Earlier this spring, more than 20 members of Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos pan flute orchestra left their homes in Bolivia and embarked on a European tour. They arrived in Germany on March 10, right as that country's government imposed a ban on large gatherings to fight the spread of coronavirus. Within days, their bus had broken down, and all of their performances had been cancelled, and their own government back home in Bolivia announced that it would close its own borders, leaving the orchestra stranded. Read the rest
Damn near every region in the world has a well of traditional music that they're able to draw cultural water from. Some musical traditions are better known than others. Most folks have likely heard Tuvan throat singing, but aren't able to put a name to it. I can't count the number of subway stations, markets and streets that I've walked through where buskers were filling the air with Sanjuanito. Where such tunes are played and songs are sung, a snippet of cultural history is passed along. Sadly, in a world that all too often favors the new over what has brought joy in the past, the music that once defined a people, even when played often and well, can easily pass into irrelevance. While it's important to maintain the sound of traditional music as a part of our shared cultural history, it's just as vital to find new ways to interpret the melodies of the past in a way that lends it an immediacy to modern listeners. Martin Hayes, one of the finest fiddlers to have come out of Ireland in the past 100 years, seems to understand this.
I've talked about Hayes' work here in the past: his moody style of playing is just as much the result of his upbringing in County Clare at the feet of his father, famed fiddler P.J. Hayes, as it is his own genius. In 2015, Hayes's band, The Gloaming, won the Meteor Choice Music Prize for Album of the Year, beating the tar out acts like U2, Hozier and Damien Rice in the process. Read the rest
Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O'Flynn.
A player of the Uilleann pipes, O'Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn't until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O'Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy's Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We'd all be poorer for it. Plantxy's music left me with the impression, as a kid, that the tunes I played on the instruments I grew up with were cool. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. O'Flynn at a musical festival I was covering for a magazine back in the 1990s. He was pleasant and seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance. The encounter left me feeling giddy for days afterwards.
One of my favorite songs by Planxty, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, has a tune lashed on to the end of it called Tabhair dom do laimh, which roughly translates as Give Me Your Hand. O'Flynn's rendition of the tune has been one of my happy places for decades. Read the rest