Ireland : Music for Memory of War


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This is the report of the research I made in Ireland for a month (July 2012), on the way the memory of war was conveyed through Irish music nowadays (in popular songs and so on).

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Ireland : Music for Memory of War

  1. 1. Marguerite GALLORINI June 28th – July 29th, 2012 Music for Memory of WarIrelands musical legacy on her troubled past
  2. 2. CONTENTS Introduction I) Main periods of Irish history – The three leading songs in Ireland – Context until the 20th century – Events of the 20th century in music II) Contemporary music – Contemporary artists passing on the tradition – Perception of music and history in Ireland – In America: bands too much Republican – In Northern Ireland: the marching bandsConclusionBibliographyWebsites
  3. 3. UNTIL NOWADAYS, THE MUSIC OF THE HARPISTS OF THE9th century Gaelic clans is known as the oldest one in Ireland. TheCeltic harp, national symbol, is everywhere in the country: as royalseal, on the doors of pubs, in the airline company Ryanair, on theentrance wall of the Prime ministers building, as icon of the famousIrish beer Guinness1... Until the 5th century, whereas France, England and the rest ofWestern and Southern Europe were part of the Roman Empire,Ireland stayed apart, as it was considered too cold and damp acountry for the Mediterranean colonizer. This is why Romans neverreally influenced its inhabitants; however in the 900s, Vikingsestablished a strong presence on the island and influenced greatly itscultural life and language. Ireland was also colonized by Normans (also Northerners, Celtic harp in Dublin castleNorman meaning man from the North), and then by England, thelatter launching a long series of social troubles in the country till today. The glory of the Irish language had lasted until the 16 th century; however after that, English replacedit gradually, and today Irish is spoken only by a minority, at least as a first language. Irish music thoughwas a mean of resistance against the oppressor, a mean of keeping a part of national identity. Back in thetime of Henri I, the Welsh-Norman cleric Giraldus Cambrensis granted that Irish people seemed to him“to be incomparably more skilled in these [musical instruments] than any other people that [he has]seen” (1982:103). Therefore Irish music stands amongst one of the well preserved cultural traits of the country: todaystill, numerous traditional music festivals take place in Ireland and elsewhere, and music is greatlypresent in all the countrys pubs where the conviviality is mainly due to this heart-warming music. We find today a great number of songs about the spirit of rebellion against the English colonizer,about the Independence war, the Troubles, the civil war, and other ancient revolts. But between whatarchives tell us and what reality teaches us, there is sometimes a wide gap. The aim of this trip wastherefore to observe where stands traditional rebel music in the everyday life nowadays. Is Irish musicabandoned to the profit of other cooler kinds of music? Is it still an important piece of the countryscultural patrimony? Has it achieved its goal of conveyor of the collective memory of passed struggles? My subject focuses on the influence of the memory of recent wars on the contemporary Irish music.Therefore it will be mainly based on important wars and tensions of the 20 th century till today. This is inIreland a topic of intense discussions and controversies, so I have not had too much trouble talking aboutit with others.1 Fun fact: the Celtic harp of Guinness is represented in the other way from the one of the royal seal, so as to avoid any copying penalty.
  4. 4. I) Main periods of Irish historyThe three leading songs in Ireland A Soldiers Song Its original Gaelic name being Amhrán na bhFiann, this is the national hymn of the Republic ofIreland. In English, it is known under the name of A Soldiers Song. It was written by Peadar Kearney in1907, and became the national hymn in 1926. It is still sang in Gaelic today, and is composed of thechorus of the original song, which is much more longer. The hymn, as well as Irelands Call (which we will see later), is played at matches between the 5provinces of Ireland (so Northern Ireland included), and when Irelands team plays in Dublin. But duringinternational matches, only the Irelands Call is sang. Gaelic English Sinne Fianna Fáil Destiny soldiers are we, A tá fé gheall ag Éirinn, Whose lives are pledged to Ireland; buion dár slua Some have come Thar toinn do ráinig chugainn, from a land beyond the wave, Fé mhóid bheith saor Sworn to be free; Sean tír ár sinsir feasta No more our ancient sire land Ní fhagfar fén tiorán ná fén tráil Shall shelter the despot or the slave. Anocht a théam sa bhearna bhaoil, Tonight we man the gap of danger Le gean ar Ghaeil chun báis nó saoil In Erins cause, come woe or weal Le guna screach fé lámhach na bpiléar Mid cannons roar and rifles peal, Seo libh canaídh Amhrán na bhFiann. Well chant a soldiers song. Irelands Call This is an Irish song used as hymn during international matches of Irelands rugby team at XV. Thesong was written by Phil Coulter in 1995 on the demand of the Irish Rugby Football Union: the Irishrugby team being composed of players from both sides of the Irish border, this song was designed inorder to help crossing sectarian and national divisions. Therefore it delivers an idea of unity of all Ireland,between its 4 provinces2 (Munster, Ulster, Leinster and Connacht): the Irish are all equal, all citizens ofthe same country, wherever they come from. Irelands Call Come the day and come the hour Come the power and the glory We have come to answer Our Countrys call From the four proud provinces of Ireland2 Fun fact: the word “county” in Gaelic is “cúige”, meaning also “fifth”. Therefore it is supposed that in a former period, there was not only 4, but 5 provinces in Ireland.
  5. 5. Chorus Ireland, Ireland, Together standing tall Shoulder to shoulder Well answer Irelands call From the mighty Glens of Antrim From the rugged hills of Galway From the walls of Limerick To Dublin town From the four proud provinces of Ireland (Chorus) Hearts of steel And heads unbowing Vowing never to be broken We will fight, until We can fight no more From the four proud provinces of Ireland (Chorus) We can see in these two patriotic songs that struggle is ever present. This song conveys the idea of never surrender again to tyranny and slavery – obvious reference toEnglish colonialism, but maybe also to other older invasions, as the Vikings. Equality between men is aleading concept of the Irish hymn: “Some have come/ from a land beyond the wave/ Sworn to be free”:the Celtic people is a melting pot of several horizons, and this is where it gets its power from: as long asall of them stay equals, and no one tries to subordinate ones comrades as the English did, then thecountry will stay free and united. Moreover, the national hymn is still sang in Gaelic: this stands for a certain willingness to keep aCeltic identity. Unfortunately, Gaelic in itself is a language seldom spoken today – only in a few regionsknown as Gaeltachtaí on the West coast mainly. The Fields of Athenry This prisoners song is another unofficial hymn, sang at the beginning of football matches for instance.It was written by Pete St John, a folk musician from Dublin. This beautiful and sad song talks about a man from Athenry (a city in County Galway) sent to BotanyBay for having stolen corn from Trevelyan to give to his children. Here the reference is made to SirCharles Trevelyan, English colonial administrator charged to contain the famine. But his lack of actionand his low opinion of the Irish had worsened even further the situation caused by the famine. The man of the song tells then to his wife that it is okay, and that she has to raise their children withdignity. The song ends on the woman watching the prisoners boat leaving for Botany Bay. Botany Bay was a colony in Australia used to isolate prisoners from the rest of the English population. Therefore there are today strong ties between these two countries. The song Back Home in Derry by the Irish artist Christie Moore also makes reference to this colony.
