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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.


2. Mossy Nolan

Mossy Nolan
If we’re talking about being firmly rooted between the traditional and the modern, then no-one embodies that more perfectly than Mossy Nolan on his just released self-titled debut album being that it’s compiled entirely of versions of Irish trad songs and original compositions. The trad songs are some you may know, ‘Tunnel Tigers’, ‘Spencer The Rover’, ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’, ‘Si Beag Si Mhor’ and Hiberian folk song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. That the songs are delivered from a younger mind (though Mossy’s voice doesn’t necessarily sound young) imbue both the covers and originals with a freshness of youth. The originals in particular sparkle with vigour and the kind of guitar passages and notes more at home with a John Fahey release than trad.


3. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh


Perhaps the most experimental trad musician Ireland has at the moment, Rathfarnham-born Caoimhín is the young thread that binds others in this list but on his own solo fiddle playing is evocative, textural, gentle and exploratory. With one instrument, Ó Raghallaigh can make music go wandering down beautiful reflective paths. He is fond of pushing the boundaries of the fiddle and the viola and has looped and used electronics in his compositions to that end. He also uses the unusual 10-string Hardanger fiddle, a national instrument of Norway. In fact, a lot of his solo pieces take you to the same kind of headspace that the drone-based electronic music does, it conjures different spaces in time that do not or have never existed. Fitting for someone who is making progressive traditional music. Look out for his other new project This Is How We Fly.


4. The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock


The Spooks are a rock band whose starting point is Irish folk. You’ll notice some of traits of jigs and reels with accordion, cello and banjos utilised throughout. It’s Celtic rock but it’s not bashing your brains in with notions of ‘Oirishness’ like The Pogues’ music can sometimes do. Instead, they draw their Irish side from the original rejuvenators Planxty and it feels like a natural result of a series of musicians who aren’t afraid to let that side mix with others so The Spooks have songs in three languages (Irish, English and Italian) and rock out by allowing the traditional to be consumed by psychedelic sounds.


5. Triúr

Triur by James Goulden
The sense of trad history is most obvious with Triúr of this list. Peadar Ó Riada, Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (yeah, him again) make up the three. Their compositions speak a modern language via the virtuosity and delicate weave of their playing. I often think of trad as another language that you have to learn and grasp but there’s something very universal in what Ó Riada, Ó Raghallaigh and Hayes do with a concertina and two fiddles that’s very easy to understand. It produces elemental outcomes: gentle foot taps and heartswelling melodies run their way through slides, jigs and reels as the three players lightly create substantial tunes. When I saw the trio play at Other Voices last year, it wasn’t remarkable that the inherently reverential music of trad worked so well in a church but what was surprising was how well it stood up amongst more modern sounds. As Hayes remarked on the night himself, “well I guess we’re living in a post-genre world”.


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69 Responses to “Five reasons why Irish trad has been reinvigorated in 2012”

  1. beanochris

    +1 for Spook of the Thirteenth Lock. The Brutal Here and Now is one of the most captivating songs I’ve heard all year.

    Reply
  2. Martinconneely41

    Very interesting piece and good overview. Enough there to occupy the spare time of a weekend. You’ve converted me into checking out the Gloaming gig.

    Reply
  3. Keith Magee

    Every time I listen to the song with Caoimhín and Amiina it sends shivers down my spine… He is a special talent with a unique way of suspending you in a song and making you feel every emotion he projects from his viola. Testament to this is that he is in 3 of your recommendations. And he’s the nicest chap you could possibly know too.

    Reply
  4. Brian

     Great piece Nialler!!, Mossy Nolan is fantastic, really looking forward to seeing him live.
     I think The Bonny Men r the best trad band in the country at the moment, you should check them out. Very talented group, like the bothy band, they have a  full and powerful sound. more in line with keeping it old school. check them out!!

    Reply
  5. Rosa

    This is cringe inducingly well meaning but utterly wrong headed. I don’t even know where to start. There are musicians included here who’d be frankly embarrassed at the notion that they’re saving something called ‘Trad’. What is that? There is no ‘modern’ in a living music. There’s just the music and it’s place within the wider culture. Journalists and well meaning, but ultimately clueless people outside of the tradition, have been pushing these notions at us in a cyclical fashion for decades. It’s the same nonsense different set of people. Mainstream media were writing in the 70′s that The Bothy Band had ‘made Irish music sexy’… it such a nauseating concept it’s hard to respond without being rude. Traditional music is a nuanced and robust living entity that’s about a way of being in the world, communicating, constructing meaning and community. This piece is so full of absolute howlers that I feel obliged to circulate it for feedback from folks that have spent their lives playing and living this music. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

    Reply
    • Nialler9

      Hey Rosa,

      I approached this piece from the perspective of someone who is interested primarily in music that moves forward and as someone who doesn’t have intimate knowledge of trad’s history. 

      I noticed some really interesting (to me) artists and musicians doing  different things with trad music in Ireland and wanted to write about that. I’m not really suggesting ultimately that they are ‘saving” trad. My point is trad will continue to exist in the form that we all know it, recited in pubs and bars and homes. These are just examples of artists of are doing contemporary things in trad – sorry that you feel so strongly that it is “cringe-inducing” and “wrong-headed”. 

      What I covered here is stuff that probably isn’t for trad traditionalists, it’s for the readers of my blog who are also into electronic, dance, rock, folk, dubstep and god knows what else. I stand by what I wrote, if someone gets into one of these artists as a result of my article, then job done. I’m not making grand statements about trad, I’m framing these 5 artists as examples of why I think they are worthy of exploration for those who wouldn’t be interested in trad otherwise. 

      Reply
      • lordgoat

        TBH my main dislike of trad is the strict sticking to ‘how tunes are meant to be played’ I know many musicians who got fed up of having to play rather than having fun while playing. I know the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive but (apologies for the phraseology) traditional takes on trad music do nothing for me. I’ve heard all these tunes while growing up, yes i can apprecaite the skill and music but for years it was a heard it once, heard it before kinda of thing.

