A crash course in the Irish music scene right now | gigwise


Ireland is pure class. While history books, stereotypes and the general lack of road signs may dispute this grandeur, Ireland’s cultural landscape shows nothing but prosperity. Beyond the rich literary circles that sprang up, musicians continue to leave their mark on our small island and beyond.

Forget U2, Daniel O’Donnell and the fiddles that accompany the amazing Riverdancers, in my opinion, and make way for what Ireland and Northern Ireland is today. There’s Fontaine’s DC, Villagers, Bicep, Hannah Peel, The Murder Capital, Denise Chaila, Joshua Burnside, Kneecap, Sister Ghost, Leo Miyagee… THERE ARE SO MUCH. There are those with thick accents and those you’re shocked to know actually live on the road, but they all share an identity that isn’t bound by preconceived notions of how they are historically. represented outside of Ireland.

A pattern evolving from recent musical acts is their attachment to Irish identity. Not only that they are Irish, but how they take the basics of traditional music and reshape it for a post-Mrs Brown’s Boys audience.

Dublin-based acoustic band The Scratch are rinsing old Ireland in all its glory, in the best possible way. Onstage, the men sit down (yes seats) and strike their instruments with determination, ringing out a sound reminiscent of their motherland but with renewed energy. A recent gig in Belfast’s Limelight saw Ryan ‘The Legs’ Kelly take to the stage with the band, the Irish dancer is a handy part of The Scratch on their tours. His Riverdance-style performance was intricately paced with all-acoustic instruments, but translated into a passionate rock anthem rather than traditional Irish music. After bowing to a cheering audience, he was graciously invited to the bar for a pint. What struck me about this concert – my first experience of seeing The Scratch live – was how relevant they made dusty lore.

It wasn’t another traditional evening in a local pub taking pictures without your parents watching, it was in the belly of the beast – I was overwhelmed with pure, unmitigated pride for what may come of Ireland’s often overlooked music scene.

Another artist paying homage to his roots is Dundalk poet and musician David Keenan. On the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Keenan injects his poetic touch into his music while also referencing classic Irish writers, poets and painters like Francis Bacon, James Joyce and many more. Even mentioning mainstream writers we are drawn into Keenan’s own literary endeavors and deeper into the spirit of Irish art rather than being reminded once again of what we studied in GCSE English. Music and literature live on far beyond the pages of old books and just through David Keenan we continue to see them grow for modern Ireland.

Men aren’t the only musical magicians in Ireland, however. CMAT, from Co. Meath, is for The Cranberries fans among us. Her flirty modern pop tinged with the voice of Julia Jacklin adds a contemporary flavor to a very masculine music scene, not just in Ireland. CMAT has previously discussed the specific femininity that is acceptable in the alternative Irish music scene. Relying on her own authenticity, however, CMAT opts for hyperfemininity, showcasing her personality.

Rather than reflecting tradition, the feminine side of Irish music is making a much-needed start. Going against the grain has become the new norm, however, CMAT does so while reminding us of old Irish pop from the revived perspective of a nonconforming girl. Nevertheless, a woman as a unique identity without being defined by a man. I want to be a cowboy too, baby.

And the gays? I thought you would never ask. Derry in Northern Ireland is a melting pot of queer musicians. A city notable for its activism and social appreciation, its residents embody this specific need for inclusivity. The Derry-based group Cherym are making waves for their shameless promotion of queer identities and the normalization of these in more than the music industry. Similarly, Belfast-based band Problem Patterns take the same approach, even calling themselves Queerpunk.

An incredible fusion of identity and gender has erupted in Northern Ireland and Ireland, all grounded in Irishness. The relationship between art and artist cannot be severed for these musicians, their Irish identity informs their artistry and vice versa – the two evolve together in creating today’s Irish music industry. And frankly, thank God. We’re not just drinking pints and eating Tayto with your man who’s your mom’s cat cousin. Well, we are, but we are also pioneers of an identity that transcends the cultural barriers of our history.

To be Irish and not to be Irish is a choice when you are not in Ireland. Living on the outside has taught me to forget what it is to be Irish and the history that has built my dithering identity. Since my return, I have realized that oblivion does not erase, and I will never bleed the Irish from me. It was the culture built from traumatic events in Ireland that taught me pride in being Irish. The constant revival of different art forms testifies to the resilience of the Irish identity, an identity to embrace and not to forget.

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