  6. 6. Context until the 20th century: 1169: Arrival of the Norman barons in Ireland 1798: Rebellion of the United Irishmen 1800: The Act of Union brings Ireland and the kingdom of Great Britain together 1845-1852: The Great Famine April 8th, 1886: Introduction of the Home Rule bill Arrival of the Norman barons in Ireland At first, the English king Henri II did not want to control Ireland,but his barons installed there so that they do not becomeautonomous. But then he established his lordship in Ireland, and in 1199, thislordship was annexed to the kingdom of England. This initiated thelong history of tensions between Irish Catholics and Anglo-IrishProtestants. Rebellion of the United Irishmen The Society of the United Irishmen was a political Liberalorganization, which developed into a revolutionary Republicansociety, allied to the contemporary French Revolution and inspiredfrom the 1776 American Revolution. Moreover France supportedthe Irish rebellion; whereas Daniel OConnell, famous Irishpolitician called the “Emancipator” and in favour of a peacefulnationalism, was against it. But the operations planned in Dublin in Statue of Daniel OConnell, inJune, which were to be the heart of the revolt, failed, and the OConnell Street, Dublinrebellion lacked of good organization: it was then repressed inblood. During a second attempt with French troops in September,also repressed by British troops, Theobald Wolfe Tone was recognized and sentenced to death by theEnglish. Theobald Wolfe Tone was an influential character, and is considered today as the founding father of Irish republicanism. On September 1791, he had published an “Advanced argument in the name of the Catholics of Ireland”, which promoted unity between Catholics, Protestants and Presbyterians. The poem “Who Fears to Speak of 98?” has been put into music several times; The Wolfe Tones forinstance put it in their album Child of Destiny. Another song, General Munroe, is about a battle of thesame rebellion: the battle of Ballynahinch, in County Down. The Act of Union brings Ireland and the kingdom of Great Britain together This act was designed to avoid a new Irish revolt, and soothe any fear of a Catholic emancipation bygiving the parliamentary majority to Protestants. Therefore the Irish Parliament was included in theEnglish one, but this union was unsuccessful as it polarized the Irish society even further.
  7. 7. The Great Famine The Great Famine arrived with the blight striking Irish lands and destroying all the potato crops, basicnutrition of modest Irish families. The Irish population which was of 8 million people fell to 5 million ina short time. Already beforehand, Irish families were fleeing to the New World from religious andpolitical persecution, but the Great Famine increased this phenomenon. However the welcoming inAmerica was a cold one, as the population there did not like that at all. It was frequent to see “No Dogs,No Irish” signs in front of shops and pubs (likewise for the Jews and the Blacks: History always repeatsitself in the end...). The ones who left the country truly saw it as a forced exile, as Irish people love their country deeply.They never wanted to leave: they yearned to stay with their families in their own country. A large array ofsongs written by exiled Irishmen talk about this phenomenon, in which the longing for home is a constanttheme – for instance the song Spancill Hill, written by Michael Considine in the mid-19th century, whichwas played recently (and renamed Fairmount Hill) by The Dropkick Murphys. Presentation of the Home Rule bill It was a draft aiming to give a certain autonomy to Ireland, under English rule. It was presented at firstby the liberal First minister William E. Gladstone, but it was rejected three times in a row, every refusalirritating more and more the Nationalists, themselves less and less in harmony: all this finally led to the1916 Easter Rising.Events of the 20th century in music: For a long time in Ireland, Catholics and Protestants have lived together with difficulty. The Normanbarons of the 12th century had attracted the interest of the king of England for this island. From then on,the Catholic Church of Ireland, existing since the 5 th century after Saint Patrick, was replaced little bylittle by the Protestant Church which became the State Church. Parliamentary and social injusticefollowed, even though Catholics were still a majority in their country. With the partition of Ireland in two, Catholics staying in Northern Ireland (to the United-Kingdom)became the minority; discrimination worsened, with a lot of pogroms against them occurring, pushingthem to flee their homes and seek refugee in the South. Then in the 1960s started the Civic Rightsmarches, wishing for an equality between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland; Nationalists,Republicans and the army clashed more than ever. 1916: Easter Rising 1919-21: Independence War 21 novembre 1920: Dublins Bloody Sunday 1922-1923: Civil War between Royalists and Republicans 1949: The Irish Free State becomes the Republic of Ireland 1960s-1970s: Civic Rights demonstrations in Northern Ireland – start of the Troubles 12 - 14 août 1969: Battle of the Bogside in Derry 30 janvier 1972: Derrys Bloody Sunday 21 juillet 1972: Bloody Friday in Belfast 10 avril 1998: The Good Friday Agreement
  8. 8. Easter Rising The actions of this rebellion were contained only in Dublin; nevertheless it is an important date for theentire country, as the pro-Independence were divided internally and this was part of the trigger of therising: “The Nationalist/Sinn Féin opposition was deep and bitter. As the remnant of the UIL 3, theNationalists were bitterly anti-Republican. Joe Devlin, their unofficial leader, believed in the Britishempire and wanted to join the British army when the First World War began. […] The Nationalists hadbeen against the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence.” 4 This was also the case of anotherNationalist politician, John Redmond, who thought that fighting in France beside England would play infavour of the independence process. All these tensions added to the refusal of the Home Rule led to the Easter Rising of April 24th, 1916, where the ICA (Irish Citizen Army), the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood), and a young generation of Irish Volunteers5, desperate to win independence by diplomatic ways and ready to do everything to make it happen (even at the cost of a German alliance), paraded in OConnell Street, Dublin, and occupied several strategic places like the Central Post Office. They resisted then to the British army, the Dublin Metropolitan police and the Irish Royal police6. Pádraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the expedition, proclaimed the Irish Republic and became president of its Mural in Belfast for the Easter Rising government. But 5 days of massacre later the insurgents had to surrender. 13rebels, some of which the main leaders of the rebellion -PádraigPearse, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett- were shot at thefamous Kilmainham Jail (or Kilmainham Gaol), known for itspolitical prisoners and insalubrious living conditions7. James Connolly, whose leg had been shattered during theCentral Post Office battle, was receiving medical attention inDublin castle, where a wing was occupied by the Red Cross. Hewas therefore being healed only to be shot afterwards like theothers, even if he was already dying: they all had to be executed asan example. To go further in absurdity, he has been brought inambulance to the prison, and was not even shot at the same place asthe others because he was too weak to walk to the other side of thecourtyard. Just before getting off the ambulance, he said calmly to his wife: “And wasnt it a full life, Lillie, and isnt this a good end?” Spot where James Connolly was killed The British repression of this rebellion was so bloody in the eyes of the international community that itplayed in favour of the Irish Independence five years later.3 The United Irishmen League, nationalist political party founded in 1898.4 May McCann, in The Past in the Present: A Study of Some Aspects of the Politics of Music in Belfast, Thesis in Philosophy,Queens University of Belfast, July 1985.5 Organization founded in 1913 to assure the vote for the Home Rule bill. It was disolved at the end of the First World War.The more extreme people coming from it formed the IRA.6 Created by Great Britain in 1822.7 When I visited this prison, I learned that there was, for instance, up on the corridor walls, windows without glass because atthat time they thought that the air coming in “cleaned” the atmosphere and minimized risks of disease amongst the prisoners...But the composition of these walls in limestone kept all the coldness and humidity, and so increased diseases and infections.This prison kept a lot of politician prisoners, but also poor families and children caught stealing food. Today, this building isnot in service anymore and only sets up guided tours.