        I enjoyed reading this article and loved hearing the gloaming a while ago, for me it’s breathed life back into a genre i had somewhat written off. I know I’ll listen to music from it that I otherwise would not have crossed paths with or may have ignored. 

        I’ll eagerly await some of Rosa’s feedback as I don’t think this article is as far wide of the mark as she may think.

        Reply
    • Una Mullally

      Rosa, don’t you think all music is a nuanced and robust living entity that’s about a way of being in the world, communicating, constructing meaning and community? Indeed, you could say that about a lot of things; slam poetry, skateboarding, bloody neighbourhood garden allotments. 

      I grow up listening to and playing traditional music so find it odd that you would be offended by a blog with an international audience drawing attention to five acts who are currently enhancing the sphere of traditional music. For those who aren’t immersed in traditional music, be they in Ireland or elsewhere, knowledge can often be based on stereotypes which this piece blows apart, informs and updates. 

      Traditional music is by the people and for the people, which makes your aching elitism very misguided IMO. 

      Reply
      • Rosa

        “don’t you think all music is a nuanced and robust living entity that’s about a way of being in the world, communicating, constructing meaning and community? Indeed, you could say that about a lot of things; slam poetry, skateboarding, bloody neighbourhood garden allotments?” … 

        My point exactly. The recordings here are, some of them, beautiful records but people making beautiful records in this genre (I wish there were another term) is not new. A vernacular music is, like any other music, a living, evolving thing. You don’t ‘modernise’ it. It simply evolves itself naturally over time. I too grew up in music. Musicians in the house constantly from all sphere’s of music and there was no differentiation made between Krishna Bhatt, Stan Getz, Willie Clancy, Sr Rosetta Tharpe… it was all just music. The problematic element in the original post is the idea that those named are participating in some sort of musical vanguard. If this is all so new to the writer it begs the question, where have you been? 

        Reply
  6. Treasa

    My key criticism of this piece Niall, is that most of the artists you have named here are well established artists. We are not really talking about much about an up and coming new wave of young musicians. Ultimately what I see happening – and it is not limited purely to Irish traditional music – it happens with most specialist music – is that once in a while, mainstream critics hear of something happening outside their field of reference. These guys have been around doing their stuff for years. It may be very interesting, but it is all of a piece with what they have been doing for a long time. Why are you only catching up now? 

    Reply
    • Nialler9

      So I shouldn’t write about artists because they’re established? I’m not saying they are new (with the exception of Mossy Nolan) but all of these I have noticed outside their field in the last year or two. Isn’t that something to be celebrated? Otherwise it’s preaching to the converted. I’d certainly like to hear some of your suggestions for the new wave of Irish artists you alluded to but didn’t offer any.

      Reply
      • Treasa

        Well frankly if you want to see the next wave of Irish artists in the traditional mould you could go to the Fleadh Ceoil and see them before they even make records. You could go to the Willie Clancy summer school and see what people are doing there. See whose involved doing masters and gigs in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

        The issue here is that you’ve only noticed them now so Rosa’s comment as to where have you been is very valid.

         The truth is that a lot of fantastic live talent particularly in specialist music is very much a best kept secret in this country because the media don’t engage with the performers enough. Let’s face it, the first band you name up there are a supergroup, people who are already massively renowned not just in trad in Ireland but in specialist/world music circles world wide. 

        What you’re asking me to celebrate is that you’ve noticed some music. I’m telling you that’s what’s disappointing to me is that you’ve taken so long to notice it. I’ve known about it for years and I’m not even in the thick of the folk world at the moment. 

        Trad music is strong – is always pretty strong – not because of people you have heard of, to some extent – but because of the people you haven’t heard of. The people who play week in week out in a lot of bars along the country, bands you have never heard of playing at the big festivals in places like Lorient and Dranouter and Tonder and Cambridge. Celtic Connections in Glasgow. They are collaborating with musicians from other cultures on a scale that pop and rock stars just don’t manage.  

        I’m not saying you shouldn’t write about the established musicians by the way. But you shouldn’t write as though they are completely brand new groundbreaking new arrivals that have completely changed the face of trad in 2012. The truth is they’ve been doing it for 20-30 years in some cases. 

        Reply
  7. John

    Totally agree with everything Rosa said above. You also seem to set great store by music being ‘modern’. Why should ‘modern’ be something to aspire to? Is the music of Joe Cooley, Ben Lennon, Tony MacMahon, Willie Clancy etc. etc. in some way inferior/less relevant because it’s not modern?
    And your statement about “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.” displays a remarkable ignorance of developments in traditional music in recent years.

    Reply
  8. Soshinystar

    Rosa strikes me as the kind of person who watches youtube vids of people speaking Irish so they can correct their grammar in the comments,

     why can’t Niall write a post about Trad music? he blogs about any music he likes and feels is worth sharing, the fact that he might not have first used his grandmother’s knee as a bodhran up a boreen in Bohola doesn’t mean he’s not perfectly entitled to share and comment on any kind of music.

    If he put up a post about Romania Zerf bands he enjoys, would you complain that he never mention all the Bacusha bands who influenced the Zerf sound?

    Reply
    • Rosa

      Not being a native speaker or a linguist I’d be of no use as a corrector of Irish grammar. 

      Do you mean ‘serf’ as in Romani serfs? I can find no reference to anything called ‘Zerf’ music or ‘Bacusha’ bands? 

      Reply
      • soshinystar

        I said you strike me as the kind of person to correct Irish grammar, not that you actually do it

        you wouldn’t find Zerf in any online place, you may only feel on the inside of your eardrums, having passed through your heart and entered the body through the soles of your feet….

        Reply
  9. Jim Carroll

    ROFLOLing at the comments from Rosa and Treasa. Always funny to see purists getting a bee in their bonnet when someone outside the clique decides to write about their pet subject. Maith an fear Nialler – not least for upsetting old farts like those two. I’m sure you’re quivering in your boots at Nialler9 HQ at the thought of Rosa’s trad army comingatcha (“Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” – GUFFAW!). 

