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Trad

Update: A few people have taken issue with my opinions below. Let me just stress this, I wrote this from my own view of why I felt trad was reinvigorated. I didn’t intend to make grand statements about trad music as a whole, I’m not a trad ‘expert’. The article title was intended to refer to my reasons (and to draw people in to reading it), i.e. five artists I wanted to shine some light on it their field to my audience and not some big statement designed to offend people who devote their lives to traditional music in Ireland.

Trad is as big a part of our heritage as it’s perceived that Aran jumpers, sheep, Guinness and leprechauns are. So it’s not surprising that the genre of music, in terms of a modern context, is often maligned as old-fogey music or music for pubs and rural areas. It’s understandable that trad will be disregarded by succeeding generations who hit upon their twenties who have grown up with it their whole lives in favour of a Skrillex drop or the more global R&B chart pop or something.

But there are movements afoot. Just as those who said the Irish language would die out were proven wrong by a reclamation of the language in the last 15 years by the very people who hated studying it in Irish schools (its neverending grammar and distinct lack of speaking the actual thing was the definition of no craic), so too, is Irish trad being reclaimed, being pulled back from the brink of its own folk obscurity and a lot of that work is being lead by a few individuals. Here are five reasons why Irish trad music is now very much modern music.

1. The Gloaming


Consisting of fiddle player Martin Hayes, guitarist Dennis Cahill, Thomas Bartlett on piano, sean-nós and one-time Afro Celt Soundsystem vocalist Iarla O’Lionaird, and Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh (fiddle and viola), The Gloaming is a sort of a trad supergroup who make trad music like its a lush film score. It’s the coming together of the elders Hayes and Cahill with O’Raghallaigh and Bartlett that makes for trad music from a fresh perspective. 25 year old Bartlett, who also performs as Doveman and has played with The National and Antony & The Johnsons, hails from Vermont and that outsider perspective works its way in on the compositions. The sound is one that fits in with the new generation of experimental neo-classical music that is typified by people like Nico Muhly who Bartlett has worked with in the past. It’s contemporary yet rooted in tradition. It’s epic but also intimate. Its international circles that The Gloaming move in so it’s no wonder that longtime Bartlett friend, himself a fine folk musician Sam Amidon is supporting them at their next live gig at Vicar Street on May 12th. Tickets are €28 plus fees.