  9. 9. → Song on the Easter Rising: The Foggy Dew is a popular Irish song about this episode, which was played in different versions likemany other traditional songs. It is part of the Irish folklore, but would have had an English origin andwould have been published around 1815. This original version was a ballad talking about a young man inlove. That the melody of a single song was used for several ones afterwards was a common phenomenonin popular tunes. In 1919 therefore, another song called The Foggy Dew (sometimes known as Down the Glen) waswritten by a clergy man in County Down, in the memory of the Irish soldiers fallen during the EasterRising: Last stanza: As back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more But to and fro in my dreams I go and I kneel and pray for you, For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew. This song, talking about the abolition of slavery, clearly takes the Republican side. This last version ofThe Foggy Dew was the most played by several Irish and English artists and bands: The Dubliners, TheChieftains with the singer Sinéad OConnor, Shane MacGowan (singer of the English band The Pogues,popular in the 1980s), and The Wolfe Tones. The artists Alan Stivell and Gilles Servat, from Brittany inFrance, also interpreted it, as well as the New-York Celtic rock band The Black 47 (which we will talkabout later), in their song Livin in America played on the tune of The Foggy Dew. Whats more, the version by Sinéad OConnor featuring The Chieftains is sometimes used as the stagearrival of The Dropkick Murphys at their concerts. This last version was written shortly after the event; however rebel songs were often, if not always,written a long time after the rebellion in itself: for instance “the songs of the 1798 Rebellion and ofEmmets 1803 Rising were written, for the most part, at the end of the 19 th and beginning of the 20thcentury in commemoration of earlier events.”8 Independence War At the end of the First World War, all the worlds colonies wantedtheir autonomy, after having taken part in the war. Moreover, inIreland the Home Rule bill was still not enforced, and the massacre ofthe Easter Rising was recent. That is why the members of the SinnFéin, pro-Independence political party having won the majority of theIrish votes during the parliamentary elections, proclaimed theindependence of the Irish Republic. The Independence War broke out,from January 1919 to July 1921, opposing the IRA (Irish RepublicanArmy) to the British forces (that is to say the the Irish Royal policeand other paramilitary groups like the Black and Tans9 -formerfighters recruited by Great Britain in 1920- and the Auxiliaries). In the end a cease-fire was agreed, giving birth to the Anglo-IrishTreaty of December 6th, 1921, which gave the autonomy to the mainpart of the country (called the Irish Free State) except 6 counties inthe North, which stayed to the British crown. Anglo-Irish Treaty signatures 8 May McCann, in The Past in the Present: A Study of Some Aspects of the Politics of Music in Belfast, Thesis inPhilosophy, Queens University of Belfast, July 1985, p.94 (Introduction: “The Northern Irish people live in the past”). 9 Hence the other name of this war: the Tan War.
  10. 10. Dublins Bloody Sunday During the Independence War, this disastrous day made 30 victims. The IRB had for mission toexecute British agents, some of them sent in Ireland to infiltrate Nationalist organizations. In all, 14individuals were killed and 6 hurt, of whom 2 Auxiliaries: this caused an important problem in Britishsecret services in Ireland. The same day, a Gaelic football game was taking place in Croke Park, Dublin. The Auxiliaries invadedthe stadium soon before the game and started shooting at the crowd, whereas these actions were notofficially authorized. 14 persons were also killed, of whom two children of 10 and 11 years, and 65 otherpeople were hurt. This massacre was one of the reasons of the peoples rising against the British crown.British authorities offered their regrets about this day, without taking any responsibility of it. Two officersof the IRA having helped to the mission against British authorities, however, were arrested, tortured andkilled. Civil War between Royalists and Republicans Unfortunately the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty did not end violence, as religious and politicaltensions continued more fiercely in the young Northern Ireland; whereas the rest of the country, newlyindependent, plunged into civil war. The pro-Independence clashed internally between pro-Treaty andanti-Treaty, after the latters victory at the 1922 elections. For them, it was the first step towards a fullindependence; for the others, it was on the contrary the end of any hope of acquiring a full Irish Republic. The IRA parted into a new IRA anti-Treaty on the one hand, led by Éamon De Valera and RoryOConnor, and the pro-Treaty INA on the other hand (the Irish National Army). The Irish Free State becomes the Republic of Ireland Even if Ireland was autonomous, it was still part of the Commonwealth and therefore was still underthe British crowns rule. So in 1937 a new Irish Constitution was adopted, replacing the Irish Free Stateone and which called the country “Ireland”, “Éire” in Irish. But the Act of the Republic of Ireland wasadopted only in 1949 by England, finally declaring the State as a Republic. Éamon De Valera, who had contributed in introducing the new Constitution, was president of Irelandfrom 1959 to 1973. The Troubles The Troubles, called in Irish Na Trioblóidí, is a dark and unstable period -politically as well associally- of Northern Irelands history, which spilled over at various times into England, the IrishRepublic and the rest of Europe. The duration of the Troubles is generally dated from the end of the 1960s, where the first Civic Rightsdemonstrations took place, and is considered to have ended with Belfasts Good Friday Agreement of1998. However sporadic violence subsisted until today – like the 2010 incident where two members ofthe Ulster Volunteer Force shot down a man in full daylight. The main issues at stake in the Troubles were the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and therelationship between its Protestant Unionist and Catholic Nationalist communities. Therefore the worst ofthis time occurred in Ulster, where the constant discrimination against Catholics was, from a Nationalistpoint of view, a proof that the imposed Northern Ireland was a corrupted state.