    Reply
    • Wingnutrecords

      I really liked the piece, Niall. great post and wonderful music shared and I will be attending the Gloaming gig, cant wait!

      But Jim, I would say that your tone is a bit harsh on ‘old farts’ and a ‘trad army comingatcha…’ . Let’s not go over the top here. Traditional music is a passion and like any heritage art form will always have a degree of navel-gazing. Traditional music is also a genre of music is also a dynamic art form and so will always have a potential for progression. In my opinion, nothing wrong with either. Live and let live!

      And Jim, it is ‘Maith an fhear…’ Wingnut’s grammar army comingatcha…

      Reply
    • Chanceygardener

      Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you’re a forty-something year old journalist and not a desperately lonely 14-year old Twilight fanatic

      Reply
    • Treasa

      Trad music is not my pet subject Jim and frankly, I don’t have a lot of time for people who play the man not the ball. If you could address the points I made rather than insulting me it might be more constructive. 

      Reply
  10. Leagues

    NIALLER! HOW DARE YOU WRITE ABOUT MUSICIANS, IRISH MUSICIANS, IN A POSITIVE LIGHT, HOW DARE YOU SELL TICKETS FOR MY GLOAMING CONCERT, HOW DARE YOU HAVE AN OPINION. HOW DARE YOU HOW DARE YOU HOW DARE YOU. LEAGUES

    p.s good piece x 

    Reply
  11. Flingfolk

    As a member of a band who play” trad”  our own way, I am more than aware of the purist attitudes. I am also aware that because of the type of music we play, most mainstream critics stay well away because of trad’s lack of “coolness”. I often wish we could find a new definition for trad. The name of the genre makes one think of something from the past, something that cannot be changed or morphed. When I compose a tune, it is something fresh and new, yet  because of it’s general sound, it is deemed ‘trad’.
    Anyway I digress; back to the mainstream critics like yourself and Jim Carroll – it would be great to see you guys engage more with ‘trad’ and all its players, many of whom, incidentally ,have been trying to change attitudes on the ground since long before 2012 and have been slowly turning the tide without much help or support from Irish mainstream music media.  Perhaps this is the good start a lot of us have been waiting for…….

    Reply
  12. John Raftery

    Maybe I’m missing something but where are the five reasons?

    I just see a list of five bands. Not reasons.

    Reply
  13. Rosa

    There’s
    are so many factual inaccuracies and problems in the original text
    it’s hard to know where to start. Coupled with the plethora of
    assumptions and thinly veiled prejudice in some of the comments, it
    makes responding laborious, but of respect to you and your even
    tempered and fair response to my comment, I will do so. 

     The
    use of the term ‘Trad’ is a lazy journo abbreviation aimed at making
    a music that’s perceived to be inaccessible and unfashionable more
    hipster friendly. It’s naff. As you and I know, cutting things down
    into easily digestible bite sized chunks for the masses is not
    necessarily a good thing.

    The
    fundamental problem with your post is a lack of knowledge of the
    subject matter which leads to sweeping, strongly worded statements
    that are simply not true. 

    Were
    this an opinion piece in which you said ‘I know very little about
    this genre, but here’s some really lovely stuff I’ve being listening
    to and I’d like to share it’… then fine. I agree, there’s some
    wonderful music here.

    That’s
    not what you did. Statements like ‘Irish
    trad (is) 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’ are factually incorrect.

    There’s
    no reclaiming of anything, and by whom for whom? … As for the brink
    of ‘folk obscurity’…what?… the market, now more than ever, is
    saturated with a deluge of music that comes under the heading of
    ‘Traditonal’. Summer schools for every possible instrument, voice and
    dance are jammed with people of all ages taking classes. ‘A few
    individuals?’ This, (and you may not like it but it’s true), is
    waffle Nialler. Constructing some super hero esque mission that casts
    the poor unfortunates you’ve named above as the brave young men
    battling to preserve and regenerate a dying music on the brink of
    obscurity is the stuff of bad Sunday supplements and Marvel comics.
     Let’s have a quick scan of a few you’ve included. Martin Hayes
    is a dyed in the wool Clare fiddler. Beneath the fro, he’s still the
    son the of the legendary P.J.
    Hayes on the Kilfenora Céilí Band bloodline. Iarla has been
    singing sean-nós since he was about a foot high in Cúil
    Aodha. His first studio recording being when he was no older than
    12. 

    Peadar
    Ó Riada is the composer Seán
    Ó Riada’s son and musical director of the Cor
    Chuil Aodha. And poor Caoimhín
    Ó Raghallaigh whom you’ve sent out in his cape and tights on three
    of your five rescue missions, sounds for all the world like a musical
    reincarnation of Padraig O’Keefe his style and sound are so true
    to their origins. If you want to hear pure beauty in a recent
    recording his Kitty
    Lie Over (2003,
    with Mick O’Brien) is possibly the kind of material you’d struggle
    with on first listen but it’d be worth it. 

    All
    of the above are traditional musicians in the old skool understanding
    of the term. You don’t get more ‘traditional’ than this. They’ve been
    playing and recording for years. The current output, is something you
    like, I like it too. But there’s no movement here. Just good music,
    like much that went before and will come after it.

    Are
    you getting it? The insistence on accessibility to a music without
    having to do any of the hard work of listening and understanding is
    not what any music lover should be about. The labelling of music by
    genre is problematic and something musicians often strenuously
    resist. It leads to endless debate on superflous issues of
    categorisation, which is dull as death no? I love The Pogues, are
    they a traditional Irish band? No. They’re The Pogues. At a push
    they’re Folk/Punk but does it matter? The music is informed by their
    cultural and musical influences. Does it have to be one thing or the
    other?

