Mera Royle is a harpist from the Isle of Man, currently studying at Newcastle University. Growing up on an island with a strong cultural identity helped her develop a passion for music and a love of sharing it with other people!
She is currently taking part in a unique project called Neear Nesañ bringing together musicians from Brittany and the Isle of Man. Breizh Amerika sat down with Mera to learn more about all things Manx and this ambitious project. To learn more about Neear Nesañ and support the musicians visit : NEEAR NESAÑ
Tell us about the Isle of Man and it’s music heritage?
The Isle of Man is a small Island in the middle of the Irish sea, between England and Ireland. It's full of amazing green valleys, beautiful rivers and surrounded by sea! I have been playing Manx music all my life and I love the culture here. At school, learning Manx music was really encouraged as well as other traditions, such as dancing, language and even baking – we were taught how to make traditional Manx foods such as a Bonnag, a fruitcake made from black treacle.
As an island, we value our traditions, and music plays a large role in that. Festivals such as Shennaghys Jiu and Yn Chrunnaight celebrate our music and encourage people to learn and join in and it's an important communal activity. I've grown up around lots of incredible Manx music bands, such as Mec Lir and Barrule, which have been huge inspirations for me and helped influence my own playing.
What did you know about Breton music before joining this project and what has surprised you the most?
When I was at school, we were taught a couple of traditional Breton tunes and I really enjoyed playing them. I first came to Brittany for the Lorient festival when I was 8 years old and I was mesmerised by the culture there and the vibrant musical sounds. It has been amazing to be involved with Neear Nesañ as I've learned lots about Breton music, and how it shares lots of similarities with Manx music. It's been really interesting to connect the two cultures together to form a new musical style.
Why is it important to help grow links between Celtic nations?
I think collaborations between Celtic nations help to realise a shared identity. Whilst we are far apart geographically, we each have our own languages and traditions and I think forming relations with each other helps to celebrate that.
I've always felt that it's important to continue traditions and retain a sense of connection with where you come from, but finding ways for traditions to be kept alive and exciting is important too. A music collaboration project such as Neear Nesañ, where two celtic nations have come together to share ideas and create new music has allowed traditions to be continued in a new way. I feel really pleased to be a part of it. I have also been able to learn about a country which values their music and traditions in the same way our Island does, but also discover the unique and fascinating culture in Brittany and that has been really interesting for me.
is an organization established to create, facilitate, promote, and sponsor wide-ranging innovative and collaborative cultural and economic projects that strengthen and foster relations and cooperation between the United States of America and the region of Brittany, France.