  11. 11. The Troubles had both political and military -or paramilitary- dimensions, like the Bloody Sundays events or recurrent incidents in Derry/Londonderry. There was, at that time, a strong censorship (and self-censorship) of Republican songs: even to whistle the tune of a rebel song could have resulted in imprisonment for two years10. Joan, from the Irish Traditional Music Archives of Dublin, told me that Loyalist songs could not be sang or played in Southern Ireland neither, so it went both ways and not only in the North. What is interesting is that the actors could say and sing things that in the everyday life were banned, as it was on the account that they were acting, and not behaving in their own proper name. Though once in interview, they had to pay attention to what they said again. Some musicians also organized political concerts, but without any controversial song in it: it was the gathering action in itself which was the most important, and this could not be forbidden. Patricia, presently living in a village next to Dublin and with whom I stayed for some days,experienced this period. She comes originally from Scotland, but she married an Irish man and has livedin Ireland since then. She gave me valuable information and stories during my stay in Ireland. She told me that it was most of all the North of Ireland that suffered from the Troubles – and everyoneelse told me the same. In the North, Catholics and Protestants understood each other better though,because they were all in the same situation; whereas the Southern part of the country watched all thiswithout really meddling, by afar. The IRA certainly recruited in the South as well, and some plans mighthave been set up there, but the worst of the Civil War was nevertheless occurring in the North. About the numerous pogroms, Patricia told me that her husband, when he was a child, had lived inNorthern Ireland. But one day, British soldiers broke into his house and set it on fire, all this because hisfather was an activist – for this reason they got back at all the family. Following this, they had to flee inthe South, in Dublin. Belfast developed well since then, however some thirtyyears ago, there were soldiers patrolling everywhere, there wasa curfew, and those who took the chance to go out at nightnever knew if they could come home alive. Martin Dowling11has experienced this tense period in Belfast, when he had comein 1982 accompanied by the poet Michael Donaghy and theflautist Noël Lenaghan; a period where “the sentence of thenight/ [was] punctuated through and through by rounds of drink,of bullets, of applause”12; period where there was a “spot of thedead” in pubs, as it was placed so that the man sitting therecould see who might come into the bar and shoot him; periodwhere one had to knew where to walk in the city and whichstreets to avoid absolutely. In Belfast10 May McCann, in The Past in the Present: A Study of Some Aspects of the Politics of Music in Belfast, Thesis in Philosophy,Queens University of Belfast, July 1985, p.42 (Introduction: “The Northern Irish people live in the past”).11 He is a fiddle player, historian and sociologist, and is a lecturer in Traditional Irish Music in Queen’s University of Belfast.He previously worked as the Traditional Arts Officer in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.12 Martin Dowling, in Folk and Traditional Music and the Conflict in Northern Ireland: A Troubles Archive Essay, 2010, p.13- passage taken originally from Ciaran Carsons poem Night Out.
  12. 12. → Songs on the Troubles: The Town I Love So Well, by Phil Coulter Here the singer talks about his joyful and simple childhood in Derry, where he was born; but in the lasttwo stanzas, when he comes back again, he sings his grief when he sees the desperate situation of the cityand other Northern Ireland cities during the Troubles. This song was also interpreted by The Dubliners. Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, by Colum Sands This is a song dealing with general tensions between Catholics and Protestants, and all the absurd banson songs, words or conversational topics. The particularity here is that the singer plays with censorshipwith humour, through such lyrics as “Whatever you say, say nothing/ When you talk about you knowwhat/ For if you know who should hear you, you know what youll get! […] So for You Know Whossake, dont let anyone hear you singing this song” and so on. That was a rich and subtle idea to deal withsuch a sensitive topic in this way. There were roses, by Tommy Sands This song recounts how Allan Bell (his name changed in the lyrics by Isaac Scott), a Protestant friendof Sands, was murdered in Newry by Republican paramilitaries. Afterwards, Loyalist paramilitarieslooked in Ryan Road13 for a Catholic to kill to “even up the score”; ironically, the man they picked wasSean OMalley (his name changed by Sean McDonald), both a close friend of the Protestant victim and ofSands. Once more, we can see this troubled past still hanging up in the atmosphere of the present in a painful memory. These various wars and conflicts are recent, and are still a source of grief and therefore of inspiration for Irish artists, looking for a way to tell their pain to the world so that we never forget what happened. In his essay, Martin Dowling talks about this song as well as this tradition of “collective mourning” page 7: “The song also draws on a much older Irish tradition, an caoineadh, the lament or keen. In the simple chorus, which begins “There were roses, roses, there were roses”, the melody rises and comes to rest on the first syllable of “roses”, and here is heard a small melisma of emotion, a vocal shudder of pain, that resonates with the “ochóne is ochóne ó” of more ancient Gaelic amhrain caointe. The chorus serves an ancient social Mural in Derry representing the Civic Rights demonstrations function, allowing the singers audience to perform a public act in Northern Ireland of mourning in vocal unison.” The rose is the most often used symbol in the Western world. It stands for various things, such as thesoul, life, the heart and love: in this it is a good element to include in a song which aim is to sing thepeace. It is also the symbol of rebirth -which is why the rose is laid upon graves- so even if these songsare mostly sad, it might be a subtle reference to the rebirth of Ireland and its people, the “sunshine afterthe rain”. 13 The Sands family lived in this street.