    Some
    of the comments following my post are slightly bizarre in the
    assumptions they make and the personal nature of the slights. Jim
    Carroll’s being the most obvious and frankly ill judged. Were I
    making my bread and butter writing about music in the national press
    I’d be wary of coming onto music blogs and making odd insulting
    remarks. I’m not a purist in the way the term is being applied here.
    That aside, it’s a contentious term as it’s often levelled at people
    who request a standard of knowledge on something before being
    subjected to the half baked ramblings on the topic and who refuse to
    use terms like ‘fusion’ and ‘world’ when it comes to any art form.
    I’m also younger than him so the old fart comment is not only crude
    and ageist but inaccurate.

    It’s
    tedious to read poor music writing. Your insistence on the
    listenership’s accessibility to Traditional music is like saying
    ‘Yeah yeah Africa who? Bam-who-da? Nah man f*ck that. I’m not into
    old fat guys, the Wu-Tang’s where it’s at’. Or ‘Kraftwerk?… Old
    Germans? No! not for me, too heavy. I just love Air though, they’re
    so accessible’. You sometimes have to go back to understand what’s
    going on, literally. Many of your posts are great Nialler and you’re
    obviously passionate but a spade is a spade and I’m calling it. This
    is not your finest hour. Now whilst not exactly a shooting offence
    I’d go easy on the amateur anthropology. Oh and don’t be calling the
    boys in for back up, you’re big and bold enough to stand up to the
    girls on your own.

    Reply
  14. Rosa

    There are so many
    factual inaccuracies and problems in the original text it’s hard to
    know where to start. Coupled with the plethora of assumptions and
    thinly veiled prejudice in some of the comments, it makes responding
    laborious, but of respect to you and your even tempered and fair
    response to my comment, I will do so.

    The use of the term
    ‘Trad’ is a lazy journo abbreviation aimed at making a music that’s
    perceived to be inaccessible and unfashionable more mainstream
    friendly. It’s naff. As you and I know, cutting things down into
    easily digestible bite sized chunks for the masses is not necessarily
    a good thing.

    The fundamental problem
    with your post is a lack of knowledge of the subject matter which
    leads to sweeping, strongly worded statements that are simply not
    true.

    Were this an opinion
    piece in which you said ‘I know very little about this genre, but
    here’s some really lovely stuff I’ve being listening to and I’d like
    to share it’… then fine. I agree, there’s some wonderful music
    here. That’s not what you did.

    Statements like ‘Irish
    trad (is) 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’ are factually incorrect.

    There’s no reclaiming
    of anything, and by whom for whom? … As for the brink of ‘folk
    obscurity’…what?… the market, now more than ever, is saturated
    with a deluge of music that comes under the heading of ‘Traditonal’.
    Summer schools for every possible instrument, voice and dance are
    jammed with people of all ages taking classes. ‘A few individuals?’
    This, (and you may not like it but it’s true), is waffle Nialler.
    Constructing some super hero esque mission that casts the poor
    unfortunates you’ve named above as the brave young men battling to
    preserve and regenerate a dying music on the brink of obscurity is
    the stuff of bad Sunday supplements and Marvel comics. There are many
    superb records being made by a diverse range of musicians young and
    old. You’ve just not heard them.
    Let’s have a quick scan
    of a few you’ve included. Martin Hayes is a dyed in the wool Clare
    fiddler. Beneath the fro, he’s still the son the of the legendary
    P.J. Hayes on the Kilfenora Céilí Band bloodline. Iarla has been
    singing sean-nós since he was about a foot high in Cúil Aodha. His
    first studio recording being when he was no older than 12. Peadar Ó Riada is the
    composer Seán Ó Riada’s son and musical director of the Cor Chuil
    Aodha. And poor Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh whom you’ve sent out in his
    cape and tights on three of your five rescue missions, sounds for all
    the world like a musical reincarnation of Padraig O’Keefe his style
    and sound are so true to their origins. If you want to hear pure
    beauty in a recent recording his Kitty Lie Over (2003, with Mick
    O’Brien) is possibly the kind of material you’d struggle with on
    first listen but it’d be worth it.
    All of the above are
    traditional musicians in the old skool understanding of the term. You
    don’t get more ‘traditional’ than this. They’ve been playing and
    recording for years. The current output, is something you like, I
    like it too. But there’s no movement here. Just good music, like much
    that went before and will come after it.

    The insistence on
    accessibility to a music without having to do any of the hard work of
    listening and understanding is not what any music lover should be
    about. You wouldn’t do it with any other traditional music so why is
    it acceptable with an indigenous music? Who’s going to tell Femi Kuti
    to play Jazz standards as all that Afro Beat stuff is just a little
    too dark and nutty and well, hard to understand. You listen, you
    learn. The Buena Vista Social Club was a huge mainstream success and
    deservedly so. It’s a beautiful record. It doesn’t pretend to be an
    archival piece or a field recording. It is what it is, but it wasn’t
    ‘rescuing’ anything from decline. If Cuban music wasn’t registering
    on the international mainstream radar it doesn’t mean it was sliding
    into obscurity.

    The labelling of music
    by genre is problematic and something musicians often strenuously
    resist. It leads to endless debate on superflous issues of
    categorisation, which is dull as death no? I love The Pogues… are
    they a traditional Irish band? No. They’re The Pogues. At a push
    they’re Folk/Punk but does it matter? The music is informed by their
    cultural and musical influences. Does it have to be one thing or the
    other?Some of the comments
    following my post are slightly bizarre in the assumptions they make
    and their personal nature. Jim Carroll’s being the most obvious and
    frankly ill judged. Were I making my bread and butter writing about
    music in the national press I’d be wary of coming onto music blogs
    and making odd insulting remarks. I’m not a purist in the way the
    term is being applied here. That aside, it’s a contentious term as
    it’s often levelled at people who request a standard of knowledge on
    something before being subjected to the half baked ramblings on the
    topic and who refuse to use terms like ‘fusion’ and ‘world’ when it
    comes to any art form. I’m also younger than him so the old fart
    comment is not only crude and ageist but inaccurate.
    Your insistence on the
    listenership’s accessibility to Traditional music is like saying
    ‘Yeah yeah Africa who? Bam-who-da? Nah man f*ck that. I’m not into
    old fat guys, the Wu-Tang’s where it’s at’. Or ‘Kraftwerk?… Old
    Germans? No! not for me, too heavy. I just love Air though, they’re
    so accessible’. You sometimes have to go back to understand what’s
    going on, literally. Many of your posts are great Nialler and you’re
    obviously passionate but a spade is a spade and I’m calling it. 

