ELVES IN AMERICA?
There are many mythological, literary and historical referances to the Fair Folk (known variously as the Tuatha de Danaan, Fay, Fae, Faery, Faerie, Fairy, Elves, what have you) leaving their homelands and vanishing “into the West”.
In Irish mythology the Tuatha de Danaan (“Children of the Goddess Danu”), went on Voyages, a group of stories about visits to the “Other World”, “westward across the sea”. (Historical fact: LONG before Columbus, the Irish and Breton Celts – like the Norse - knew about and were fishing the Newfoundland Banks and Grand Banks off Newfoundland and Greenland in the western sea.)
Probably the most well-known Elves to moderns, writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elves figure magnificently in both ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ books - and now movies. Tolkien’s Elves are extremely beautiful, magical, fearsome and deadly beings. Tolkien’s Elves departed Middle Earth on “white ships” for “the West across the seas”.
Modern SciFi / Military / Action author Larry Correia also has Elves (and Orcs, much more prominently!) in his ‘Monster Hunter, Inc.’ book series. Of course, Correia’s modern Elves aren’t exactly the High Elves of Tolkien – HIS Elves live in junky, run-down trailer parks in the South, and hide themselves from mundanes by being the ULTIMATE definition of ‘trailer trash’, and have nothing do do with Humans. But they DO retain just a tiny little bit of their magical abilities, however, even if they can’t and don’t use them very much.
Modern Fantasy writer Alex Bledso takes more of a middle approach to modern elves. Bledsoe’s Elves – called “Tufa” (a corruption of “Tuatha de Danaan”) - were transplanted to a valley in Appalachia (even before the arrival of the Asian forerunners of the Native Americans, let alone Europeans), banished there by the Queen of the Elves. The Tufa hide their magic from all outsiders, and just appear to be a small tribe of somewhat “too-closely-related” people to non-Tufa. Because of their magic, the Tufa normally CANNOT leave their valley, and do not usually act or react with humans, let alone marry or breed with them!
OK, you ask, Elves (by whatever name) are indeed cool, but what do Elves have to do with a column about music?
Well, I think there really MAY be a group of modern Elves – or their descendants - living in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee – MUSICAL Elves! Of course, they don’t CONFESS to ACTUALLY being Elves – although they DO call themselves “Tuatha Dea” (“Children of the Gods”), which they do admit is for “Tuatha de Danaan”.
At the Sherwood Forest Celtic Music Fest (McDade, Texas) last September, I spent a couple of days listening to and visiting with members of the family musical group Tuatha Dea. I admit, I did NOT actually SEE any pointed Elvish ears among the family - BUT, they all mostly have long hair and do wear hats a lot! I DID notice a lot of big smiles,
sparkling eyes and uncanny musical abilities!
And claims - or denials - of being Elves aside, this musical group Tuatha Dea is fantastic! Their music is way beyond lively, it reaches out and grabs you and MAKES you join in! You just cannot listen to them without wanting to seize a drum and start pounding away!
My friends know that I am no longer as expressive (read active) as I used to be back in my younger days. (In fact, if you go to YouTube and look up the video of Al Gore dancing the Macarena, he and I pretty much have the same dancing style and ability, now!)
At concerts, I often will actually lean back and close my eyes during a show, so I can experience the pure MUSIC deeper - without visual distractions.
But, I admit, during one of Tuatha Dea’s audience participation numbers at Sherwood, even I actually did take a drum, get up and drum and dance!
Tuatha Dea started from (and still maintains) the Tuatha Dea Drum Nation, a group that uses their drum circle for therapy and personal development and health. Their website says they use the energy of drumming to break down individual personal barriers, while promoting and developing self-expression and confidence, as well as fostering fellowship among circle members.
As far as Tuatha Dea’s music style, their website officially describes their music as “CELTIC TRIBAL GYPSY ROCK” – what more can I say?! It does have a definite Celtic basis – many of the songs are traditional or modern Irish or Scottish, and some are sung in Irish Gaelic. ‘Whiskey In the Jar’ is one of my favorites. They even do an outstanding – considering they don’t have any bagpipes! – rendition of ‘Scotland The Brave’.
Tuatha Dea furthermore have an astounding repertoire of covers of current and classic rock songs – done in their own special musical style: ‘Zombie (In Your Head)’ by The Cranberries’; ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane; ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ by The Rolling Stones; ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’; and ‘Tonight’, among others.
Tuatha Dea’s musicians are all members of the Mullikan clan or tribe (I think they’re too widespread to be just called a family), and band membership sometimes varies for any given show. At Sherwood, Danny (family Patriarch), Rebecca (his wife), Brandon (their son, married to), Nikki (daughter-in-law), Kathy (Rebecca’s sister, married to), Chris (brother-in-law), and Adam (like a son) were the band members on stage there.
Modern band instruments include electric guitars, bass and mandolin, and band members bewilderingly switch among instruments without seeming rhyme or reason (they say it’s just to keep the audience confused!) However, tribal drums, the American Native Flute, and the didgeridoo also prominently shape their music.
And given Tuatha Dea’s genesis in a drum circle, tribal drums and other percussion instruments are often given out to the crowd so they can participate! At Sherwood, they not only handed out drums, but even pulled audience members up on to the stage to dance and play with the band there!
Tuatha Dea currently have four CDs available – of course I have all four! They are available from Amazon or from the band’s official web site: http://www.tuathadea.net/the-band/
Oh, Alex Bledsoe actually wrote the band into his latest book about his Tufa, ‘Long Black Curl’, and the band’s latest album ‘Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae’, celebrates this thru three songs and videos written and filmed for his books: The Hum and the Shiver: https://youtu.be/6v18QkY2-1Q Wisp of a Thing: https://youtu.be/L_GKPFIHqY8 Long Black Curl: https://youtu.be/4R8HJYUXw4A
Once I read the books, I discovered just how closely the music videos portrayed the books! And if Tuatha Dae are in a book, then it
must be true, Tuatha Dea really might just be musical Elves! Go to one of their shows, listen to their CDs, make your OWN decision!