Monday, 2 January 2017

Murder Ballad Monday- The Twa Sisters

Hello and welcome to part six of Murder Ballad Monday.
Image result for malinky far better days
Today I want to share a version of Child Ballad 10 by a group called Malinky. They are a Scottish folk band specialising in Scottish songs and were formed in 1998. Their version entitled The Twa Sisters is from their 2015 CD Far Better Days. This one is very unusual because it really is written in Scottish dialect (much like a non anglicised version of the one I read in 1981). But what makes this the most unusual is this:
According to the CD booklet:
"This is a Swedish version of the weel-kent ballad which Steve Byrne translated into Scots. We first heard this during a tour of Sweden in 2003 when we were introduced to the music of the band Folk och Rackare, as Malinky had been advertised as "the Scottish Folk & Rackare" - namely a band which took old traditional ballads and made them anew. We were delighted to perform a duet Swedish/Scots version with the band Ranarim at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow in 2007. The harp metaphor is often found as a fiddle in Scottish versions."

So here we have our first Scandinavian version of the ballad, but it is sung in Scots!

Here you can listen to Malinky singing a version of this ballad. I have provided the lyrics at the bottom in case you want to follow along. I love that the refrain refers to the "cold, cold weather" because that is so Scottish!  Also, this is the only version I know where the fair sister not perfect. In other versions, the dark sister is the evil one and the fair one is blameless. In this version, the fair one taunts the dark one and implies she is ugly, so you kind of support the dark sister for pushing her into the sea because the fair sister was a bitch.

So here is how it breaks down compared to other versions:

Name of ballad: The Twa Sisters
Performed by: Malinky
Refrain:                                                                                                                                                      Blaws a cald cald weather ower the faim
Number of sisters: two
Where did they live: on the “white sea strand”
Appearance described as: ones was bright as the brightest sun, the other black as the blackest coal. The fairer ones taunts the darker one saying that she will never be as milk white as herself.
Sweetheart: bonniest leman (sweetheart) Does this imply she had more than one?
Excuse to go to the water: none given
Body of water: sea
Does it contain the line “Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam”: no
Miller and child: no
Mistaken for: no
Described in death: n/a
Who finds her on the bank: harper
Instrument she becomes: harp
Body parts used: breist bane, gowden hair, fingers sma (breastbone, golden hair, fingers small)
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: “rang wi a voice tae melt stane” (rang with a voice to melt stone)
Do the strings sing individually: no
What does the instrument sing:  This bride she has taen ma fairest leman                              
Is the sister punished: she was “burned intae ashes and she deed” (burned at the stake?)

Here are the lyrics so you can follow along if you wish. I have eliminated the refrain so it won't be so long.
A fermer he bade on the white sea strand
Blaws a cald cald weather ower the faim
And twa fine dochters had this man
Blaws a cald cald weather ower the faim

The ane wis bricht as the clearest sun
The ither she wis black as the blackest coal

We twa maun ging wash in the watter noo
So I micht mak masel sae milkwhite as you

Gin ye wash as the nicht and the leelang day
Ye'll ne'er mak yersel sae milkwhite as me

Syne they baith stood on the white sea strand
So stotted the black ane her sister aff the sand

Oh sister, oh sister help me tae land
An ah'll gie tae you ma bonniest leman

It's weel Ah'll hae yer fair leman
But nae mair upon this green earth ye'll gang

There bade a harper on the strand
He spied in the water a deid body swam

The harper he's brocht her body fair
He's made fae her breist bane a harp sae rare

The harper he's taen her gowden hair
Harpin strings he's made frae her
The harper he's taen her fingers sma
He made the harp pegs frae them sa
He's pit them tae her white breist bane
The harp it rang wi a voice tae melt stane

He's taen the harp tae the merriage fayre
The bride she danced wi a gowd band in her hair

Twa blaws up on the gowd harp rang
This bride she has taen ma fairest leman

On Sunday she sat on the bride stool reid
On Monday she wis burned intae ashes and she deed

So, that's it for version six of The Twa Sisters. Stay tuned next Monday for version seven! 

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