The Spell of Na h-Oganaich

The Oban Times - - LEISURE -

A TRIP to Ikea is sel­dom an ex­pe­ri­ence I find in­vig­o­rat­ing.

Last Friday I emerged from an hour-long zomb­i­fy­ing search through the drudgery of do­mes­tic dull­ness like a man bro­ken by life.

I had ev­ery­thing that I re­quired and a few use­less items I pur­chased un­der the mind-numb­ing spell of the Ikea fairies. I pushed my trol­ley out into the world with as much en­thu­si­asm for life as a de­pressed jel­ly­fish. I was in such a daze that it took me a few sec­onds to recog­nise the en­er­getic smil­ing pres­ence of ra­di­at­ing beauty ap­proach­ing me.

Mar­garet MacLeod of Na h- Oganaich it was and what a woman to meet to im­me­di­ately make life amaz­ing again!

Na h- Oganaich (The Young Ones) was a band be­fore its time and even now, lis­ten­ing to their old record­ings is a re­fresh­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Con­sist­ing of Mar­garet, her brother Don­nie (now also of Do­ta­man fame) and Noel Eadie, this band ar­rived on the scene in 1971 and set a new bar for the per­for­mance and ar­range­ment of Gaelic mu­sic. The sound they pro­duced was in­cred­i­bly rich and strong for such a small line-up and the har­monies of the three voices with sim­ple guitar back­ing was mes­meris­ing.

One of the strong­est at­tributes of the band was their choice of ma­te­rial, and specif­i­cally the choice of com­poser whose songs they made the main­stay of their reper­toire.

Murdo MacFar­lane – Bàrd Mheal­a­bost – was a song­writer of ge­nius and his lyrics and melodies were per­fectly suited to this young bright and charis­matic band. Re­cently I watched the re­peat of a doc­u­men­tary on BBC Alba about Murdo MacFar­lane. Na h- Oganaich were fea­tured heav­ily in it and some fan­tas­tic footage of them per­form­ing was shown. The mar­riage of Na h-Oganaich and Murdo MacFar­lane’s songs was a syn­er­gis­tic union of per­fec­tion, with lyrics, melody, ar­range­ment and per­for­mance com­bin­ing to cre­ate magic.

For a song­writer, one of the most grat­i­fy­ing experiences is to hear one’s songs be­ing per­formed. For Murdo MacFar­lane, lis­ten­ing to Na h- Oganaich sing his songs and bring them alive to huge au­di­ences must have been truly eu­phoric. In the doc­u­men­tary, it was said that the rise of Na h- Oganaich gave the bard a new lease of life.

Na h- Oganaich had a stage pres­ence that gave them the aura of pop stars. With film­star good looks, ef­fort­less con­fi­dence in per­for­mance, mag­i­cal sound and out­stand­ing songs, they had ev­ery­thing that a band strives for. It is no ac­ci­dent that they stand out still as one of the great­est and most pop­u­lar bands in tra­di­tional mu­sic.

Forty-five years since first hitting the stage, they still re-form oc­ca­sion­ally to bring de­light to fans. Fe­bru­ary 2017 in Glas­gow will be their next per­for­mance and, al­though they are no longer 'òg' their mu­sic still soars and they can still make magic.

For any­one ever suf­fer­ing from the mind-numb­ing spell of Ikea, what you need as a rem­edy is the mind-lift­ing spell of Mar­garet MacLeod and Na h- Oganaich.

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