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Title: Lilting  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Reel (dance), Jig, Tin whistle, Music of Ireland, Ceol Meadhonach
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Lilting is a form of traditional singing common in the Gaelic speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland. It goes under many names, and is sometimes referred to as mouth music, diddling, jigging, chin music or cheek music, puirt a beul in Scottish Gaelic, Canterach, or portaireacht bhéil (port a'bhéil, "mouth-singing") in Irish Gaelic. It in some ways resembles scat singing.


Lilting often accompanied dancing.[1] Features such as rhythm and tone dominate in lilting. The lyrics thus are often meaningless or nonsensical. Because of this, translations from Gaelic often do not exist.


The origins of lilting are unclear. It might have resulted in part from the unavailability of instruments, whether because they were seen as too expensive or were banned. However peasant music in other Indo-European cultures was subject to similar constraints, and lilting did not develop.

Notable lilters

{many of the above are illustrated on a CD, Celtic Mouth Music, ASIN (1999)}

Lilting in popular culture

  • In the 1975 song "Kashmir" by the British rock band Led Zeppelin, lead vocalist Robert Plant sings the lyrics "Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear / But not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear".

See also


  1. ^ Article on Gaelic puirt-a-beul, by Craig Cockburn

External links

  • Article on Gaelic puirt-a-beul (mouth music)
  • Seamus Fay, Cavan's lilter
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