Gaelic and LGBTQ equality singer Marcas Mac
Marcas Mac Releases Début Single, As Part Of National Library Of Scotland 1980s Commission
Marcas Mac is set to blast onto the commercial scene as a solo artist, bringing the Gaelic language to the pop music landscape whilst challenging listeners to consider just what Gaelic music is, or could be, in the first place.
The song – ‘Fichead ’s a h-Ochd’ – was commissioned by National Library of Scotland, with Creative Scotland funding, for their Revisit the Gaelic 1980s series, placing it firmly within current retro trends, with the synth-heavy sounds of the decade showcasing Marcas’ signature smoky vocal. With lyrics by Marcas, the Gaelic banger was co-written and produced by Lochaber-based music supremo Nick Turner and recorded at Watercolour Music during lockdown, observing strict social distancing guidelines. The doyenne of Gaelic song Mary Ann Kennedy provides backing-vocals, rounding out the creative trio.
Situated within a larger multi-artform project, ‘Fichead ’s a h-Ochd’ is the flagship offering from Marcas’ ground-breaking COR project, which the commission spawned. The lyrics are inspired by never-before-heard testimony, gathered from sources including Kenna Campbell OBE, Mary Ann Kennedy, The Scottish Book Trust’s Rosemary Ward and Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s Jim Whannel, who related experiences of being part of Scotland’s then Civil Rights movements - one seeking to establish Gaelic-medium Education and the other to remove Section 28. The numerical title of the track – fichead ’s a h-ochd is twenty-eight in Gaelic – references the latter, but whilst the retro-yet-contemporary vibe of the track shirks the ‘trad’ moniker, it remains part of a wider-Gaelic song tradition.
“If one song ever summed up the fate of Gaelic within the education system it is, without doubt, Runrig’s ‘Fichead Bliadhna’, says Marcas, referencing the 1979 hit from their Highland Connection album. “’Fichead ’s a h-Ochd’ picks up that narrative, but instead of recounting the experience of a curriculum devoid of Gaelic, here we find ourselves a few years down the line as dawn breaks on the newly-established Gaelic-medium education in Glasgow and Inverness.” So, the song fills a void in the folklore, with many young Gaelic singers now having benefitted from the opportunities those campaigners sought to endow them with. As the key-change shifts, the young man at the centre of the song’s story looks back on his first day at school, now aged twenty-eight, considering how far Scotland has come in terms of Gaelic and LGBTQ equality.
The song is housed on a brand-new digital platform, which includes testimony, literary references and film and television clips of the era, alongside brand-new poetic works by Marcas, some of which he has brought to life through film. “Some of the filmpoems evoke the 1980s and use found footage to illustrate them,” he explains. “Others are more reflective of these contributions to Scottish public life in recognising their legacy, that which we benefit from in contemporary Scotland.”
“The COR project is of a very high calibre,” says Graeme Hawley of the NLS, who selected Marcas for the commission. “I love the look and feel – Marcas has absolutely nailed the aesthetics. I think it will be of huge interest to Gaelic speakers.”
The song received its first play on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal’s Feasgar on its 28th October commercial release date and was released to radio after that initial spin. It has received airplay across Scotland including features on Mearns FM, Skye FM, Celtic Music Radio. The digital download can be purchased on all the usual online platforms, including iTunes, Amazon and Pandora.
The date linking to the title is auspicious, without doubt, with Marcas, like his father, born on the 28th of his birth-month and brought up in a house with that number.