Regular visitors to Institute of Study Abroad may already be familiar with Rory Gallagher. Many of our tours include our neighbouring town of Ballyshannon, and we often stop for a photobeside the Rory statue. After learning a little of the Ballyshannon-born rocker’s history, they often learn forward with a conspiratorial whisper and say, “I didn’t realise he was such a big deal” Let me be honest with you, dear reader, neither did I...
A lot of this list is about music you may have missed at time of release, but here is one to catch at the start of her career. Biig Piig is Jess Smyth, a London based Irish singer and rapper who was born in Spain. The name was apparently inspired by a pizza menu. She says it’s ambiguity suits her. Nobody quite knows what to expect and that is the way she likes it. She can be a mess or cute depending on her mood.
2019 was a strong year for Irish Albums. Along with Fontaines DC’s debut album Dogrel, (which we will definitely cover in the future), we had The D they put between the R & L. This was the fourth album by A Lazarus Soul but the first time they came to my notice. The album got rave reviews and they played a string of sold-out shows.
It often surprises US visitors how divisive Irish opinion is on U2. The reasons why are worthy of an undergraduate course by itself. Let’s just say Irish people see nothing contradictory in being immensely proud of and deeply annoyed by the Dublin band. Often at the same time.
Ken and Carl Papenfus formed Relish with Darren Campbell in Downpatrick in the late 90s. The brothers were the sons of famous South African musician Jane Londis and author and percussionist Stan Papenfus. Jane and Stan’s interracial marriage was banned by the apartheid system, so they fled to Belfast in the early 70s. Not the place at that time one would have immediately thought of for refuge, but their decision gave us two mega-talented Irish musicians and one of my all time favourite Irish singles.
One of the common themes of conversation during the Covid 19 lockdown in Ireland, is that modern technology has made shelter-in-place a little more tolerable. We are lucky to be alive in a time when all sorts of streaming services bringing us instant entertainment, and almost every song ever recorded is available at the push of a button or by asking Alexa. Yet there is a downside too, and the Irish band Fight Like Apes were one of the first to make me see it.
By far the newest band here so far, The Scratch are a 4-piece acoustic act from Dublin. They were forged from from a shared love of acoustic guitar, metal and traditional Irish music, and not giving a damn what anyone thinks. Their debut album is literally called Couldn’t Give a Rats.
Colm Mac Con Iomaire is one of Ireland’s most respected musicians. He plays violin and sings with The Frames, is a founding member of Kilaand is world famous session musician (Playing on honorary Irish man David Gray’s classic White Ladder among others.).
This one will never make it past Institute of Study Abroad blog quality control. This is more an ear-worm than a Desert Island disc.
John Spillane is an Irish folk singer and Irish language advocate.
Sinéad O’ Connor is better than you think she is. Sure, you say “I love Sinéad – Nothing Compares 2 U, Mandinka, the one about the babies…? Or maybe “Yeah she can sing but remember that fuss with the Pope and Frank Sinatra and the Muslim stuff…she’s kinda hard work”. Fair enough. I personally am totally guilty of expressing this sentiment in the past. And I guess we’re all entitled to our opinions. But Sinéad O Connor is better than you think she is.
Bill Hicks might not approve but the next song was brought to you courtesy of an advertising campaign. Mic Christopher was an American born Irish singer. Admired on the Irish music scene, his band The Mary Janes never had a breakthrough hit despite touring widely. Upon their breakup Mic went solo and seemed on the verge of something really special when he tragically passed away after a fall while touring with The Waterboys. His family and friends helped finish off his solo album Skylarkin and release it. It won industry awards and sold well.
How about something a bit more local? The Revs hailed from Kilcar near Sliabh Liag and burst onto the scene at the start of the Millennium with catchy, witty surf-rock style. As a matter of fact, we brought our summer camp to one of their early gigs so I’m sure there are a few attics and basements in the U.S. with dusty Revs merch.
I would imagine when you think of Irish music you don’t think of the club scene. But Róisín Murphy has been packing dance floors all over the world for 25 years. Róisín (Roh-sheen) is from Arklow Co. Wicklow. She moved to England in her teens and in 1994 formed trip-hop band Moloko who had massive hits with Sing It Back and The Time Is Now. She went solo in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since.
We’ve run the computer simulations, crunched the numbers, tested the data. There can be no doubt. Philip Parris Lynott is the coolest Irish man ever. Tall, handsome, a sublime lyricist, vocalist and bassist, with a cheeky Dublin strut and a poet’s soul, we are all agreed he is the Irish high priest of Rock and Roll.
Greetings, music lovers! In this blog, authored by Collie and Niamh, we are going to chat about Irish songs and artists – not the ones that enjoy global fame, but those with which you may be less familiar. We want to take you down a musical road less traveled, but a very rewarding road nonetheless. Now- your faithful bloggers here, Collie and Niamh, do not necessarily share the same taste in music – although we do agree on a lot of must-listen-to stuff, but we are going to try and make this selection eclectic and fun for you. We will shortly be recording an ISAI podcast, and you’ll get a chance to pop into our regular conversation about what we love in Irish culture. You can also read Collie’s Movie blog here, and Niamh’s poetry blog here. This blog will be updated as inspiration strikes us, and will have input from all the team here at the ISAI. This means the quality of writing and taste in music may fluctuate wildly. But the enthusiasm and a wish to spread the word about Irish music, whether new or just new to you, will remain a constant.
Collie here. It has always surprised me that The Cranberries became huge stars globally in the mid-nineties but that Irish bands Something Happens or The Frames, to name two, did not.
This is not to say The Cranberries didn’t deserve their success, but strangely, they did not initially have the same fame in Ireland as they did abroad- and bands, like those mentioned above, were incredibly popular in Ireland, but never made the breakthrough elsewhere.There are hundreds of bands and thousands of songs that have lain under the radar, that we want to introduce to you. We have also included a spotify playlist with these songs and a few others- but we would say if you fall in love with some of these artists like we did, maybe go see them live, buy some merch or invest in some vinyl. As is shown later, streaming don’t play the bills.