    Reply
    • Nialler9

      The use of the term ‘Trad’ is a lazy journo abbreviation aimed at making a music that’s perceived to be inaccessible and unfashionable more mainstream friendly. It’s naff. As you and I know, cutting things down into easily digestible bite sized chunks for the masses is not necessarily a good thing.

      Rosa, you asked me to delete a version of this comment as a whole before publishing this one citing formatting errors. You’ve since cut out the phrase “hipster friendly” from your original comment so please let’s not start arguing about lazy terms and labeling as you have here. Trad is a useful genre term for the description of what I wrote about about above. Why get so worked up about it?

       The labelling of music by genre is problematic and something musicians often strenuously resist.  It leads to endless debate on superflous issues of categorisation, which is dull as death no? 

      You’re the one questioning the labelling of music here not me. 

      Were this an opinion piece in which you said ‘I know very little about this genre, but here’s some really lovely stuff I’ve being listening to and I’d like to share it’… then fine. I agree, there’s some wonderful music here. That’s not what you did.

       This is my blog therefore a whole lot of what’s written here is indeed opinion like my above post. As I explained to above to you, “these are just examples of artists of are doing contemporary things in trad,” you’re the one talking about superheroes and tights. WTF?

      Statements like ‘Irish trad (is) 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’ are factually incorrect.

      In my opinion I feel like artists like these are making trad interesting FOR ME. So FOR ME I believe they are making people like me notice and that’s bringing it back from obscurity, i.e. its own narrow defined world that doesn’t get noticed outside of its practitioners and enthusiasts. Despite what you seem to think, this is an opinion piece. 

      The current output, is something you like, I like it too. But there’s no movement here. Just good music, like much that went before and will come after it.

       I said movements not one singular movement that they are all working towards. It’s five disparate artists in trad doing what I consider to be contemporary things. part of the reason why I wrote this in the first place was to delve into Trad more as a result of the inevitable recommendations I’ve since received via Facebook, Twitter and here.

      Sure, I don’t know everything about trad, this post is really about the promotion of these five artists whether they are brand new or have been around donkeys years. The fact is they are doing this stuff now and that makes trad an exciting field to explore and ultimately, to gain more knowledge about the whole history of the genre in this country.

      Reply
      • Rosa

        You have a copy, as does everyone who subscribes to the updates to the original post. It was so scrambled when posted it was unreadable and yes I toned it down as I didn’t want to be too critical. 
        These musicians have been doing this for years. There is nothing new here. You’ve simply only discovered it. If much of the recording being done isn’t highlighted in the mainstream press it is precisely because there is still an oddly prejudicial attitude to the output as something difficult, elitist or simply unlistenable to the unfamiliar ear. Why should any music make itself more palatable to the lowest common denominator? 
        You appear to have a supportive and loyal readership, many contributors from established national media like The Irish Times. So far you’ve had Jim Carroll, Leagues O’Toole and Una Mullally weigh in with their support.  With the territory comes the difficulty of not remaining unchallenged when your opinions are perceived as ill informed by a more general readership. 
        It’s not gone well Nialler. Lots of unpleasant comments and personal attacks and very little engagement with the actual criticism made ie; these kinds of recordings are not new, you’ve only just noticed them now. 

        Reply
        • Nialler9

          Mossy Nolan and Spook of the Thirteenth Lock just released new albums a few weeks ago. The Gloaming as a project is in its infancy that only debuted less than a year ago as far as I know and they’re playing Vicar Street shortly so a timely reason. Triur came to my attention in December at Other Voices but I had not heard of them before that.  Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh continues to do really interesting things as he has done in the last while but his presence in The Gloaming, working with Amiina, the upcoming This Is How We Fly album and his ever growing presence indicates that he is indeed a person in trad doing interesting and rejuvenating things. 

          There’s plenty of new recordings, gigs and stuff happening here so I felt that justified this post. 

          The fact that these artists are being noticed in the mainstream now is a bloody good thing and I wanted to do my part in sharing their music. It’s not about lowest common denominator music.

          Reply
          • Rosa

            I don’t think I’ve ever had an exchange with anyone so unwilling to engage with the points made. Are we on different planets? You wrote a piece that made definitive statements about a music you know little to nothing of but still insist on rolling out opinions about how Caoimhín is doing ‘rejuvenating’ things. Rejuvenating what? What on earth are you talking about! 
            Y’know what? It doesn’t matter. Good luck with the blog. There’s some really good writing on here. 

      • Listenwithyourfeet

         This smells so much of D4 head journalism its nauseating. Totally in agreement with Rosa and Treasa. It’s kind of laughable that ‘music journalists’ don’t even know about the thousands of fantastic musicians, singers, dancers and storytellers all over the country and beyond keeping our tradition alive and well. I’m a musician, composer, teacher, dancer and singer so I know what I’m talking about. The musicians mentioned in the article and I stress ‘MUSICIANS’ would cringe reading this trust me. I have met nearly all of the musicians mentioned. If you want to stay in your little bubble Nialler9, fine but there is a whole world out there to be explored.

        Reply
  15. FiaRua

    Good to see these bands highlighted. But lumping the like’s Martin and Coamhin with Thirteenth Lock and calling it “Irish Trad” seems very wierd. Nirvana and Alice in Chains were called “grunge” cause they came from Seatle, any band using an instument that has not been invented in the last hundred years will now be called “new trad”.  Ive been called “trad” in reviews, no idea why, think its because i use a Gealic stage name. Anyways i love Thirteenth Lock, so thanks for the introduction.