  13. 13. The rose is also associated with Christianity since the Middle-Ages, and became the symbol of theVirgin Mary, therefore it suits all the better the Irish victims – the Irish being mainly Catholic. The rose is the symbolic flower of England too: the series of “Wars of the Roses” in the 15 th centuryhad opposed the houses Lancaster (whose symbol was the red rose) and York (whose symbol was thewhite rose); then Henri VII married Elizabeth of York, hence the emblem of the Tudor rose: red with awhite heart, uniting the two families. This war between the two English houses could be put in parallel ofthe war opposing the two Christian families in Ireland: Catholic and Protestant. Arising From the Troubles, title which speaks for itself, is the new 2011 album of Tommy Sands andhis children. Civic Rights demonstrations At the end of the 1960s, many repressive measures were taken against Catholics, and their communitywas well under-represented in the Government. From then on started the Civic Rights demonstrations,with a symbolism and a speech borrowed from the same demonstrations launched by Martin Luther Kingin the United-States. This was truly an international movement, in which songs “played a significant role in the productionand transmission of Republican ideology- including Republican history”14. Therefore the Irish folk musicwas renewed, but not only there: “The folk revival which occurred in Ireland in the late 50s and 60s was not […] a national […]phenomenon; it was part of a wider youthful and protest-oriented movement which was occurring inBritain and the United States of America. […] Rebel songs functioned as “folk songs”15. Following the surge of violence throughout Northern Ireland during these marches (peaceful marches,but regularly attacked by Loyalists), internment without trial was implemented on August 9 th, 1971,which worsened already unfair conditions. → Songs on the Civic Rights demonstrations: Here are songs I got from my visit at the Museum of FreeDerry, on a CD jacket exhibitioned (see on the right hand).These are old titles out of which I could not always get a lot ofinformation: The Long March, Burntollet Ambush, We Shall Overcome,Friends of Civil Rights, Civil Rights Anthem, Fifth of October,We Shall Not Be Moved!, Bogside Volunteers, Free Belfast,Boys of Belfast Town, Rights of Man. We Shall Overcome It is famous because it came at first from the American Civic Rights marches, for Afro-Americans. Ithas been sang by Pete Seeger (a folk artist from New-York), Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen and someothers in the 1960s16. This song, inspired from a Christian gospel, has been played during the same kindof demonstrations in Ireland for Catholics. This title has even been used as a slogan and retrospectiveautobiographys name by the Association for the Civic Rights in Northern Ireland. 14 May McCann, in The Past in the Present: A Study of Some Aspects of the Politics of Music in Belfast, Thesis inPhilosophy, Queens University of Belfast, July 1985, p.42 (Introduction: “The Northern Irish people live in the past”). 15 May McCann, in The Past in the Present: A Study of Some Aspects of the Politics of Music in Belfast, Thesis inPhilosophy, Queens University of Belfast, July 1985, p.275 (Introduction: “The Northern Irish people live in the past”).16 For the record, Joan Baez sang it recently in 2010 at the White House, in front of the American president Barack Obama.
  14. 14. Fifth of October This song refers to a Civic Rights march which took place in Derry on October 5 th, 1968, and wheredemonstrators were attacked by the police armed with sticks, water guns and tear gas. The song ends on adefying note, calling Derry men to resist, and “When the struggles done and weve overcome, we canhold our head with pride.” We Shall Not Be Moved Here is another famous tune, also American in the first place and probably leading back to the slaverytime, used again by 1930s activists. It became a common protest theme, like We Shall Overcome. It wasalso sang by Pete Seeger. Like many folk songs, the lyrics have been modified through time in order to adapt to the variouscircumstances; this was all the more possible that this tune has a plain structure, the verses being repeateda lot without changing often. Boys of Belfast Town This is a song which has been interpreted by the Irish-Canadian band The Irish Rovers, in their albumDown by the Lagan Side in 2000. The name of this band comes from the famous traditional Irish songThe Irish Rover, talking about a magnificent ship sailing from Cork to New-York. The Boys of Belfast Town, also called The Boys of Belfast, is a merry Republican song talking aboutthe boys of Belfast who are brave Irishmen, of “high renown”, and proud to be true Irish. Later in thesong, they boast of being able to fight both with sword and pen – so to fight the British crown througharmed conflict as well as through the arts, with songs or other lampoons. The Battle of the Bogside In 1969, the Free Derry -neighbourhood outsideof the city walls composed of the Bogside and theCreggan- proclaimed itself as an autonomousNationalist enclave as long as their requests were notgranted. On August 12th, the Apprentice Boys paraded nearthe city walls to celebrate the Protestant victory onDerry in 1689: this was seen as highly provocative byCatholics. Loyalists and RUC (Royal UlsterConstabulary) opposed the Bogside inhabitants, butthe RUC was badly prepared so they called upon theAuxiliaries, which worried greatly the Bogsiders sincethe events of the 1920s. The confrontation lasted 2 days until the arrival of Slogan painted for the first time in January 1969 bythe British army. The Bogsiders were almost happy John Casey. Then, this wall was part of anotherabout this, as the British troops were still more neutral building, now destroyed.than the RUC or the Auxiliaries. This severe clash, including missiles and tear gas, is considered to be the first main one havingincreased the violences intensity of the Troubles; indeed, this launched a series of other risingsthroughout Northern Ireland, making 5 victims, of whom a 9-year-old boy in Belfast.
  15. 15. Derrys Bloody Sunday I went to visit the Museum of Free Derry, located in the Bogside. It tells the story of IrishIndependence and of Derrys Bloody Sunday. Today still in this neighbourhood of the Free Derry Corner-where the Bloody Sunday started- it is impossible to ignore the tragedy, with the powerful andbeautifully painted murals here and there on the houses. → In 1971, all demonstrations were banned. Many people had been killed during the frequent clashesbetween the population and the police; numerous officers were also swept by the provisional IRA (havingparted from the official IRA the precedent year). The same year, the two branches of the IRA establishedDerry as a “no-go” area for the British army and the Royal Constabulary, through the use of barricades.Clashes between young Nationalists and the British army spread rapidly. On January 30th, 1972, a peaceful march was organizedagainst internment without trial. The demonstration waspermitted in the Nationalist part of the city, but people hadinitially planned on marching to the Guildhall, outside of thearmy barricades designed to reroute the march to Free DerryCorner. A group of youngsters parted from the crowd andpushed the barricades. That is when a water cannon, tear gas andrubber bullets were used to disperse the rioters, hurting twocivilians. But so far such confrontations were rather common. However, what worsened the situation would have been somereport of an IRA sniper operating in the area: the BritishParachute Regiment was then given permission to enter theBogside. A young man, Jacky Duddy, was shot in the back whileescaping the advancing troops with the rest of the crowd.Violence increased and finally the order was given to mobilizethe troops in an arrest operation. But in spite of the cease-fire order, more than a hundred Mural in the Bogside, with the faces of thebullets were fired at the crowd, hurting 14 people. 14 individuals 14 victims of the Bloody Sundaywere killed, many of them while trying to aid the fallen, oralready hurt – all of them unarmed civilians fleeing the shooting. → Songs on Derrys Bloody Sunday: Sunday Bloody Sunday, by U2 The song is part of their album War, their first one really politically involved and very well received.This particular song became their “hymn”, and is interpreted by the band at every concert of theirs. On tonic harmonies, the song recounts the drama: the “broken bottles under childrens feet” and“bodies strewn across the dead end street”, the “mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart”... The songconveys a message of hope though, telling that such a massacre should not happen ever again, and thatwe must not give in to hatred (“but I wont heed the battle call”). Running Up Hill, by Declan McLaughlin I got this reference at the Museum of Free Derry too. Declan McLaughlin is an artist all the moretouched by this event that he lives and work in the Bogside area of Derry. The author, obviously saddened by this murder (word that he employs himself in the song) tells thescars it left on the city and its inhabitants.
