isa Lei.

The song is soulful, melodic and a little melancholy and it always tugs at my heart-strings. My Fijian holidays with my two friends have been the most relaxing I’ve ever known. Days of snorkeling, eating, drinking, sleeping and not much else. But to hear Isa Lei means the dream holiday is over for someone and eventually it’s over for us.

Over the years, my two travelling companions and I, have taken to singing our own versions of Isa Lei; we do the harmonies, the parts and sing the Fijian words we think we hear. However, I don’t think we’ve got past the first chorus before we’ve dissolved into fits of laughter. A few sung words from one of us on the plane home is enough to crack us up again. We can’t quite sing it like the Fijians. So, to remember it…

I bought the cassette.

This music definitely needs the accompaniment of pristine beaches, swaying palms, twinkling blue water and the smell of a lovo cooking. Not, unfortunately, the description of my pocket-size, drought affected courtyard. Consequently, the cassette disappeared into the recesses of the record cabinet along with Mario.

Anyway, back to Ireland.

My solo trip to Ireland was mainly to see the country of my forebears (12 out of my 16 great great grandparents were born there) and if I was lucky, I was going to walk on their land and if I was extra lucky, I was going to meet some distant relatives.

With good fortune and a bit of planning I managed all three…but more of that later….

The band I’d stumbled across in Grafton St was keywest. Their sound was distinctly U2ish. I joined the large circle of admiring fans, casual shoppers, wandering tourists and listened.  The music was lively and the musicians were enthusiastic, especially the drummer. I found myself getting caught up in the whole atmosphere; the perfect weather, the joy of happenstance, the joy, just the joy. I was pinching myself again. I felt so lucky to be in good health and just to be there.

So, I bought the CD.

I think I’ve played it twice.

Fortunately, my camera did a pretty good job of recording a ‘glimpse’ of the band which would have been enough to capture the moment but when the herd started buying the CD I couldn’t resist and I followed the herd.

Just click on the arrow in the middle to hear and see Keywest play:

Of course it’s not just the moment in which you hear the music it’s also about what’s gone on that day, the days before, the hour before, how you feel, how you feel in the space. You’re on holidays. Everything’s new. There are those moments you want to capture, stop them and hold them forever.

I’m sure I’ll get caught up in ‘moments’ again on another holiday and I’ll buy the CDs and other momentos that will remind me of being there. It’s almost like proving to yourself as the years go by that, yes, you were there, it really did happen.

Have you had a similar experience?

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11 Responses to Sights and Sounds of Ireland Part 1

  1. Pauline King says:

    We were in Grafton Street in Sept 2013 when Temple Bar was awash with blue and yellow Swedes in Viking garb – Sweden was playing Ireland in the soccer World Cup. They were very energetic supporters!

  2. Heather says:

    for me it is a CD of some buskers in downtown Madrid. you have prompted me to try to search it out and risk playing it – might disturb the memory though. also as I recall, I had my hand soundly planted on my bag while watching that street performance – there were pickpockets everywhere!

    • Marg says:

      Wow. Perfect venue for pickpockets isn’t it Het-everyone’s off guard and ripe for the picking. It will be interesting to see how you feel when you play the CD. Thanks for the comment x

  3. Rosemary says:

    I can see the cover of The Sounds of Nova Scotia CD as I am replying to your post Marg and yes, in the bowels of our stereo cabinet is a CD with Isa Lei on it. A memorable song but not such a memorable CD. I like to collect musical souvenirs because they give me a tangible connection to places visited. It is when someone gives you a CD from their travels that it gets a bit tricky!

    Back to Nova Scotia. This CD has another layer to it as Dad had always spoken about Halifax where his British merchant naval ship, the Chertsey docked to reload vital supplies to take back to Britain during World War ll. He re-visited a couple of times in later years and I saw many photos. Little did I know that one day I would walk on the same wharf as Dad did back in the 1940s or visit other places he spoke fondly of such as Peggy’s Cove. So, this holiday CD contains those stories when I listen to it. Rosemary x

    • Marg says:

      Yes! The CD from well meaning travelling friends. I think that could safely go to the op-shop-give it a couple of years though…just in case. Thanks Rosemary for the details about your Dad’s connection with Canada. I just thought he liked the place as a travel destination but now I can see there was a lot more behind his trips there. Music is a great way of connecting with memory isn’t it? I admire the work of music therapists in aged care and palliative care, taking people to ‘special’ places in their minds. Thanks again Rosemary for the comment x

  4. Howard says:

    Enjoying your writing Margaret. Recapturing that moment through song/picture/sight/smell is so pleasant and allows me to enjoy an trip/experience long after its finished.

  5. Geoff says:

    Spur-of-the-moment CD purchases aren’t just confined to holidays in exotic places either. I’ve even fallen for it on business trips, and some very un-exotic locations!

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