Myles O’Reilly Releases New Portrait of Traditional and Folk Music in Ireland

Radie Peat

Myles O’Reilly Releases New Portrait of Traditional and Folk Music in Ireland

New film features Radie Peat, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Saileog and Muireann Ní Cheannabháin, and Ye Vagabonds.

On Christmas Day, independent film-maker Myles O’Reilly released a new portrait of Irish traditional and folk music today.

The programme, titled Backwards to Go Forwards, features artists such as fiddle-player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and the group This is How We Fly, the folk duo Ye Vagabonds, concertina player Cormac Begley, singer Radie Peat from the groups Lankum and Rue, sisters Saileog and Muireann Ní Cheannabháin, uilleann piper Maitiú Ó Casaide and bouzouki player Adam Whelan from The Bonny Men, fiddle and guitar duo Zoë Conway and John Mc Intyre and more.

Backwards to Go Forwards features a series of performances from the musicians as well as interviews exploring their background and views on traditional music today. Among the performances are Peat singing the US folk song ‘You are My Sunshine’, Zoë Conway singing Ger Wolfe’s ‘Curra Road’ and Ye Vagabonds singing ‘Lowlands of Holland’.

Exposing options
In the hour-long film, Ó Raghallaigh explains his switch from the standard type of fiddle to his 10-string hardanger d’amor instrument which has become so central to his music.

I had loads of different fiddles – trying to find one that really worked for me… and I was struggling – trying to tune them in different ways … taking a normal fiddle and tuning the pegs way down … I tried a five-string viola. But none of them really delighted me.

This [hardanger d’amor] just makes me so happy every time I play it. To try and describe to you why it’s so special: [with] pretty much every instrument, you come up against a wall, in which it no longer exposes options to you … and this instrument, every time I play it, it throws out ideas at me. It teaches me things. It’s continually teaching me which is quite extraordinary for an instrument.

Radie Peat of Lankum discusses how she started singing more in public and forming the band Lankum with Cormac MacDiarmada and Ian and Daragh Lynch.

I remember my dad shushing pubs for me to sing in when I was maybe 10 or 11… I started really enjoying singing when I was teenager. I sang when I was 15, 16, 17, but then I just stopped and I… played concertina. I was always a tunes player for years….

In my mid-twenties I came across a whole group of people… some of the first ones I came across were the Lynch brothers … but there was a whole group of people singing together… maybe because it was fun again that that brought me back into it.

Golden moment
In an interview with Brían Mac Gloinn of Ye Vagabonds, the singer discusses the commercialisation of Irish traditional music.

We do have to be careful in Ireland and abroad – especially abroad – of how we present the music… I think there’s a lot of resistance to playing traditional music in Ireland… it’s associated with diddley-eye, Paddy’s Day bullshit. It’s weird because Irish music became pop music in the 60s. It was in the charts. It was The Dubliners, the Clancy Brothers and Sweeney’s Men. It… became a bit overplayed…. the American market commercialised Irish music in a terrible way, and so now a lot of the time people just switch off. I do think we’re in a golden moment. It almost took a full generation for it to become interesting again.

Backwards to Go Forwards was made in association with the promoter Islander and was funded by the Arts Council. The interviews are carried out by Myles O’Reilly, Martin Burns and Donal Dineen. Watch the full film below.

Published on 3 January 2019

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