    Reply
  16. Queen Elvis

    I can see where Nialler9 is coming from with his piece, it’s just that those who have been interested in trad and trad fusions wherever they may come from, may find it a bit of a narrow view. I can understand that  this is what you are aware of in the Irish trad scene, but the very heading makes the reader assume you know what your talking about . I am no master of the world of trad but I am definently interested in it. Its the heading which is misleading, too general for the area in to which you have delved, and the fact you assume it has only been invigorated since 2012, could be construed as insulting by those who have been followers/participants in this genre of music. This should not take away from the artists you have given exposure too, this is a good thing and great for the trad world to be given the limelight,something which is not always the case

    Reply
  17. Paddyfahey2

    “Trad is as big a part of our heritage as it’s perceived that Aran jumpers, sheep, Guinness and leprechauns are.”

    Jesus Wept Nialler! What planet are you on? I used like your blog, but this opening alone is a sign of gaga thinking up ahead. I agree with Rosa + co…go West young man + take the wax out of your ears.

    Reply
  18. Sorcha Brennan

    I really liked the post, read it before all the comments went up. I know nothing about Trad music, but I am a musician and I like the way Niall writes about music. It encouraged me to listen to the tracks, even though I wouldn’t normally listen to it usually.

    Reply
  19. Electricwhipcrack

    hi,

    i’ve nothing but respect for Niall , i enjoyed reading the article but i can kind of see why this has got a reaction – writing about genres that you’re not an expert on can be a bit of a minefield and it’s understandable that people deeply involved in such genres may be concerned about the music being misrepresented. generally i’d tend towards cautiously phrasing a blog post such as this in personal terms and emphasise your non-expertise position.
    as such, i think it’s the way the post was framed, in particular the bit about trad being re-invigorated, that got people’s backs up. maybe people read too much into it but that’s the risk.
    having said that, the tone of some of the comments is ridiculously extreme – and that goes for both sides, i probably don’t need to point out the most idiotic comment of all. it would be nice if people could debate these things in a more balanced manner, and some points would have been better made if they weren’t so scathing in tone.

    * i know next-to-nothing about trad music, fwiw

    Reply
  20. Liv

    I think any blog post or article that draws new attention to an act that previously would have gone unnoticed by a certain group of readers is a good thing, no matter the tone or wether or not the opinion expressed in the piece is agreeable to those who read it. There is no right or wrong when it comes to music and any reader who is really interested in MUSIC will listen for themselves and draw their own conclusion. I do have to say though that I was quite disappointed by how fast Nialler jumped on the defense wagon here. If he can’t handle one person expressing a criticism of his writing and has to jump in right away to defend the piece, he should think for a second about all the bands and musicians he has criticized on his blog over the years, most of whom have had the grace and respect to leave those criticisms unchallenged and keep their mouth shut. Difference of opinion, live and let live. If musicians have to be criticised by you lot all the time, then why the hell should they not be able to criticize you and the standard/tone of your writing? The instant reaction expressed here by Niall (and inability to leave the criticising comment sit there without defending yourself) seems to indicate that it’s more about ‘you’ than the music itself. You’re taking it personally. The standard of Irish music journalism is very low at the moment and funnily enough I actually had a conversation with 2 of the musicians mentioned above about this last year.. We agreed that you would rather get a bad review that was at least written well than a good review written badly. I’m not saying that in reference to this piece specifically but to Irish music journalism as a whole. Anyway, whatever, I love all the acts mentioned here, I hope they all do very well and I thought the piece itself was good if it means more people do get to hear about them. I know one thing for certain though, you can’t find milk in the hardware shop.. and this is not meant to be (and is never going to be) a traditional music appreciation blog!

    Reply
    • Rosa

      This is pretty accurate. It’s the response of established music journalists that really took me aback. The rather bizarre comments, even from normally mild mannered folks like Leagues, left me bemused. Jim Carroll has a long history apparently of pretty appalling behavior online and his contribution had one senior journalist in the IT message me to say she was ‘shocked that he’s still behaving like that.’ Even Una Mullally didn’t get the points being made, accusing me of elitism. The fact remains that so much of the music opinion pieces and criticism we read in the mainstream media is dreadful. The Journal of Music being very much the exception. 
      There’s also a misguided notion that those that voiced criticism are actively involved in an almost obsessive single focused existence that revolves around the protection of and participation in traditional music. This isn’t the case. It’s a music I grew up with but never to the exclusion of other musics. When I thought about what I’d listened to this week it included Smog, Alice Coltrane and The Chromatics. I did listen to Joe Heaney on and off but I feel there’s more than a few stereotypes being bandied about on this comment thread. Bottom line is the selection of music here is not the problem, it’s all good stuff, some of it excellent. It’s the amateur anthropology waffle about a music and a scene the writer neither knows nor understands that caused the issue. Lumping a whole mish mash of diverse artists together in a great messy pile. It could equally have happened with hip hop, garage, dubstep… if the piece is poor someone will let you know. And they did, and you had a bit of a tantrum, which is a pity. 

      Reply
      • Jim Carroll

        his contribution had one senior journalist in the IT message me to say she was ‘shocked that he’s still behaving like that.’

        Rosa – I’m shocked by this news. The poor “senior journalist”. Can you pass on my apologies to her by “message” and let her know that it might be better if she actually talked to me about any such problems she may have, rather than gossiping about me behind my back with her mates? Much obliged. 

        Reply
    • Nialler9

      As many will know, my blog focuses primarily on music I want to recommend to people, so there’s actually not a lot of critical analysis that could be considered negative on the blog. 
      Comments are there to be engaged with. A conversation developed around my post and it would be pretty silly not to respond. Don’t you see my point? I have a non-trad audience on this blog, I wanted to recommend these artists in trad to that audience. 

