Irish Traditional Music

Irish traditional music is a form of folk music that has been playing in the county for centuries. The beauty of this music is that it is commonly found all over Ireland with it being played in many pubs both north and south of the border. The original bands contained at least 10 separate instruments. The music has a real Irish feel to it and one of the major attractions of visiting the country is visiting a pub, enjoying a pint of Guineas while listening to the local folk band.

Uilleann pipes

While other European nations have experienced “peaks and troughs” with the popularity of their own traditional music, Irish folk has always been a major feature of the country’s music scene. The dominance of agriculture in the economy has been a major factor, as this music has its roots within the farming communities. The legendary status afforded to past musicians has also helped keep this brand in the forefront of the popularity of the music. Although it was being performed in the 18th century it wasn’t until the 19th century that the first ballads were being written down and recorded.

The oldest forms of the music hailed from the rural regions with the more recent forms of the music coming from the urban centres. The oldest tunes were ballads sung without music and were known as “sean nos”. There was also a brand of songs called “Caoineadh” songs which reflected the sorrow and pain that came with political troubles or even the loss of loved ones. However, musicians have played a huge role in the popularity of the folk music. The oldest instruments associated with the music are the fiddle, the tin whistle, the tin whistle, the flute and the Uilleann pipes. More and more instruments have been incorporated into the music in recent years.

Thin Lizzy. The rock band influenced by Irish Traditional music

The Uilleann Pipes are complex instruments that were introduced as early as the start of the 18th century. This produced legendary artists such as James Goodwin who was a clergyman from Dublin. He played the pipes and the flute collecting over 2000 tunes that are now on display in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The beauty of Irish folk is that it has never left the Irish music scene and its influence can be heard in many of the world class artists that emanate from the country in modern times. In the 1970’s one of the most famous bands to come out of Ireland were Thin Lizzy.

Their first major hit was “Whiskey in the Jar”, and this was a modern version of the traditional Irish song, and many of its other songs showed their Irish influence. Other Irish rock artists such as Van Morrison and the Cranberries, have achieved great international success clearly showing the strong influence of traditional Irish music. Attending any major Irish sporting event and the crowd will at some point sing the ballad “Fields of Athenry”. This Caoineadh type ballad recounts the tale of a fictional Irishman being deported to Australia for stealing food for his starving family during the famine of 1850.

One would assume that it would have been written during the 18th or even the early 19th century, yet it was composed by Peter St John in the 1970s. Now adopted by the country as one of its most nationalistic songs it shows how modern-day composers are still producing great Irish folk ballads in the modern era. Irish traditional music has been around for centuries and its influence is still felt strongly in Irish music today


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