As a storyteller and artist determined to keep Scottish folk traditions alive, much of Louis Rive’s recent article resonated with me. Notably because I had just finished a collaboration with the Scottish rapper 5’th Element. We thought we would respond to Louis’ rallying cry for the continuation of Scottish folk traditions into rap and traditional storytelling.
Stories from the Bards’ Past – Eileen Budd
In a few months my book Ossian Warrior Poet will be published. This is a new illustrated edition of The Poems of Ossian, a book of poetic stories from the 3rd century AD in Scotland, collected by James Macpherson in the 18th century. The stories tell the tales of Fingal, a warrior king, and his son, Ossian, a warrior and bard, the storyteller, chronicler of his family. The book is full of battles between the Caledonians, Picts, Scandinavians and Romans.
I grew up in Perthshire listening to local folklore tales and when I read the Ossian stories they threw gasoline on my already fiery imagination. The images they created in my mind of brave warriors fighting in the hills are as clear to me today as they were then.
Yet as I got older I realized that very few people knew the stories and so 3 years ago I felt compelled to write a new edition, one with contemporary illustrations and, most importantly, maps of the real world, because many Ossian stories can be based on a specific location. Our landscape is rich in folklore and Ossian stories have been part of this landscape for centuries.
As I researched these maps, I was reminded more and more of this rich vein of folklore, history and legend buried in our hills. I started recording forgotten pieces of history and folk tales that gave rise to place names so that my partner and son could learn them. Then I started sharing them on Instagram and YouTube.
These stories are an integral part of our heritage, familiarity with your own legends, culture and history influences your self-esteem and confidence in your identity. The goods, heirlooms, histories and records of the lineage are preserved with great care from generation to generation in wealthy families. However, the encouragement, or sometimes the opportunity, for ordinary people to do the same is not there, and there is relatively little material on the history of ordinary people.
This is one of the reasons why sharing the folklore of our past is so important. In folklore, there are strands of history, the history of peoples. What was important to us, how we lived, what we ate, what we feared, what we liked and who we are all enmeshed in the stories of Kelpies and Urisks and this is often the only recording that we have ordinary people’s lives.
Our stories are worth telling because they are the roadmaps of where we came from and the starting point for the next generation.
Stories of Bards Present – William Bell
I’m a producer, rapper and beatboxer from Clydebank. On stage, my name is 5’th Element as part of a rap trio of the same name. Will grew up listening to a lot of music from folk giants like; Les Corries and Wolfstone.
Throughout the 90s I would go to my family’s homes where my cousins listened to Cypress Hill, Nwa, Snoop Dogg, Funkdoobiest, House Of Pain, Tupac and Biggie. The lyrics of these songs really struck me. The stories they told about the places they grew up were geographically thousands of miles away, but I heard and felt the similarities between their experience and mine. These are songs that really spoke to me and made me think
“I want to do that.”
Not imitating American rap, however, talking about my own life at Clydebank.
When I started I came up with the name 5’th Element because I saw beat boxing as the 5’th element of hip hop alongside MC’ing, DJ’ing, Graffiti & Breakdancing, although these days here the 5’th Element is considered knowledge.
I had grown up with my dad listening to a lot of folk music like; Les Corries and Wolfstone. There are similarities between folk hip hop music, such as the emphasis the two genres place on poetic lyrical flow coupled with almost tribal drum beats.
There is also a similarity to the expression of experience. The main rule of hip hop is to maintain authenticity, to keep it real, so the lyrics we write as a group are what’s real to us individually, whether it’s things we’ve seen, what we’ve been through. in our past; our political views; or how much our country means to us. It is about what is real and true to us, just as it was in traditional folk music.
There is nothing that I enjoy more than playing live; seeing people enjoying our music, hearing our stories. Our songlists are usually a selection of upcoming songs with a few of our older ones that we’ve noticed, which gets the crowd moving. Much like a storyteller reacting to and with a live audience, responding to his energy to bring words to life.
The Scottish rap scene these days is huge. While there are more Drill artists coming out, there are some amazing MCs who stay true to true hip hop and create amazing poetic music, telling their stories from here and now.
Rap is a possible future for Scottish storytelling and folk music. Hip hop is the best-selling musical genre in the world and to be a part of this platform, to share our experiences, as poets and songwriters of the past have done, is a blessing.
Our stories are still being written.
5th element are working on a new album, ‘A New Dawn’ and a new EP ‘Honest Rap’ by RC Jnr. All their music can be found on Bandcamp & YouTube here: https://linktr.ee/5thElement
that of Eileen Budd Illustrated Ossian Warrior Poet will appear this year. You can find more information about it and even pre-order a copy on the publisher’s website here: https://wideopensea.co.uk/ossian/ and you can find his folklore on instagram: @eileenbudd