Possibly the earliest known cave-inspired song that has been recorded is the Spanish song, La Cueva de Salamanca, written in the medieval troubadour style by Miguel de Cervantes (the author of Don Quixote) in 1615 and recorded by the Grupo de Teatro “El Corral” in the early 1960s.
Of all the instruments down through the ages, outside of the percussion instruments, the flute is probably the oldest instrument. A cave bear bone flute dating to 43,000 BP was found in 1995 in a Slovene cave. (Anon. 2011) Neanderthal man and later Cro-Magnon Man all used bone flutes. The flute thus ranks as the oldest known wind instrument and, furthermore, it is an instrument admirably suitable for cave music. There is no instrument, in my opinion, other than some percussion instruments, that can touch the flute when it comes to conveying the feel of the cave.
The Australian Aborigine instrument, the didgeridoo, has carved a very strong place for itself on the world music scene and it too is very well adapted to conveying the mystery and strangeness of the cave. The gong is another terribly suitable instrument, but few have seen its usefulness or have employed it with the necessary skill and restraint.
Spain and Scotland stand out from other countries and regions for having the most number of different cave-inspired compositions. Specifically, it is Celtic musicians, both in Scotland and in northern Spain, who have been inspired by different natural caves. So when considering all the different ethnic roots in world music it is Celtic music that dominates here. Regarding bat-inspired music, the United Kingdom, United States, and Thailand each have released numerous versions of two bat-inspired pieces.
Specific real natural caves have inspired ethnic and folk pieces in many countries, among them Grotte de Han in Belgium (Australian Aborigine music), Banff Cave in Canada, Sihidong Cave in China, Fontaine de Vaucluse in France, Aretousa Caves in Greece, Caves of Kiltanon in Ireland, Blue Grottos in Italy & Malta, Postojnska Jama in Slovenia, Covas do Rei Cintolo, Cueva del Culatón & Cueva del Viento among others in Spain, Wedderburn's Cave in England, and Lost River Caverns & Moaning Cavern in the United States. Scotland stands out with six known natural caves inspiring music, some of them with several different versions by different artists: Cave of Gold (Uamh an Oir), Fingal’s Cave, Lord Huntley’s Cave, Rob Roy’s Cave, Sawney Beane's Cave, and Smoo Cave. Imaginary caves or artificial, man-made caves inspired many other compositions in various countries. The bat is celebrated in music and song in several nations: La Chauve-souris in France, Nykterida in Greece, Bat in the Kitchen in Ireland, Black Bat Shank and De Bat (Fly in Me Face) in Jamaica, Piep in The Netherlands, Mani Sisini in the Solomon Islands, numerous versions of Khang Kao Kin Khluay (The Bat Eats Bananas) in Thailand, Peka in Tonga, Leatherwing Bat in England, and Little Brown Bat in the United States.
Also included here with World Music are the recorded caving ballads, all written by cavers, primarily in the United States, but also in Great Britain where there has been a long tradition of singing caving ballads. Recently the Canadian group, Dangerous Dick and the Duckbusters, have released two CDs of inspired caving songs. Most of the American and British recordings are on cassettes and cassettes are not, by definition, listed in a discography. An exception was made to include these cassettes because caving ballad recordings of any kind are rare and outside the Anglo-Saxon caving world they are practically nonexistant.
Each country has been listed alphabetically. And each entry for that country was given a code number – starting with “WD” meaning world music followed by the country code established by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), based on lists published by the United Nations.
Certain regions and territories such as Puerto Rico in the United States and Scotland in the United Kingdom have been listed separately from the countries to which they belong because their music is altogether different from the native music of the governing nation.
Subheadings were created under some countries to set apart distinctly different music genres within that specific country. For instance, under Greece there is a subheading for Rebetiko music; under Spain there are subheadings for Celtic, Catalan, Flamenco, and Canary Islands music; and under the United States there is a separate subheading for Native American music.
Subheadings were also established for different pieces of music, where each has several recorded versions. For example under the United Kingdom there is a subheading for Leatherwing Bat and under Scotland there are separate sections for Cave of Gold, Fingal’s Cave, Lord Huntly’s Cave, Piper’s Cave, and Sawney Bean.
When it comes to certain music titles in languages other than English, I have had to use some discretion and common sense. Regarding the Italian Neapolitan pieces with the word “Piedigrotta” in the title, at least 20 different compositions have been written and recorded with titles like – La Festa di Piedigrotta, Piedigrotta Jazz, or simply Piedigrotta (dated 1907). (Catalog n.d.) Piedigrotta is an artificial cave-like tunnel carved out by the Romans (called the Crypta Neopolitana) and located to the west of Naples on the headland of Posillipo. It would appear that all these compositions were inspired by the village of Piedigrotta and its festivals and not by the tunnel itself.
For the song entries, wherever possible an effort was made to obtain or transcribe the song lyrics and translate them into English. These lyrics will be found in “World Music Lyrics” section (tab on bottom left). The list of abbreviations used for each entry will be found in the “Abbreviations” tab on the bottom left.