There are so many topics to cover in Irish Month that I’d need at least six months. My background is in the arts, and now, as an author, I have decided that the remaining three weeks will be devoted to music, literature, art, and the Irish contributions to each.
Wikipedia defines Irish music as a genre developed in Ireland. Well, of course.
But what is Irish music? What defines it?
Typically, there are seven key instruments you’ll find in various combinations:
Fiddle, which is the same instrument as the violin, but played differently
Flute, which has conical bores, rather than cylindrical, and is usually made of wood
Bodhran, a small drum with a goatskin head and open back, to control the pitch by hand
So, what makes Irish music unique?
The music is typically memorized and learned by ear. Until recently, little was written. Only a few early written examples, such as John Playford’s 18th century The Dancing Master, exist. But much of the music dates well before that time. Tunes were passed down, and regional variations were many. Irish music is a very social style, often played at a céilí or a session.
We’ve all heard the traditional drinking songs, ballads, and laments, along with the dance music of the toe-tapping reels, hornpipes, and jigs.
The music usually falls into one of five main categories:
Sean nós, or “old way” songs sung in Irish Gaelic
Songs sung in English often heard in the pub
Irish harp music, the harp is a national symbol after all
Dance tunes and medleys
From the hard rock style of Thin Lizzy to the traditional music of The Chieftains or the folk music of Luke Kelly, there are many options for your playlist. I combed numerous sites to create a list of the best, and while each list differed a bit from the others, the names that were on them all were the following (in alphabetical order):
Christy Moore, Clannad, Enya, Flook, Horslips, Hozier, Lankum, Lunasa, Luke Kelly, Planxty, Sinead O’Connor, The Boomtown Rats, The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers, The Corrs, The Cranberries, The Dubliners, The Gloaming, The Irish Rovers, The Pogues, The Wolfe Tones, Thin Lizzy, Westlife, U2
This is by no means a complete list, there are many, many more. And there are a few on here that I need to check out.
When I hear Irish music, I can’t stop tapping my feet! What are some of your favorites?