Sunday, 13 November 2016

Traditional, yet new

Like most Irish people of my generation, the wonders of Irish folk and traditional music were introduced to me by Planxty. Their approach to the music was somewhat non-traditional - they were raucous, rhythmic and bawdy, and they blew away the stuffy approach of the oul fellas in aran sweaters and tweed caps. They've inspired many musicians over the years, though recently I seen a trend to strip the old music down to its essentials, leaving aside some of the musical complexities that Planxty introduced.

A recent discovery for me, the Dublin quartet Lynched, are an illustration of that. Their music seems quite stark and spare at times, but they really pack a punch too. Take this performance for example. It begins as a slow and simple ballad, then after four minutes the pipes join in and by the end it's rolling powerfully. And the obvious delight the four musicians take in the performance really adds to the atmosphere they create.

By contrast, is it possible that in Québec the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction, with a new generation of musicians adding complexity and rhythm to the old songs? Take Mélisande as an example, another recent discovery for me, who add synths, a backbeat, and their own feminist lyrical twist to the Quèbec “call and response” songs.

These two bands are so different from each other, but they're both so authentic and so strong. This is a good time for traditional music.