Since we are a waiting for our next performance, I thought that I would take this time to explore what Irish music is and what it means to me. I will be doing it in sections, so you don’t have to read too much in one sitting. I would be very interested in hearing your opinion on the subject as well. Read on!

Recently, I had the good fortune of attending a trad (“traditional”) session at Pub 32, a local Irish pub. I was able to convince Beau (the cajon player for Clover’s Revenge) to come along so he could get a nice dose of some traditional Irish music. When I approached him to play in the band, I had wanted him to play a bodhran, but he insisted on the cajon. It turns out that the cajon is a much richer instrument which can create a wider range of sounds. As Beau became more comfortable with Irish rhythm, I began to enjoy the new addition to our sound.

So the session seemed to go without a major hitch. I held my own with my mandolin and Beau seemed to add new energy to the music. Well done. I did kick over my beer and let out a minor expletive, but I thought nothing of it and played on. Pub life.

So the next weekend, I received an email. It was one of the organizer of the trad session. He (very graciously, I might add) said that only musicians with traditional Irish instruments playing traditional Irish songs and tunes could play in the session. This was as a group decision because people would show up with instruments you wouldn’t typically see at an Irish session or singing songs that were not Irish. There was a comment also made about profanities, but I overlooked that. I had to break the news to Beau that we wouldn’t be attending that evening. Please note, I harbor no bad feelings. The trad session happens every Sunday and I highly recommend it.

Swingin' On The GateOn the same weekend, however, while watching an Irish band (actually from Ireland, not just playing Irish music) play traditional music using a cajon. The irony was not lost. Shortly afterwards, I saw a video of a street band in Galway playing traditional music with a Cajon. Are we merely just catching up with our native cousins?

So how is it that people can disagree about what instruments are Irish when many of those instruments are not of Irish origin to begin with (banjo, mandolin, accordion, bouzouki, etc.)? How is that we are playing music that is over one hundred years old in some cases and written by peasants on a tiny island in the Atlantic? How is that unlike many other folk music traditions Irish music is easily recognized almost world wide?  Frankly, what is Irish music?

Next post: Sean-Nós Singing and Rebel Music

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