Mention Irish music and your audience may think of ancient harps, tin whistles, and Irish jigs. Or they may think of a bald Sinead O’Connor, a politically-charged U2 concert, and the Cranberries belting out “Linger” to a wild crowd. There’s room for all of that variety in the history of one of the world’s most musical cultures. Ireland’s largest musical festival, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, is also the world’s largest traditional music festival. Up to 400,000 people annually enjoy a week’s worth of music performed mostly by amateurs, all celebrating the wide variety of infectious and moving music that has made its own genre in Ireland and beyond. Yet, distinctive as the lilt of traditional Irish music sounds, historians tell us its origins are actually the Far East. The Celts brought that eastern influence to the British Isles more than 2,000 years ago. In fact, the iconic Irish harp is believed to have originated in Egypt. But it was the Celtic people who combined the sound of the harp with tin whistles, the Irish flute, the fiddle, the uilleann pipes, and the bodhrán. Irishman Paul Murphy developed an infographic detailing the evolution of Irish music. It details the first written collection of Irish music appearing in 1762. By the mid-1800s the Irish were emigrating in great numbers and taking their Irish music with them all over the world, but particularly to America. Musical recordings are found as early as the 1920s. However, it was music lecturer Sean O’Riada who brought Irish music into the professional spotlight in the 1960s. The 1970s are considered “The Golden Age” and led directly to the wildly popular “Celtic Fusion” of the 1980s, the popularity of which continues today.
"I started with rock n' roll and...then you start to take it apart like a child with a toy and you see there's blues and there's country...Then you go back from country into American music...and you end up in Scotland and Ireland eventually." - Elvis CostelloCeltic Fusion is considered modern music infused with an influence of traditional Celtic sound or traditional Celtic music which incorporates modern sounds and instruments. However it is defined, people love it. And while everyone in the audience may not fully understand what it is they are enjoying, the joy they feel can be traced back through thousands of years of Irish music history. Check out Weston's own Irish festival at O'Malley's Irish Pub October 9-11.