Swinside Stone Circle, Lake District, England

By Elizabeth Doyle

Lady Isadora — Before Christianity swept across Europe, Europeans had a different religion.  It varied tremendously from region to region, and even village to village, but generally, it was polytheistic, involved seasonal celebrations, and magical practices. Christianity was a new, beautiful and light-filled religion, but its followers didn’t behave well during the sweep across Europe. People who wanted to hold onto their current religion were put to death. Under the Inquisition, even people who were suspected of remaining loyal to the old religions were put to death. But the old religions were subtly absorbed and remembered in both Europe and in countries where Europeans later moved (Australia, United States, Canada etc.) The Irish Goddess Brigid became the Christian Saint Brigid. The Winter Solstice holiday became Christmas.  Samhain became Halloween.  Beltaine became Easter.  And gradually, as religious tolerance has become an important value of western culture (Not fully realized, but definitely idealized) a small number of people out there returned to Europe’s older religious roots. This return shows up in music, as well. This is Lady Isadora, a pioneer in the genre of early European religious music. I’m sorry I can’t find a video of her performing live. This one has just a stationary photo with her song:  Click here.

Street in Bogota

Claudia Gomez – This singer always makes me feel like I’m in Colombia. And it’s a country I’ve never been to!  But it’s just the atmosphere of her music.  I can smell it, I can taste it; I’m sure I’m there, growing up with her in urban Medellin. She does sophisticated, original arrangements, based on the traditional sounds and folklore of her nation. Listening to her on the radio just transports you to a rainy street, full of children and the smells of cooking.  Her music has such a smooth sound, that it’s easy to underestimate the creativity that goes into it.  But the sounds are very complex. Apparently, she grew up in a very musical family because here she is singing with her mother; click here.

Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel – He was a Belgian who lived in both Belgium and France. He smoked four packs a day, rarely slept, and had something of an addiction to meeting new women.  (Sadly, he died very young from that lifestyle.)  But what I really like about him is that his songs (which he writes himself) have a common theme of being so very disappointed about life. There’s almost an anger in him when he sings, an unbearable frustration that life and the world are just not what he had hoped they were going to be.  Not what he believed they could be. As though he just can’t wait to get out of here.  I see him as an awkward man, not as handsome as he may wish, uncomfortable in front of crowds, yet he has something he wants to say to them.  Stories he wants to tell.  He really is an acquired taste, because the French music scene at the time (1950s and early 1960s) had a real cabaret feel that looks outdated to us now. But his songs can stand up to a very close listening, and the more you hear, the more you may appreciate this quirky artist. Click here.

Top photo: Swinside Stone Circle / Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Swinside_(p4160146).jpg

Second photo: william.neuheisel   /  Wikimedia Commons  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Street_in_Bogota.jpg  / Street in historic District of Bogota

Third photo: Wikmedia Commons /   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jacques_Brel_1955.jpg