The Spell of Na h-Oganaich
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.