ELVES IN AMER­ICA?

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Cramp­ton

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!

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