      Reply
  21. Scoffey

    Wow, the scale of nitpicking in the comments is actually hilarious. Wasn’t aware you had to be an expert on an art form to write an opinion piece on your own website. 
    I hadn’t a clue about most of these songs/bands before, I like some of them and right now I’m listening to them; job done Nialler. 

     

    Reply
  22. Hugh Connor

    In reference to the comments my observation is generally that ‎80% of music journalism is awful, as is 80% of music produced, generally speaking. If you review music generally it goes unnoticed, if you review a music journalist large toys fly out of large cots.I read this blog quite regularly though and was happily surprised to see some cover for a few great acts here with this article. If one thing could be observed though, its definitely that the listeners arnt the people drawing a line between trad and all other music. 

    Reply
  23. Vincentcostello

    God maybe people Niall should self-edit his OWN widely read blog next time he tries to shine a light on some MUSIC! There is far too much talk here of terminology, mainstream and genre, its all a load of crap. There is good music and bad music, full stop. Far too sensitive a reaction to a simple well intentioned piece. Trad (and by the way everyone calls it Trad) is not some sacred thing. It is as important a people see it. Now about this Zerf music someone mentioned…

    Reply
  24. Dave Donnelly

    I have to say I agree with Rosa here and, Niall, I don’t think you fully grasp what she’s saying to you.

    The title alone makes two fairly spurious assumptions, a) that traditional music has been lacking vigour or relevance and b) that some sort of movement is occurring. I know this is your blog and this post has to be read in the context of your own readership, but you’re speaking in absolutes about a scene being ‘reinvigorated,’ and you can’t then turn around and say it’s just your opinion or your limited experience or whatever.

    I’d be no better versed than yourself in the contemporary traditional scene – and Mossy Nolan is a new name to my ears – but you’ve created this totally artificial context that is quite misleading and I can understand totally why people would cringe reading it. It grossly oversimplifies a complex and dynamic tradition and arbitrarily singles out and lumps together artists, giving a false impression that they are somehow rowing this mythical trad boat in a certain direction.

    It’s like how a few of months ago every music journalist in Dublin suddenly discovered that Irish people can rap and set about heaping superlatives on just about half-baked rapper, trying to manufacture a hip hop scene or a movement when, if they had actually listened to the artists involved, they’d have heard them screaming back that no such scene exists.

    I mean we’re all guilty of it, and to some extent it is useful to simplify things like this, but to make broad sweeping statements like you did, you kind of open yourself up to the kind of criticism Rosa is offering, and you can’t then retreat behind the umbrella of personal opinion. It’d be cool to see something like this in a newspaper/magazine context with perhaps a bit more room to explore the nuance of the situation.

    Reply
    • Nialler9

      I totally see where the issue is coming from. I didn’t intend to say anything that was to be construed  as grand sweeping statements. As a one-person blog, I would have thought it was implied that it was my opinion but I’m taking all the criticism on board for future reference.

       I regret the title for sure, I changed it from ‘why trad rocks’ to reinvigorated at the last minute before publishing as I felt it was too cheesy.  

      I’ve no problem with the criticism, there was no tantrum here. 

      Reply
  25. Hud Hastings

    I’m sure the artists featured are well happy with the publicity received from being featured here, and I’ve no doubt Nialler posting this will help rather than hinder Irish Traditional music.

    @21167b2682462fbf8fd43ae71fa7126c:disqus & @Trease:disqus , just enjoy the music.

    Reply
  26. DADGAD

    Nice to see some artists getting recognised but I have to
    agree with many of the critical comments. As a young, primarily Irish
    traditional, musician I genuinely found your generalisation of a scene you
    admit you know very little about insulting. Irish Music is living and thriving
    not only in Dublin, but the rest of Ireland, the UK and the world. It is may no
    means in need of a saviour. There is amazing collaborations going on between
    many different types of musicians, some of them from an Irish Traditional
    background.

    I can sympathise with your intentions however as an author with a large audience
    you have a responsibility to write accurately, if you are describing YOUR
    connection (or reconnection) with new music then state this. Putting your
    experience forward as an objective fact is lazy journalism and not doing
    yourself justice.

    Reply
  27. G4dude

    I’ve resisted posting on this for the last few days but after reading the comments this evening I’ve found it hard not to. I’m pretty shocked at out how certain “music critics” have come on here a spouted what really can only be described as music snobbery. It’s really compromised their credibility as far as I’m concerned, and it amazes me to see them react so badly to what was a fairly innocuous post in the first place.  

    There is clearly some underlying bitterness behind some of the comments.  

    Reply
    • Chanceygardener

      Yes yes. No writer should ever be called on the words they choose to publicly express themselves and the order in which they are placed. It’s snobbery and bitterness at it’s absolute worst. 

      Reply
      • Rosa

        I’m just waiting for the Zerf guy to reappear before I retire from the music blog flame wars. 

        Reply
        • Soshinystar

           I would kindly request you to not be so flippant and wrong headed about the wonderful traditional of Zerf music, simply because you are ill informed about it does not give you the right to refer to me as “the zerf guy”. Any one with even a passing interest in the rich and varied musical tapestry that is Zerf would be aware that it a Zerf afficiando trades under the moniker “Zerf Fella” (not to be confused with “Bacusha Bloke”)

          In the future, please keep such sweeping generalisations firmly under your hat

          GOOD DAY MADAM!!!!

          Reply
          • Rosa

            That’s Ms to you. Zerf guy, you’ve led me a merry dance. There’s some other poor hoor on here who made a big speech but was comforted somewhat by your promise of zerf. You’ve failed him now too. *sad music (of the non zerf variety)… fade to slow rolling credits*

  28. Ewan

    As someone who knows
    nothing about music, I have no idea why people are so pissed off about
    this article. It’s articulate and it explains to people like me why they
    might like to give trad a go.
     

    Reply
    • Flingfolk

      HI Ewan.

