Concert: Kíla – Live at Vicar Street

I got my first Kíla album in the mid-1990s while I was going to university in Halifax, Canada. It was a big deal.

Lemme give you some background: my folks declared bankruptcy the week that I shipped off to school. The financial help I assumed would be there for me, wasn't. I watched, near penniless, as my fellows drank themselves into oblivion and got to know one another. I couldn't afford to participate. I couldn't afford the books from the extensive reading list I'd been given. The only thing that I had going for me was that I'd used my student loan to pay for a meal plan as part of my first semester's tuition. I quickly found the work I needed to get by, teaching music, doing audio/visual duty for the classes I was attending, rattling locks as a security guard and playing in a bar band to make ends meet. I was exhausted much of the time.

There wasn't a lot of room in my life for joy back then.

Around the middle of the school year, I received a letter from my mother. It explained that the she'd come by a coupon, good for $25 at HMV–a Canadian and British music store franchise. The thought of buying new music–new anything, really–at the time, didn't have a place in my head, given how hard it was to come by books or cover my day-to-day expenses. I've never listened to a lot of popular music. My tastes lean towards OG punk and Irish/Scots traditional music. HMV's offerings, in these areas, was limited. Thumbing through CDs in the store's tiny world music section, I came across Kíla for the first time. I'd never heard of them, but the name of the album I had in my hands, Tóg É Go Bog É, spoke to me. It translates, roughly, as 'take it easy.' I handed over my coupon and took the CD home with me.

It was like having happiness poured into my ears.

I'd stumbled on a group of musicians hellbent on breathing new meaning and life into the traditional music I'd grown up with. Their compositions were original. They sang in Irish–a language I so rarely, at the time, had a reason to use. Having their music fill my head made me feel like I was a part of something larger than myself. The problems that came from money and the stress of not having having any felt small in comparison to the enormity of culture, tradition and love that their music suggested.

Kíla's music has been a constant in my life, ever since.

I've not been fortunate enough to catch them in concert, yet. But this video of one of their shows from a few years back gives me an idea of what standing in the same room as them might be like.