Artist Profiles: Donnie Munro
Donnie Munro from Uig on the Isle of Skye was frontman for Runrig during the height of the Scottish band’s popularity from 1974 until 1997 when with the UK general election looming he left the band to pursue a career in politics.
Munro’s prominence during that period accorded him a very special place in Scottish life and for many his voice became synonymous with a sense of Scotland itself. Similarly throughout Europe hundreds of thousands of music fans made that powerful association.
The singer who also studied and taught art and was a presenter for spells on Scot FM and BBC Radio Scotland returned to recording in 1999 and released his first solo album On the West Side in 2000.
Since his departure from Runrig the singer has been deeply involved in the development of his native Gaelic language and culture through his work with Sabhal Mor Ostaig the international centre on Skye and also in being able to develop his own work as a singer/songwriter something which he felt unable to concentrate on during his Runrig days. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t writing at that time but more that it was basically a case of ‘horses for courses’ and I saw my role then very much as the singer and front-man trying always to get these themes ideas and images across with a passion and in a way that at best makes the audience and performance one and the same This has always been the great stimulus for me of live performance just that it’s a really human and very privileged place to be. That has stayed with me throughout and remains the stimulus no matter how large or how small the setting.”
Donnie got a band together and they went off and played live again to the fans long starved of his unique voice. The success of these shows encouraged the band to record two live performances at Portree and Ayr and used the material to release the second album from Donnie Munro – simply called Donnie Munro. More tours in Scotland and Europe followed over the years as did a further batch of albums including Gaelic Heart (2002) which included traditional Gaelic songs from Skye.
In 2006 Donnie Munro released Heart of America – Across the Great Divide on Scottish based Greentrax Recordings (DTRAX 291). Munro signed to the label late in 2005. The singer said “It is realty great for me to present this new album through a company which has played such a major part in supporting and developing the Scottish music scene and particularly pleasing to do so as they celebrate their 2th year in business.”
The release of Heart of America and his association with Greentrax was another marker on the singers journey and one which he is clearly passionate about. “Getting into the studio to record new songs is really such a privilege and particularly where you find yourself surrounded by so many great players I approached this album in a very direct way with the songs at the centre of everything and everything being performed as live simply and directly In addition to the guys in the band who are all fantastic musicians I was lucky to have some great guests come in on the sessions and also to work on a couple of collaborations one with my long time friend musician and composer Blair Douglas on a song he had written in celebration of the links between Skye and Prince Edward Island and one with young talented guitarist Richard Macintyre from the band Stereoglo; fiddle player Duncan Chisholm of Wolfstone also makes a welcome appearance on the recording; along with the sensational Saxophonist Eraser Fifield; and the great new vocal talent Viv Scotston.”
The album was described as broadly thematic and centered on some of the broad themes of migration and movement emerging from the title track ‘Heart of America’. This song was written following a journey across the north eastern States of the US with his wife and two youngest children at the height of the Iraq War and an earlier visit to Ellis Island immigrant reception centre. Munro said “I was deeply moved by the whole idea of migration displacement travel hardship and opportunity and the very contradictory nature of the images America has presented throughout its history – this all tied in to themes and ideas of which many are very much a part of the social history of my own people in the Highlands and Islands and so it all became a part of a broad feel. As with many of my songs some are very firmly rooted in images and influences of childhood and the physical spaces we occupied and shared with people whose ideas and attitudes helped form us.”
Donnie continues to record and perform and has served as Development Director for the Gaelic-language college Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.