  16. 16. In the second stanza, a verse perfectly captures the whole idea of the impression I had of this city: “Itshard to build a future when your hunted by the past”. Indeed this haunting memory keeps Derry frommoving forward. While in the city, I felt something really heavy everywhere, especially in the Bogside.The idea of the murals there was fundamentally good, but brings back this painful memory to theinhabitants constantly, even if they want to take a simple walk in the sun... It is actually really sad thatsuch a horrible episode can mark a place like this and change everything – then again, I am only speakingof what I saw over a few days only. The singer also makes a reference to We Shall Overcome, which is called in the song We WillOvercome, a slight modification in the title as it is often seen in popular songs like this one: As the bodies hit the pavement The world seen all you done, As the bodies hit the pavement Someone was singing We Will Overcome Minds Locked Shut, by Christy Moore The song starts quietly on plain, non worrying lyrics: “It happened on a Sunday afternoon/ On a lovelybright crisp winters afternoon/ On a perfect day for walking.” Then the second stanza, without notice,starts talking about “gunshots, stones and bullets”, and all the “chaos” and “panic” following – but stillwith a contrasting lovely music in the background. A particularity of this song is also that it lists the nameof the 14 victims. Bloody Sunday, sang by Eileen Webster The song, which was also interpreted by The Men of No Property, gives a calm and sad mood whileretelling the development of the day, describing the peaceful demonstrators, the arrival of the “paratroopregiment […] in their armoured cars”, the blood-stained banners, and then the ridiculous trials followingthe tragedy. The song ends on a bitter reproach, which alas makes us feel that a lot of people still cannot move on:“On Englands proud history a crime added yet/ How can we forgive them, how can we forget? Fortunately, the results of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry established in 1998 by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been finally published on June 15 th, 2010, showing that the army had fired first, and that the demonstrators were unarmed and all innocent, one of whom already hurt. The Prime Minister David Cameron apologized in the name of the British government. Belfasts Bloody Friday This day consisted in a series of bombing attacks by the IRA in response to Derrys massacre inJanuary, and following unsuccessful negotiations between the provisional IRA and the Britishgovernment. In more than an hour on this day, starting from 2pm, 22 bombs exploded in Belfast, killing 9 civilians.The IRA declared that the British forces had been warned each time of the next explosion so as to clearout the zone; but the thing is that because there were also false alarms, and because the bombs weremainly concentrated in the city centre, when people evacuated somewhere else they became trapped inanother risk zone. In 2002 on the BBC, the IRA apologized to the civilians who had been hurt, and to thefamilies of the victims. The Motorman operation followed this attack: this was a heavy military operation which aim was totake back control of “no-go” areas like Free Derry, which also existed in Belfast and elsewhere inNorthern Ireland. Since then, Free Derry ceased to exist even though the wall on which was written “Youare now entering Free Derry” has been kept in commemoration of this period.
  17. 17. → Song about Irelands situation in the 1970s: Only Our Rivers Run Free This song does not talk about Belfasts tragedy particularly, but was written by Michael McConnell in1973, just a year after. So it gives a good impression of Nationalists state of mind at that time. It has been interpreted a lot, notably by The Wolfe Tones and Christy Moore. It deals with NorthernIrelands situation at the end of the Troubles. It is a lament on Irelands fate, and according to the songIreland will never be free -only her rivers- because there is no one to defend her. It blames in fact thisgeneral attitude we see in Ireland today which wants to be neutral and accommodating, rather thanunbowing like before. Oh where are you now when we need you What burns where the flame used to be Are you gone like the snows of last winter And will only our rivers run free? The Good Friday agreement This agreement was signed on April 10th, 1998, between the British Prime Minister, the Irish PrimeMinister, the Nationalists (like Sinn Féin) and the Unionists. Therefore it brings together several politicalparties of all Ireland. Its general aim is to define: – the status and system of government of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom; – the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the Republicof Ireland and the United Kingdom; – Human Rights; – the respect of all communities and ethnic groups traditions – the decommissioning of weapons of all paramilitary groups; – the release of imprisoned paramilitaries; – the implementation of British security measures throughout Northern Ireland. It was agreed by voters from both sides of the Irish border, on the same day (May 23 th). With this vote,the Republic of Ireland gave up to all claim to the counties in Northern Ireland. → Song about Belfasts situation a few years before the Good Friday agreement: Belfast: Elton John, famous English artist, wrote a song plainly called Belfast in 1995, in his album Made inEngland. In this song he describes the atmosphere after the war and the religious tensions in the city;nevertheless he loves this city because he never saw braver than her. He says that he tries to “see through Irish eyes”: he tries to understand, to take the place of the victims– himself being English. It is one of these songs which tries to take a moral out of these dark times. The “smoking black roses” of the third stanza, besides the symbolic we already talked about, representvengeance and death (with the black colour), but most of all this was a famous code word for Ireland,when English laws prohibited direct references to Ireland. A most famous political song written in the 16 thcentury is “Róisín Dubh”, meaning in Irish “black rose”, which translation is credited to Pádraig Pearse,one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. In this last song, Ireland is represented by a young girl.
