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Irish music & musicians

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  • Luke Kelly (1940 - 1984)
    Source: Find-A-Grave memorial #25736526. Links to his music are below his obit. Singer, Folk Musician. He is best known as a member of the Irish band The Dubliners. Born into a working class family, ...
  • Bono
    Paul David Hewson - BONO Paul David Hewson was born on 10 May 1960, in Dublin, Ireland. The son of a Roman Catholic postal worker, Bono's Protestant mother died when the boy was just 14. He joined th...


Music of Ireland

(Feel free to add material to this project)

Irish Music is the generic term for music that has been created in various genres on the island of Ireland.

The indigenous music of the island is termed Irish traditional music. It has remained vibrant through the 20th, and into the 21st century, despite globalizing cultural forces. In spite of emigration and a well-developed connection to music influences from Britain and the United States, Irish music has kept many of its traditional aspects and has itself influenced many forms of music, such as country and roots music in the USA, which in turn have had some influence on modern rock music. It has occasionally been fused with rock and roll, punk rock and other genres. Some of these fusion artists have attained mainstream success, at home and abroad.

In recent decades Irish music in many different genres has been very successful internationally. However, the most successful genres have been rock, popular and traditional fusion, with performers such as Clannad, Celtic Thunder, Enya, Westlife, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, Rory Gallagher, Bob Geldof, The Corrs, The Chieftains, The Irish Rovers, Riverdance, The Irish Tenors, Van Morrison, The Saw Doctors, Snow Patrol, The Cranberries, U2, The Undertones, Ash, The Script, Sinéad O'Connor, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard and Eleanor McEvoy achieving success nationally and internationally.

Early Irish music

By the High and Late Medieval Era, the Irish annals were listing native musicians, such as the following:

  • 1364: Bran Ó Brain, a skillful tympanist .
  • 1369: John Mac Egan, and Gilbert Ó Bardan, two accomplished young harpers of Conmaicne.
  • 1469: Ruaidrí mac Donnchad Ó Dálaigh, the most musical-handed harpist in all Ireland.
  • 1490: Diarmait MacCairbre, harper, executed.
  • 1553: Tadhg, son of Ruaidhri Ó Comhdhain, i.e. the ollamh of Éire and Alba in music.
  • 1561: Naisse mac Cithruadh, drowned on Lough Gill.
  • 1589. Daighre Ó Duibhgeannáin, a most affable, musical man

Early Modern times

Up to the seventeenth century, harp musicians were patronised by the aristocracy in Ireland. This tradition died out in the eighteenth century with the collapse of Gaelic Ireland. Turlough Carolan (1670–1738) is the best known of those harpists, and over 200 of his compositions are known. He wrote in a baroque style that is usually classified as classical music, but his music has entered the tradition and is played by many folk musicians today. Edward Bunting collected some of the last-known Irish harp tunes at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. Other important collectors of Irish music include Francis O'Neill and George Petrie.

Traditional music

Irish traditional music includes many kinds of songs, including drinking songs, ballads and laments, sung unaccompanied or with accompaniment by a variety of instruments. Traditional dance music includes reels , hornpipes and jigs (the common double jig is in 6/8 time). The polka arrived at the start of the nineteenth century, spread by itinerant dancing masters and mercenary soldiers, returning from Europe. Set dancing may have arrived in the eighteenth century.Later imported dance-signatures include the mazurka and the highlands (a sort of Irished version of the Scottish strathspey). In the nineteenth century folk instruments would have included the flute the fiddle and the uilleann pipes.

Irish music instruments

  • Fiddle
  • Flute
  • Tin Whistle (pennywhistle)
  • Bagpipes and Uilleann pipes
  • Bombarde
  • Free Reed Instruments
  • Melodeon
  • Button Accordion
  • Piano Accordion
  • Concertina
  • Banjo
  • Mandolins, citterns, bouzoukis, guitars
  • Harp
  • Hammered Dulcimer
  • Bodhrán


The 1960s saw the emergence of major Irish rock bands and artists, such as Them, Van Morrison, Emmet Spiceland, Eire Apparent, Skid Row, Taste, Rory Gallagher, Dr. Strangely Strange, Thin Lizzy, Mellow Candle.

In 1970 Dana put Ireland on the pop music map by winning Eurovision with her song All Kinds Of Everything. She went to number one in the UK and all over Europe and paved the way for many Irish artists. Dana had a number of follow up hits throughout the 70's when she was signed to Decca and the GTO record label, whose artists included Donna Summer, Heatwave and Irish pop groups the Nolan Sisters and the Dooleys. Groups who formed during the emergence of Punk rock in the mid-late 1970s included U2, Virgin Prunes, The Boomtown Rats, The Undertones, Aslan, Gavin Friday, and Stiff Little Fingers. Later in the 80s and into the 90s, Irish punk fractured into new styles of alternative rock, which included That Petrol Emotion, My Bloody Valentine and Ash. Thin Lizzy in concert, 1981

In the 1990s, pop bands like the Corrs, B*Witched, Boyzone, Westlife and The Cranberries emerged. In the same decade, Ireland also contributed a subgenre of folk metal known as Celtic metal with exponents of the genre including Cruachan, Primordial, Skyclad, Geasa and Waylander.

Other artists well-known as popular music performers include Paddy Casey, Jack L, Declan O'Rourke, Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club, Phil Coulter, Dolores Keane, Damien Rice, Damien Dempsey, Eleanor McEvoy, Finbar Wright, Maura O'Connell, Frances Black, Sharon Shannon, Mary Black, The Frames and Stockton's Wing.

Since the 2000s the music industry is continuing to grow with well established acts such as Snow Patrol, The Coronas, Bell X1, Julie Feeney, The Thrills, Gemma Hayes, Villagers, The Script, Codes, The Blizzards, and The Answer.

Famous Irish musicians

Some old and newer songs

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