Puirt a Beul (mouth music)


Puirt a beul , literally "tunes from a mouth" is a traditional form of song native to Scotland; Ireland; and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The Scottish Gaelic for such a tune is port a beul: "a tune from a mouth—specifically a cheerful tune—which in the plural becomes puirt à beul".

Usually, the genre involves a single performer singing lighthearted, often bawdy lyrics, although these are sometimes replaced with meaningless vocables.

In puirt a beul, the rhythm and sound of the song often have more importance than the depth or even sense of the lyrics. Puirt a beul in this way resembles other song forms like scat singing. Normally, puirt are sung to a 4/4 or 6/8 beat. Performances today may highlight the vocal dexterity by one or two singers, although four-person performances are sometimes made at mods.


This is the English translation to the Gaelic words which makes the point about the words not being deep or very important to the point of the actual song which is making music with the mouth as an insturment.

Yellow-haired John's old woman would reel To William's old woman And when Anna took off her mutch John Curry had to go away Bring Allan over to me, to me, to me Bring Allan over to me, He would set the floor Finlay won't go to Eigg Although he's not married yet Finlay won't go to Eigg To Eigg Finlay won't go The girl has red hair The girl has yellow-red hair The girl has red hair Just like her mother.

All the sheep have milk And the one with the crooked horn has a gallon She has an udder as big as a milk cow's And it's as slippery as butter The old woman would set The old woman would reel The old woman would set to the bag Yellow-haired William's old woman would set To the company that had gone The old woman of the old women would reel To the old woman of the town of old women And the old woman of Harris would set to the old woman who had gone