  18. 18. The fourth stanza is introduced by “Whos to say on whom heaven smiles”: indeed, religiousdifferences should not be the cause of such violence, because we are all equal human beings in the end. Last stanza: No bloody boots or crucifix Can ever hope to split this emerald island Third stanza: And so say your lovers from under the flowers Every foot of this world needs an inch of Belfast These two first verses mean that such a strong country as Ireland will never be parted by soldiers orreligious misunderstandings only; and the two last ones mean that when we think of all the people whohave lost parents and friends in this drama, and when we remember the massacres and oppressions whichman was capable of in Belfast, we must never forget how all this happened so as to never repeat theseerrors in the future. An Irish ballad recounting briefly the three main steps in Irish history: Four Green Fields This song was written in 1967 by the famous Irish folk artist Tommy Makem (dead in 2007). He mademany tours with The Clancy Brothers, with whom he knew a great success – notably in the United-Statesin the 1950s and 1960s. In the first stanza, an old lady explains that she used to have four dear lands, but strangers came andstole it, and her children died defending it. In the second stanza, she says that long ago there was war and looting, and her children died offamine, and blood flowed over her four green fields. Finally, the old lady says that she regained her fields now, but one of them is still at the hands of thestranger. But her sons have had sons as brave as their fathers, and she shall see her four green fieldsflourish again. The “proud old woman” is clearly a personification17 of Ireland, which sees through the ages herchildren -so its inhabitants- fall under English rule. Her four precious lands are the four provinces ofIreland. The first stanza retells the arrival of the first English and how they stole the Irish lands; then, thepersecution and hardship known by the Irish, especially during the painful episode of Great Famine; andfinally, one province remains at the British hands: Ulster. But one day, Ireland will hopefully be reunited again: it is the last message of the song. As to conclude this first part, here is what Martin Dowling says in his essay Folk & Traditional Music,and the Conflict in Northern Ireland, A Troubles Archive Essay, p. 9: “Some songs are softened, others heard only in small settings, many are abandoned. These are old and resilient habits. […] Only time will tell how many of the songs invented in response to the Troubles will survive in the tradition, and what shape they will take in the hands of future singers.”17 Personification was not only a poetic inspiration, but also a mean of avoiding censorship imposed on Irish songs in the times of the Troubles.
  19. 19. II) Contemporary musicContemporary artists passing on the tradition: In a music shop in Dublin, I collected the names of somebands and singers on a big display stand for traditionalcontemporary musicians: ✗ The Dubliners18 is a famous Irish folk band, foundedin 1962. While going to the Archives in Dublin, I passed by abar called Paddy ODonoghues; and when I was in theArchives five minutes later I read that it was in this very pubthat the members of this group met for the first time19. Backthen, every musician and folk singer went there – but today itbecame quite touristy. Inside, a wall is consecrated to themwith the portrait of every member. This band has quite a fewartist friends, such as Bono from U2, or the singer Sinéad ODonoghues pubOConnor. They do a lot of traditional songs, but do not always follow their original version -by adding or erasingsome verses and words- of which are rebel songs such as The Foggy Dew, that they interpreted in the1960s. At that time it was a big issue, which led the national channel RTÉ to ban them from 1967 to 1971. This year 2012, the band celebrated its 50 th anniversary; and a Lifetime Achievement Award was alsogiven to them by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. ✗ The Chieftains is another folk band, having played with various Irish and international artists,like for instance Sinéad OConnor, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, The Corrs, ArtGarfunkel, Ziggy Marley, and Madonna. They are known for having reintroduced Irish music, by playingboth in small groups in pubs, as well as with orchestras for film music. They were also the first band toplay in the Capitol in Washington, and the first western band to play on the Great Wall of China. We see their influence even in the advertising field: when I was at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin,it was possible to watch some TV advertisings for Guinness from the 1950s up to today, and in one ofthem The Chieftains were promoting the famous black beer! On July 2nd, I also saw a TV programme on RTÉ One (national TV channel) about their new album,Voice of Ages, out in 2012 for their 50th anniversary – like The Dubliners. The show was a succession ofextracts from the albums recording in studio with the various contributor artists, intersected withexplanations from the group leader Paddy Moloney20. Not less than 7 folk groups and jazz bands havetaken part in the album, as well as the famous Irish singers Imelda May and Lisa Hannigan; and finallythe Scottish singer Paolo Nutini.18 Dubliners is also the name of the 1914 book by the Irish writer James Joyce. If The Dubliners named themselves so, it isbecause during their first steps, one of the members was reading this book.19 Eric Winter, in Dubliners Song Book, 1974.20 Fun fact: this musician lives near the Wicklow Mountains of Dublin, so not so far from Patricias where I was staying at -she is the one who told me!
  20. 20. ✗ The Planxty was a popular Irish band created in1971, Christy Moore being one of its foundingmembers. They separated in 1975 and 1983, andreunited one last time in 2003 to make a final concert in2005. Their musical repertoire is influenced by thetalented -and blind- classical harpist TurloughOCarolan (who lived in the 17th/18th century). Theirname was also inspired by this musician, as “Planxty”was often used in his songs. ✗ Christy Moore is an Irish folk singer playing insolo now. He put some poems from Bobby Sands inmusic, like the famous Back Home in Derry. The tuneof this song is the one of The Wreck of the EdmundFitzgerald, from the Canadian musician GordonLightfoot. Christie Moore recorded this song on hisalbum Ride On, 1984, considered as one of his best. Init he also sings other songs about various politicalstruggles in the world or their consequences. He is famous in Ireland and still gives concertstoday. He was at the Galway Arts Festival when I was Stele in Saint Patricks Cathedral in Dublin,there, but I did not have the chance to see him. representing Turlough OCarolan Bobby Sands was a provisional IRA member and British MP. He died after a 66-day hunger strike, in the prison of Maze in Northern Ireland. He is seen as a hero of the Republican cause and of the defense of political prisoners rights. But in the eyes of some others, he is considered as an IRA terrorist. ✗ Clannad is a family band, as its members are brothers, sisters and uncles (which is also the caseof other bands like The Clancy Brothers or The Fureys). They started in 1970 in County Donegal,Northern Ireland. They became more known when they wrote the theme song of Harrys Game in October 1982, aBritish series dealing with the Troubles. This song remains today the only one entirely sang in Irish to bein the English charts top 5. This song was used again in films and American advertisings, whichlaunched their international career. After 10 years of separation, the members (minus one sister gone insolo) reunited in 2007. They made a tour in the United-Kingdom in March 2008, and in 2012 they areplanning on making a new album, and on making a tour in Northern America and Canada. Also, at the Guinness Storehouse, Clannad too made an advertising for the beer! ✗ Another band playing mostly Republican songs is The Wolfe Tones (getting its name fromTheobald Wolfe Tone). This band was founded in Dublins suburb in 1963, 2 out of the 4 members beingbrothers: Brian and Derek Warfield. The band mostly toured in Ireland, and then in London, in theUnited-States and in Canada after gaining more popularity. Today the band is only composed of 3members, as Derek Warfield left it in 2001. ✗ Derek Warfield played in solo for a few years, and now with another nice folk band that hefounded, called Derek Warfield & The Young Wolfe Tones. They interpreted the Irish song Óró, Sé doBheatha Bhaile, which originally made reference to a Jacobite rising of the 18 th century (the titlemeaning “Welcome home”). It was used again in the 20 th century as a rebel song, its lyrics being rewritten by the NationalistPádraig Pearse. It was sang a lot at that time, especially by the Irish Volunteers, and during theIndependence War.
