Archive | July, 2013

Untraditional Irish Music

25 Jul

As an musician and avid music fan, I was more than excited to discover a bit about the Dublin music scene. I had very little knowledge of what to expect besides a few google searches here and there. The first night we were here I stumbled across a band by the name of Meltybrains (quite the odd name). They played an incredible show at Sweeney’s. The music was intricate, loud, and accessible. This got me excited about for all the musical potential of Dublin. The next day I went to a record store, Tower Records, where I asked an employee to suggest an album for me after describing the sound of Meltybrains to him. He gave me an album by a band named Enemies. Once again, another great band, but still I wanted more, I wanted to be opened to the entire scene. A couple nights later we ended up back at Sweeney’s, which would end up become somewhat of a routine while at Malvern House. I began talking to a local there and he happened to be at the show I was at the week before. He told me about all the local shows Sweeney’s puts on. I then asked him if he knew about the band Enemies in which he responded with an excited ‘yes.’ They played in Dublin several times in the past year along with several other similar bands on a Dublin based record label called “The Richter Collective.” When I got home that night, after a bit of research I found an entire list of local bands that were quite incredible. Each band on the label had connections to at least a couple other local bands not on the label. It amazed me how quickly it all connected. I’ve never come across anything really like this in America, a web of bands each linking to each, playing similar music all influencing each other in a scene of “underground” music. Maybe I need to look harder when I’m in American but from what I’ve seen Dublin seems like the place to be for awesome music. 

Advertisements

The Cliffs of Moher

25 Jul

 ImageThe Cliffs of Moher was one of my favorite places that we visited on our excursion. The cliffs stand 214m (702 feet) and stretch 8km (5miles) along the cost. I like the idea that Ireland just kind of drops off. The cliffs have a magical feel to them, as though we were seeing the same cliffs that Irish people looked at during mid-evil times.  Moher in Irish means ruined fort. The cliffs got this because of an old fort that once stood on Hag’s Head. Ledged has it that there were 3 brothers who have a beautiful sister. A druid foretold a fearful end of them all if their only sister did not remain a virgin.  The built the fort for her and built 3 other forts to guard her.  The guarded her for a long time, until their cattle was carried away and the 3 brothers went to fight for them back. In the battle the fort of Moher was destroyed. The 3 brothers returned in triumph only to find that their sister, whose virginity their lives depended on, had eloped with Diarmuid. Diarmuid had been promised the hand of the most beautiful women in all of Ireland if he won a hurling match against Fianna. He won the match and Aengus told him that the most beautiful women in Ireland lived in the Fort at Loop Head.

Image

I, also found it quite incredible just how many birds there were living in the rock in what seemed like a bird apartment building. The cliffs have the largest mainland seabird nesting colony in Ireland with 9 species of breeding seabirds, 20 species of nesting birds, and 30,000 breeding pairs. A dolphin also swam with the boat as we came into the harbor. They informed us that the Dolphine’s name is Dusty and she has been hanging around the harbor for about 4 or 5 years and liked to play with the kids that swam in the cove.

In addition, I was excited to hear that several movies and shows have been filmed at the cliffs. The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as well as several wild life shows.  This video is a behind the scenes video about shooting at the cliffs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3C8gchuq8U

Gaelic Football

24 Jul

Two weeks after watching Dublin defeat Galway in an intense upset victory to secure the county’s first Leinster Senior Men’s Hurling Championship since 1961, a group of us decided to experience the Gaelic Athletic Association’s other primary sport, Gaelic Football, as Dublin once again attempted a Leinster Senior Championship against County Meath. The match was highly anticipated, as while Dublin was not expected to prevail in hurling, the Dublin football team is traditionally one of the most dominant in the province, so the circumstances gave Dublin a legitimate shot at completing its first double Leinster senior championship since 1942. This, coupled with the fact that county Meath is much closer to Dublin than Galway, resulted in an absolutely electric atmosphere in Croke Park, with 50,000 attendees as opposed to the 32,000 that had turned out to watch hurling.
In addition to the more exciting climate in the stadium, the Leinster Football final presented a much more exciting matchup. Meath struck out to an early lead with 2 points within the first 2 minutes of the match. Dublin answered right away with a point of their own as well as a goal, to establish a lead that they held until the last 5 minutes of the half, when a series of points by Meath put the county ahead of Dublin by 2 at the break. However, the Dublin manager must have come up with a heck of a half time speech, as the second half was all Dublin. The boys in blue quickly regained the lead, and with the exception of a Meath run late in the second period would continue to build upon that margin to win healthily 2-13 to 1-13.
I very much enjoyed both Gaelic Athletic events that we attended, as I feel that both are extremely reflective of the rich Celtic cultural traditions from which they stem. Although I didn’t know much about either sport before coming to Ireland, I greatly admired the athleticism and determination that they require from the players. I also found them honestly as or more enjoyable to watch than equivalent American sports, and I definitely plan to follow both Dublin teams online as they continue their quests to the All-Ireland Championship, as well as into the future. Up the Dubs!

