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Interview: Peia Luzzi on her Night of Song Tour and The Mythic Power of Ancient Music

Beloved and Peia jump on a spontaneous call in advance of her Oíche Na nAmhrán (pronounced “ee-ha na now-rahn”) Night Of Song Tour to dive into how human culture is woven by the kind of remembering that requires the body’s felt experience of the land itself.

“Singing really rose up out of storytelling, and it was the responsibility of the Bards to keep the history of the clans, to entertain, to settle disputes over land or parentage, or heritage. So they had to keep so many details of their clans committed to memory, and that would be done through song.” –Peia

Listen here:

Peia is just returning from extensive grant study in the western part of Ireland and will be bringing us the fruit of her learnings there: the gift of time travel – oral culture in the body of living song. From Gaelic Laments to Scottish Waulking songs and the ancient Laoi chants, Peia’s trio featuring Liron Meyuhas on percussion and Rob Taylor on double bass promises “nights of song” that will be intimate, resonant, and vast.

PEIA IN PORTLAND: Oíche Na nAmhrán “Night of Song” Tour

Friday, November 8, 2019

Historic Eliot Chapel 1011 SW 12th Ave.

All Ages! 8:30pm (doors 7:30pm)

Over the course of this conversation, Peia opens up about her personal connection with Irish music, where she was when she got the idea for this tour, why there’s no verb “to sing” in Irish, and how her recent work is like sand in the gears of cultural amnesia.

Peia on stage at Beloved with a rainbow

Melissa Robin Photography

After collecting songs from all over the world, Peia talks about why she is now exploring the music of ancient Ireland and Scotland. Hint: it involves her maternal line!

We unpack how exploring the ethnic pluralism that pre-dates and betrays current conceptions of whiteness through ancestral song study is a type of activism, and how it asks us settlers on Native lands in North America to remember our own troubled history of immigration and colonization.

She speaks of how Irish music has a long history of subversive narratives:

“Irish music has had activism that’s been incorporated for a very long time. There are a lot of songs that are coded for where to gather to worship, or why joining the British army was ill-advised.” –Peia


Peia explains the functions of several types of ancient songs, their respective origins, and she talks about a song – which, upon hearing it – caused her to pull over her car and weep on the side of the road under the weight of its beauty.

We end up considering the magical, mythic forces and elemental spirits of the land that also show up in these songs, along the lines of this quote by Martin Shaw:

“This is the weft and weave of story for me. The endless lyrical emerging of the earth’s tremendous thinking, and the humbling required to simply bear witness to it. And the extraordinary day, when for an hour or so you realize that you too are being witnessed.”

These songs pre-date even the Ogham script, an ancient Irish writing based on the magic of trees:

tattooed hands with ogham script

Ogham Script on the hands of “The Holy Wild” author Danielle Dulsky

Peia walks us through the way a sense of deep place is embedded in the language itself, a result of millennia of oral transmission evidenced by the popular Irish phrase about trust: “You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.”

We close by acknowledging the lineage of practitioners whose work lives on in Peia’s birdsong voice:

“I feel that every song that I’ve learned, there’s something of my teacher in the way that I sing it. And there’s certainly something of their teacher in the way that they sing it. So I’m just thinking of oral tradition in this way that’s a direct link or direct thread in a way that the written word cannot begin to approach.”


Peia’s Trio via @peiabird on Instagram


Teachers and others referenced:

Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

Ye Vagabons

Michael Steen’s Oíche Na nAmhrán Portland at T.C. O’Leary’s


Outro song: Irish Lament Bánchnoic Éireann Óigh

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