Craic Agus Ceol!
The caption caught my eye immediately. Never mind the fact that the tape contained songs by The Chieftains, Christy Henessy, Sinéad Lohan and Christy Moore amongst other artists; it was those three words that made my eyebrows hug each other for a fleeting instant.
The winter of '96 turned out to be a pretty good one for me. My then girlfriend, now wife, came to stay with my family and me in my flat in Havana for a fortnight and we all got on like a house on fire. I had just attended the Havana's Latin American Film Festival where I had seen a plethora of good movies and as if that wasn't enough the temperature in the Cuban capital was doing exactly what it was supposed to deliver at this time of the year: transforming the morning air into a chilly wind (that the thermometres then shot up to 25-26 Celsius by midday is information that we had better leave aside). Knowing that I was very keen on music and aware of my penchant for Luke Kelly's work, one of my wife's housemates back in the UK, an Irish woman, had made a tape for me together with her (also Irish) sister. The resulting record was riveting to say the least and I remember playing the cassette on a loop on my old battered Walkman, a gift from a French hardcore socialist fellow (nope, neither do I) who had come to visit the University Folkloric Dance Ensemble with which I used to perform in those days.
But it was the cryptic title splayed across the tape's label that puzzled me. Craic Agus Ceol? What could that possibly mean?
The answer arrived unexpectedly some time later when I began to work at a travel agency here in the UK. One of my colleagues was Irish and one day as we were about to break up for Christmas, he said: 'So, what's the craic, mate?' This time I did not let the opportunity slip away and asked D what the word meant. D smiled and exclaimed: 'The craic? The craic's the craic, mate! Sorry, too difficult to explain. It's a feeling that everything's fine, that you're having a good time. That's the craic'.
I would be stating the obvious if I said that I was left even more confused after his enthusiastic reply. Luckily I found (almost) an answer when I spoke to another Irish person.
The word 'craic' (pronounced 'crack') is of English origin (yup, so did I!) and it is used to convey a sense of fun. When utilised with 'agus ceol' it refers to Irish nightlife, so fun and music, there you have it.
Just like my post about the Portuguese word 'saudade' a couple of months ago showed, 'craic' is another of those words that carries the meaning within, rather than externally. And since this term is so warm and tender, at least to me, it is better to leave you tonight with an example of what I think it is good 'craic'. So, enjoy the clip everyone.