Coming to the Barbican on Monday the 5th of March is Imagining Ireland – a showcase of the rather healthy state of Irish music today.
“…I suppose what we wanted to do was take a photograph of some of the exciting noise going on, that possibly wouldn’t get a spotlight otherwise”, are the words of Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan, who helped curate this incredible line-up.
Noonan, who will be performing on the night, is a household name in Ireland thanks to Bell X1. Often referred to as ‘national treasures’ in their home country, they’ve drawn comparisons with everyone from U2 to Radiohead, and are soon to play a sold-out five-night residency at Dublin’s Vicar Street, to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary.
The night will be led by Noonan and Lisa Hannigan. Hannigan is a Mercury Prize-nominated singer-songwriter who plays ethereal folk-pop. She began her career as a member of Damien Rice’s band before going on to release three solo albums to great critical acclaim.
Whilst Noonan and Hannigan are well-known for flourishing in the folk singer-songwriter and indie scene, the line-up for Imagining Ireland also features performances from rising stars Saint Sister and Seamus Fogarty, who both add a twist of electronica to their folk. Fogarty – who is Irish but based in London – describes how he enjoys ‘screwing up’ his folk songs with “synthesiser drones and circuit burps, sounds and spoken-word audio samples”. Saint Sister creates a genre they term ‘atmosfolk’ by blending the electro-acoustic harp and dreamy synths with incredibly tight harmonies. The harp is, of course, a traditional Irish instrument, and Saint Sister uses synths & electronics to take it into new territory.
If you’re wondering about the state of hip-hop in Ireland, then look no further than Mango x Mathman, an urban grime act coming out of Ireland, a country that, as they point out, is known for producing rock acts and singer-songwriters. The grime duo describes the Irish music scene as “healthy”, and plan to perform a lyrical love letter to Dublin on the night.
There are also some great soul-influenced artists, showing the increasingly diverse state of modern Ireland. Soulful artist Loah is influenced by both the Irish tradition, as well as West Africa, whilst Brian Deady has deep blues, R&B and gospel influences that are a long way removed from his Cork upbringing.
Also on the night, there’ll be spoken word from Stephen James Smith, who describes the Imagining Ireland line-up as “a reflection of what Ireland is now”. Smith is a co-founder of Ireland’s only spoken word festival – LINGO Festival. He also co-produced Dublin: A Year in Words, the poetry video series for Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.
In addition to this, you can look forward to some atmospheric alt-folk from Maria Kelly, as well as a looped violin set on the night from Dowry (who has also arranged strings for the concert!), and J Colleran (formerly Mmoths) – an Irish composer who fuses electronic and orchestral elements. For the occasion, he is creating a new piece for strings and electronics to be performed for the first time in this concert by the legendary Crash Ensemble.
So, of course, there’s a plethora of folk, alt-folk and all of its sub-genres. We’re also seeing a lot of refreshing takes and interpretations of these genres too, as well as Irish urban grime, spoken word, electronica and soul. Don’t miss this one-off show!
On Monday 5th March, a rather interesting group of musicians came together on the Barbican stage to present Imagining Ireland, a showcase, or – as Serious and The National Concert Hall presented it – a snapshot, of Irish music today. The first half of the evening began quite safely, with…