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All About Irish Traditional Music

All About Irish Traditional Music

Ireland has always been known for its simplicity and quaintness and that is reflected in their music as well. If anyone wants to hear to some lively, cheerful music, Irish music is sure to lift up their spirits. The melodious playfulness tugs at every heartstring and even after lots of experimentation in modern times, Irish traditional music has remained the same. Right from the Gaelic times, the Irish have held on to their traditions in the face of all odds, and even from the constant threat of being overshadowed by the more popular English culture. But the roots run deep and over time, they have managed to carve out their niche.

 

Saint Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig)...
Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) in Dublin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To start with, Ireland has always been associated with rural living more than urban sophistry. Hence the folk elements form a major part of their culture and they allude to nature and her elements. In earlier time, ten musical instruments were very much in vogue out of which the harp and the tabor were very important. The harp was used in all state presentations and functions of importance. A smaller harp called the cruit and the bigger harp called clairesearch, which had 30 strings were widely used in public performances. Then there was the cuiselenna which is actually a bagpipe, but different in some technical aspects from the Scottish or Russian counterparts. The stoc and sturgan were used to create dramatic effect, much like the clarions and trumpets that we have today. Most importantly, there was the fiddle and there were entire pieces which just evolved around it. There is evidence that it was used as early as in the 8th century. Then there were the buinne and the tin whistle. The 18th century was thus filled with the melodiousness of these instruments which were mostly made from wood.
Compared to the music, the songs have evolved much later and most of the Irish folk songs that one gets to hear today have evolved in less than 200 years. But then again, the nature of the songs is very similar to the poems that we have from the Old English period. There are the lament songs called Caoineadh Songs and they were mostly sung in funerals. Again, for the happier times, there are songs and music which are played at weddings and births. These musical pieces have the predominance of hornpipes, reels and jigs.

In the modern times, guitars, saxophones and even drums have made entry into the Irish mainstream music which creates fantastic renditions of the old tunes in a new way. The fiddle is replaced to a large extent with the modern violin. The tin whistle has given way to the flute. Moreover, the accordion has entered the contemporary Irish musical scenario and since it can project a number of scales by itself, it single handedly replaces some other instruments as well. On the other hand, the concertina is more English in nature but has found its way in the Irish mainstream. The banjo and mandolin are also well known, thanks to the media which now actively participates in highlighting Irish music.

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With so much said, it is worth listening to some Irish traditional music now, isn’t it?

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