The Cartoons were in the back seat beside me on the A9 in 1998. Eiffel 65 supported our choir at the 1999 Royal National Mod. Olly Murs sunbathed with me in Gran Canaria in 2012. Bastille flew with me to Canada in April.
Music is the ultimate travel companion. It always knows how to capture your mood and how to speak to it. My first cassette player (with no rewind button), my Sony Walkman CD player and my iPod have been my constant partners in crime throughout my short travelling life.
But the score of my travels has not been solely provided by bands and beautiful lyrics. My soundtrack is made up of all types of music. The thumping beats from the thriving nightclubs in Albufeira, Portugal. The delicate, twinkling keys of the piano player in a rustic eatery in Krakow, Poland. The strains of tuneless attempts at karaoke at a bar in Pendleton, South Carolina. Music is not limited like the words on a postcard and can recall to mind memories which photos fail to.
It is also an anchor. Before Facebook and Twitter, before Facetime and Skype, music was keeping people connected to their home in a way that little else could. The great Gaelic poet and storyteller Murdo MacFarlane spent a time in Manitoba that he famously disliked. His well-known song “‘S Fhada Leum an Oidhche Gheamhraidh” was written about his feelings of longing for home and for the cèilidh’s he loved:
Chan ann a lùchairt mhòir nan cùirtear
Ach don bhothan thughaidh shùgrach
Teine mònach air an ùrlar
‘S luch mo rùin-sa cruinn a’ cèilidh
Ach càite nis a-nochd an tèid mi?
Chan eil cèilidh air a’ phrèiridh
‘S O chan fhaic mi ‘n àm dhomh èirigh
‘N airde ‘g èirigh ceò na mònach.
Music was central to any good cèilidh and you can almost feel MacFarlane straining to hear the dancing tunes of home over the flat, barren prairies. Of course it wasn’t just the music itself but what it symbolised – friends, family, neighbours and strangers coming together to share in something totally ordinary and inexplicably special.
This is what makes music so wonderful. It can both follow you and transport you at the drop of a hat. It elevates, invigorates, challenges and encourages. And I can’t think of a better companion to have as I continue wandering.