Gaelic football

Fionn the Giant and the Sun

24 Jul

When we went to see the Giant’s Causeway, it was a thing of beauty. Both the landscape, and the myth that goes along with it represent the Irish culture extremely well because it dates back to before the island was split into two nations. The myth is that Fionn mac Cumhaill was challenged by the Scottish giant Benandonner to a fight. Fionn accepted and built the Giant’s Causeway across the North Channel so the two could meet. But after realizing that Benandonner was much bigger than he was Fionn backed out. This resulting in Fionn’s wife Una dressing him up as a baby and putting him in a cradle. When Benandonner saw this “baby” he figure that it was Fion’s son, and that if the baby was this big than his father must be massive. In this Benandonner grew frightened and ran back to Scotland destroying the Causeway so that Fionn could not follow him back to Scotland. This myth came about because the Pagan religion started to disappear. Pagan heroes began to transform into giants as the myths were passed along and this speaks volumes of the culture in Ireland.

Giants Causeway

As Ireland “became more catholic than the pope” the Pagan roots remained. The Celtic cross that is still widely known and used today even has Pagan tradition. The circle that is on the top of the cross is a representation from when the sun was still being worshiped for everything revolves around the sun. In this the Pagans realized that the sun was of upmost importance and worshiped it. So this representation of the sun, once the country switched to Catholicism, was kept alive I’m guessing so that people would identify more with the religion and offer less resistance to the change. Mythology remains a big part of the Irish culture because the settles of the island can be traced back so far.

Giants Causeway

Image

GAA Games!

24 Jul

GAA Games!

My favorite cultural experience in Dublin has been going to the GAA games! I am a sports fanatic. I think I like sports a bit more than some of my guy friends. So when the opportunity came up to go to the hurling match, I could not say no, especially since it was a division championship match! Obviously I had no idea what hurling was, I did a little research on Wikipedia before the games so I had some semblance of what was going on. I could feel the buzz through the stadium; Dublin had not won a Leinster Championship in 52 years. The match consisted of Galway v. Dublin; needless to say Dublin was the underdog. With a close game right until about 10 minutes left Dublin came out on top winning 2-25 to 2-13 against Galway. It was the first time the two teams have met in a Leinster Final.

The next weekend a smaller group of us went to see the Dublin Gaelic Football team play in the Leinster Championship against Meath. Having seen Australian Rules football, I sort of had some understanding of the game. Unlike the hurling team, Dublin had won eight of the last nine Leinster championships and was favored to win the game. There were also about 20,000 more fans at the football game than the hurling match. It was not a hard game to follow and Dublin won 2-15 to 0-14. Their goaltender and captain, Stephen Cluxton, scored five of those goals.

Both games were very exciting but I have to say, but I liked hurling more than I liked the football game. It was also the first time that the two teams had won championship at the same time in 60 or so years! I loved the atmosphere in and around the stadium and happy we got to go see both games. It is definitely something I will never forget about my time in Ireland.

Sean-nós

24 Jul

Sean-nós (old style) is a form of traditional Irish song. Usually sung unaccompanied and in Irish, sean-nós songs are solo and intricate. Music is more important than lyric and singers elaborate on the songs in their own way, like jazz improvisation. Melody is not regular – it can vary from verse to verse and change every time it is performed.

Ornamentation is the most distinctive feature of sean-nós singing. Dynamics (where the song gets louder or quieter for effect) are not part of sean-nós – instead, the singer will vary the rhythm, change the speed, or add grace notes or melodic turns. Sean-nós is often thought to be Indian, North African, or Arabic music when those unfamiliar first hear it – there are theories that sean-nós was originally influenced by music traveling from those regions through Spain. The distinct features of sean-nós make it unpopular with some, but the style is highly detailed and difficult to do well.

There are three main styles of sean-nós in the three areas where the Irish language is still spoken to some extent. The Gaeltachtaí of Munster (mainly in Kerry, Cork, & Waterford), Connacht (mainly in Mayo & Connemara), & Ulster (in Donegal) have their own distinct styles.

Donegal sean-nós has clear Scottish influences and is less ornate than the other styles, as well as more nasal.

Connemara sean-nós is the most ornamented style and shares some forms with traditional instrumentation, with many grace notes.

Munster sean-nós is not quite as ornamented as the Connemara style and has longer gaps between notes. Vibrato is also more prominent.

Interest in sean-nós has grown recently. TG4 (the Irish language television channel) is doing a series on sean-nós singers: the trailer is below.

The Spirits of Kilminham Jail

24 Jul

Kilmanham Jail; this landmark was a once in a life experience. As a person who grew up in the suburbs of a small town, I don’t experience too many crimes and I have definitely never visited a jail structure before Kilmanham jail has had a significant role in the peace and reconciliation process in Ireland’s history. This prison gave me an eerie feeling as we stepped from room to room. When the prison was first created, it was known for its public hangings outside the building. However, because public hangings became similar to a sporting event, where the locals would come and cheer on the hanging that the procedure had to be changed. Eventually, they made all hangings and executions private within the cell walls. Kilmanham Jail was important because it held some of the most important people who fought for Ireland’s independence. Several leaders from the 1916 Easter Rising were executed here. Some of the famous prisoners were Padraig Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas Clarke. The jail was officially closed in 1924 by the government, when Ireland was declared a free state. As a result of the new treaty, the remaining prisoners were released. This experience was unlike any other landmark I had ever been able to visit. I respect all those who put their lives on the line in order to fight for their countries belief. We were able to learn about the past and also understand the huge impact the treaty has had on the jail.  Historically, this was an important landmark because it allowed me to have a small understanding of how the prisoners felt as they awaited execution. On our last part of the tour we were placed in the small room that prisoners were held in before execution. As we left, I sent my prayers to those who had suffered in the prison and thanked them for this opportunity to visit the Kilmanham Jail. ImageImageImage