To my surprise, the Brittany region of western France not only has wonderful Celtic acoustic guitar music, but a very long and colorful history that is connected to the language, music and culture of the Celtic lands. To have a time machine and travel back to hear the pre-Chrisian bards singing, playing and dancing in celebration of the seasons would be a delightful experience.
As with many minority cultures, the Celtic traditions of Brittany have been suppressed by the dominant forces in control: namely the Catholic church and France itself. Fortunately, the revival of traditional music the world over has caused a resurgence of the wonderful music of Celtic Brittany.
Learning to play Irish guitar is a bit challenging for the beginner, though it need not be. I say Irish, but really mean any of the Celtic regions because they are so intertwined. The problem is usually finding somebody to show you how! Nowadays, with online guitar lessons you can find sites or individuals willing and able to give lessons. Personally, I have found jam sessions to be extremely helpful in learning this style of playing.
Here is a good example of beautiful music sung by Arany Zoltán. As might be expected, there exists a strong longing for independence and freedom of expression among the people of Brittany. Many songs are modal or a mix of major and minor keys, making for the haunting sound so common in Scottish and Irish music as well.
A more produced sound of reworked traditional melodies such as this fine compilation, could just as easilyhave been done in Scotland as in France. Jigs and reels seem to travel boundaries and infect the players, dancers and listeners with toe tapping, heart string pulling melodies that find their way into your soul to stay.
Alan Stivell, the Breton harper, is often credited with bringing Breton traditional music out of the shadows and onto the world stage. His father managed to recreate a medieval Irish harp for his young son to learn on and soon Alan was amazing everyone with his playing. Ironically, some of his first recordings were marketed as Irish music; but soon the album “Zoom” was bringing this music to the world.
Happily, the resurgence of Celtic music around the world is here to stay! It is wonderful to play alone or in a group and provided a lifetime of challenge for any musician. The possibilities for improvisation are limitless and the rhythms are interesting to keep a guitarist engaged for hours.