      A lot of the criticism is because Nialler9 didn’t open his article with as honest a statement as your opening to your comment. If he had more clearly indicated his ignorance about the Irish “trad” scene, people would have been a lot more sympathetic methinks. However, he didn’t and what he has been faced with is a barrage of criticism from people who have been very insulted by his article.

      In fairness to Nialler9, I think his intentions were honorable but I really can’t blame people being annoyed. Irish musicians are always on a constant battle with Irish music media, both online and in print, to get recognition for what they do and are often shot down by writers like Nialler9, Jim Carroll etc. because these writers tend to prefer to stay in ‘safer’ territory. The opinions of these journalists are fine, IMO, but I believe that they have a responsibility to at least do a bit of research before they delve into unknown territory, given the large readership they have.

      Reply
    • Myles O'Reilly

      Precisely Ewan. Like Nialler said, had the title been more fitting… I’m middle aged, Irish, and the world of trad has only just opened up for me. It started with Kila, then Liam Ó Maonlaí. I’m aware there is a wealth of trad I dont know about and wish to explore. These acts mentioned are certainly five reasons why trad continues to show on my radar and why I want to hear more.
      I completely understand Rosa too, how Trad, contemporary or otherwise has been hugely ignored by the media is indeed something to bark about. I can not get my head around how blatantly we neglect music born from this country, not just Trad. It enrages me how ill informed we are. How the commercial pursuits of the media have built a wall between us and the music being sounded in our own back garden.

      Reply
    • Rosa

      Ewan, The music chosen here is all worth a listen and I agree the article is articulate and clear. What I do feel is, it made definitive statements and gave analysis of a music and a scene the writer very obviously knows little about and that many of it’s assertions were untrue. Whether being retrospectively defended or explained as opinion or not.  
      Statements like ‘the inherently reverential music of trad’ are problematic and inaccurate as traditional music is the antithesis of reverential. It’s historically a dance music, a wake music, a wedding music, on the Kilburn High Road back in the day an immigrant music, a peasant music, a people’s music. Music itself is a constant discourse. The notion that traditional music is an archaic and marginalised art form on the brink obscurity and in need of rejuvenation and modernisation is simply not true. 

      As Myles O’Reilly states the marginalisation of Irish music by the mainstream media is an ongoing issue. It’s often written of as ‘other’, as something complex and elitist or conversely as simplistic and repetitive. It’s neither. When it is reviewed it’s either done so in glowing purple prose or misrepresented and poorly understood. 

      Much of the music journalism in Ireland is poor. Music writing is not outside of the realm of bias. The idea that the writer claims surprise at ‘how well it (Triúr) stood up against more modern sounds’ belies the strange belief that the music is in and of itself somehow ‘not modern’. I really thought we’d gotten past this type of thinking. The idea that the article might cause offence to those who ‘devote their lives to traditional music in Ireland’ misses the point entirely. Had it been a piece about how Brad Mehldau was leading a rejuvenation of Jazz in 2012 the response would, I feel, have been equally fractious. 

      There’s also some notion being bandied about that you have to follow ‘the tradition’ to the letter or you’re taken out and shot. Traditional music is robust and subtle enough to incorporate a multiplicity of off shoots into genres of music carrying traces of it’s influence. Mossy Nolan, who’s stuff is lovely, owes a debt to the early recordings of Andy Irvine and Planxty. Paul Brady, who early in his career made the seminal ‘Welcome Here Kind Stranger’ started out playing rock n’ roll on an electric. Brady’s ‘Young Edmund in the Lowlands Low’ from that recording is almost a mimic of the late great traditional singer Geordie Hanna. The point I’m trying to make, and had originally tried to make is that this is not a new practice. The intermingling, the multiplicity of  influences, it’s going on all the time. 

      I get why Nialler would have carefully curated the list above. He has taken a fair amount of flack for the text but his ear is excellent. I’d encourage anyone interested in music to listen to all of the artists above but to also take the time  to dig deep and go back to the source that brought it all about.  

      Reply
  29. Sarah Glennane

    Hi, As someone who has worked promoting Irish musicians playing in traditional genre for a long time now, it is great to see so much discussion good bad, educated or uneducated on this blog. In my experience it has been the plight of Irish traditional musicians to be taken too seriously, not seriously enough or generally ignored (perhaps, at a guess, out of fear for saying the wrong thing) by public commentators or mainstream music press so, personally speaking, it is great to see this debate started regardless of the headline. I think Nialler you could and should continue keeping an eye on fresh output from traditional irish musicians and including them in this blog and let everyone keep the comments flowing because It is not always how things should be but how they are that matters more sometimes, that is in music as well as in comment. Sarah

    Reply
  30. Rosa

    I too genuinely hope you’ll continue to write about this stuff. The music itself was
    excellent and got a warm reception. Before I exit through the ‘tradgate’ I’ll leave you with a young and not yet pathologically grumpy Brady. Seen here in 1977, before he left to pen songs for Tina Turner, with possibly one of the most un PC folk songs out, ‘The Wearing of the Britches’. He got the song from renowned Fermanagh singer Paddy Tunney aka ‘Man of Songs’. Blog on NIaller9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVM1xAO2xIk

    Reply
  31. melinshka

    Some of the musicians mentioned above can be seen at
    Baltimore Fiddle Fair: http://www.fiddlefair.com/
    - Next weekend 9th to 13th May 2012… 20th Anniversary of the festival too -
    should be a great buzz…

    Reply
  32. Tadhg O'Hara

    I would hardly accuse the Pogues of forcing “Oirishness”, especially since the band isn’t entirely comprised of Irish members. Their most popular songs are very Irish sounding, but if you listen to the whole catalog, they’ve drawn on an extremely wide variety of world influences, from Japanese to Mexican. One article described the Pogues as “Irish soul music”, and as a Monaghan man, I agree with that wholeheartedly.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1.  Read: Nialler9 on the Irish Trad Revival
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