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Reasons Why the Oral Song Tradition Remained Stronger for Longer Within the Travelling Community.

  • Date Submitted: 04/30/2013 04:41 AM
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B. Campbell

Traditional and Popular Music Assignment 2012

Question: Identify the reasons why the oral song tradition remained stronger for longer within the Travelling Community, and discuss the reasons for the eventual decline of the oral tradition in the Travelling community.   In your answer, refer to the song collecting initiatives made by Tom Munnelly in Ireland since the seventies.



In a society where we are bombarded by various forms of mass media, it is inevitable that traditions of every ilk will be effected in some way. The speed at which the technological world is changing, is so fast that it’s easy to forget our history, our roots, our traditions.

Historically, Travellers played a role as bearers of culture[1] and are distinguished by a rich storytelling and musical heritage. In a time when Irish music was outlawed by the English and ‘all musical instruments savouring of “popery” were ruthlessly destroyed’[2], the Travelling Community played an important part in keeping the music alive when traveling from place to place. With craftsmen capable of repairing instruments broken by soldiers, the music played on.

Up until the seventies, the oral song tradition remained stronger for longer within the Travelling Community. There are many reasons why this is so. As an ethnic minority and close-knit community the Travellers would have remained true to their traditions and still do today.


Through the time spent talking with Travellers, we gained insight into the practice of traditional singing and to the significance that the songs had within the traveling community, a significance that appeared to go beyond the usually supposed one of just entertainment.[3]

The strong sense of family loyalty and duty within the Community perhaps would have placed importance on the passing down of the songs of relations who were deceased, and the performance/telling of the stories was a way to remember them. For a race that were/are discriminated...

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