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Just Why Is Irish Music So Popular?

Irish music is played on the street. It is played in people’s houses. It is played in the pub.

It is played on festival stages and in the glamour of TV studios. Trad is played everywhere.

This music is centuries old but never seems outdated.

Irish Folk Music session at Minogues Pub in Tulla, County Clare, Ireland.

Irish Folk Music has the power to speak to anyone, anywhere. Trad can be heard around the globe, in places as far away from Ireland as Tokyo and Berlin. Why?

In future, when we are ready, you can listen to some of our recordings in this section and make up your own mind as to why Irish Music has such a massive appeal.

Here, you will be able also find out about the history of the music, and about the different instruments, and to watch videos and listen to trad music being played live.

But before we let you move on to delve into more material, here is our attempt at an answer to the question of why Irish music is so popular.

Personally we think, its’ appeal is due to a powerful combination of factors:

Firstly, we reckon, it is the minor notes that make the music so likeable. Most pieces feature minor notes. Minor notes go straight to the heart. In them, we feel we can hear sorrow, sadness, longing. People feel magically drawn towards them. Minor notes have the power to open the hearts of even the most frozen or fenced-in people. This idea is based on Susannas own observations over the years of peoples reactions to the music, especially those of her fellow Germans :).

Secondly, we think, it must be the harmonies. You don’t ever hear anything that clashes, nothing discordant. Instead, there are lovely, pleasing harmonies. Everyone loves those!

Thirdly, Irish folk music, to this day, is part of life. Let us explain this point...

The titles of many tunes show how Irish folk music has been part of daily life: Hush the Cat from Under the Table, You’re a long Time Courting, The Day we Paid the Rent and so on. This gives a feel that the music can just happen’ and that it can happen anywhere: it can be composed in someone’s kitchen, it can be played in the hay shed or in the street.

Literally. Below is a photo of a group of kids who started their own spontaneous session in the street during ‘Tulla Trad’, an East Clare music festival. They sounded lovely!

Irish traditional music played in the street during a spontaneous session at Tulla Trad, County Clare, Ireland.

Articles In This Section So Far

And, last but not least: traditional music is a great leveller. And people everywhere are taken in by that sense of egalitarianism. How does this work?

Being casual and using understatement is a huge thing in Ireland. This applies to trad music as well as to everyday life, but let’s stick with the music here:

Musical sculpture in Limerick City, Ireland.

The tunes are kept ‘casual’ sounding by following clear (but unwritten) rules. And when played, they come to a casual, almost throwaway end. You will not find any Irish musician who will brag about how great they are, even if they were famous, or even if they secretly believed they were the best. It’s just not done. Everyone, no matter what age, no matter what social class, and no matter how famous, blends in when playing Irish trad.

And, because Irish traditional music is taught in schools from a very young age, it would have been the musical starting point for most musicians, even for those that have come to international fame with their pop or rock music. Example: the Corrs play excellent Trad.

If you liked our introduction to Irish traditional music, please pay it back!

Use the social buttons on this site, top left and at the very bottom where you can leave a Facebook comment or share our page.

Many Thanks and warmest regards from Ireland from Susanna and Colm.

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