  21. 21. This song was also known by other names, like Dord na bhFiann (Soldiers Call) or An Dord Féinne. The lyrics written by Pearse make reference to Gráinne OMalley, a tribal leader and pirate queen, known for resisting (and later surrendering) to Elizabeth I. She remains, in the collective memory, an Irish hero of independence. ✗ Tommy Sands and his brother Colum Sands are from Northern Ireland in County Down, born from musician parents who have raised their children in the love of Irish music and culture. The Sands house was known in Ireland by both Catholics and Protestants as a haven for enjoying music all together. Tommy Sands is known internationally (he played in Carnegie Hall in New York, and in the Olympic Stadium of Moscow for instance), and is a close friend to the American singer Pete Seeger. A poster of Derek Warfield & Today he organizes tours with his son Fionan and his daughter The Young Wolfe Tones that I Moya. found in a street in Dublin ✗ Declan McLaughlin is an artist from Northern Ireland. Byexchanging e-mails with him, he also told me a little about thehorrible knee-capping practice, which I did not know of before –which consists in “punishing” someone by shooting in the kneejoint. It was a practice often used in Northern Ireland as well as inItaly, especially by the paramilitaries, but also by provisional IRAmembers. Today, it is still done in Gaza. He played with two bands for a few years: The Screaming BinLids and The Whole Tribe Sings, punk folk bands singing about lifein Northern Ireland; and he also made tours in the United-States. He is an involved singer in the city of Derry where he works, andfor Palestines cause like a lot of Irish artists. Indeed, Palestinessituation is quite similar to the one in Ireland before (this comparisonis by the way an object of many sociological researches), which isone out of many reasons why there are associations in support forthis country, like the “Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign”; and Painting outside thefor instance on the external wall of the Museum of Free Derry is a Museum of Free Derrypainting in support of Palestine. ✗ Gary Óg is a folk musician from Glasgow, a city which by a time had a strong Irish community.He was part of the Glasgow rebel band Éire Óg (Young Ireland), of the kind of The Wolfe Tones, andfamous in the 1990s. Today he plays in solo and mostly Irish rebel songs, like Go On Home British Soldiers, song wishingfor a free Ireland and which lyrics also make reference to the 14 victims of Derrys Bloody Sunday. Healso sings The Fields of Athenry, Irish Soldier Laddie, and Willie and Danny, the latter making referenceto two Republican victims taken in ambush by the British army in Derry, in 1984. ✗ Terry Cruncher ONeill is an Irish folk artist singing many rebel songs. He is popular inNorthern Ireland, especially Derry and Donegal where Republicanism is still strong. He also plays at theannual commemoration week-end of IRA volunteers in Derry21. For instance he interpreted theRepublican song James Connolly (like The Wolfe Tones did, minus the last stanza), song dealing with theshooting of the 13 rebels at Kilmainham Jail.21 This year it was on June 23th/24th, and it was the 25th anniversary of the death of two members of the IRA: Edward McSheffrey and Paddy Deery.
  22. 22. There was many a sad heart, in Dublin that morning, When they murdered James Connolly, the Irish rebel The spirit they tried hard to quell, But above all the dim came the cry no surrender, Was the voice of James Connolly, the Irish rebel. ✗ Sinéad OConnor is an Irish singer who became popular with her own version of one of Princessongs in 1990. She also wrote songs for films, and in 2012 she produced another album: How About I BeMe (And You Be You)?. She worked with various artists in her career, like U2, The Chieftains, or DamienDempsey (an Irish musician from the North of Dublin). In 2002 she made a compilation of traditional Irish songs: its Gaelic title, Sean-Nós Nua, is a genre oftraditional music consisting in a non-accompanied song, having for subject laments, poetry, politicalevents or sometimes comical subjects – especially for drinking songs. In this album, there is again the famous Óró, Sé do Bheatha Bhaile. We observe therefore that still a lot of musicians having risen during the Troubles stay pro-Resistanceand are quite active in the folk musical field. They have an important role to play in the exportation ofIrish music throughout the world, as well as in the perpetuation of tradition in Ireland, with a hint ofmodernism to it so as to adapt itself to the society. Fortunately, young artists are ready to take up the torchand sing the pride of their country to the world.Perception of music and history in Ireland: The systematic politicization of music According to Gerry Smith22, Ireland has been a musical country since always. And for Zimmerman, inSongs of Irish Rebellion: “to use songs for protest, to voice enduring grievances or propagate temporaryslogans, praise leaders, lament the fate of ordinary people unwillingly caught in big upheavals orcelebrate those who chose to be martyrs, and to inspire revolt or promote some parliamentary action, wasnot a practice unique to Ireland; but in a country with a history of enduring tensions and recurrentviolence and with a taste for eloquence and music, it was a common occurrence, could reach greatintensity, take relatively original forms, and seem at times so pervasive that almost any song mightsuddenly shade into the political.” Joan23, from the Irish Traditional Music Archives of Dublin, talked to me about this phenomenon ofsong politicization: sometimes traditional musicians of nowadays sing political songs without reallyknowing it – because almost every traditional song contains a political element, but not always clearly. Example: The Little Drummer Sang by Christy Moore with The Planxty in 1974, this song talks about a drummer in the army fallingin love with an rich girl, who rejects him; desperate, he tells her he will kill himself, so in the end sheaccepts in spite of their differences in the eyes of the society. But in this song, for instance, the only armyat that time was the British army; also the aristocratic is certainly from a British rich family whose fatherowns a large estate somewhere in County Tipperary – as Bansha, a city in this County, is mentioned.22 Gerry Smith, Chapitre I: Listening to the Future: Music & irish Studies, in Music in Irish Cultural History, IrishAcademic Press, Dublin.23 She is herself a traditional singer and received a Life Achievement Award at the Tommy Makem Festival in Armagh,Northern Ireland
  23. 23. Other example: Down By The Liffey24 Side I read in my folk songs compilation book a song written by Peadar Kearney, the author of A SoldiersSong (there is even a reference to it). The tune is the same as in Down by the Tanyard Side, and The Slaney Side, songs by Herbert Hughes –composer, music critic and Irish folk songs collector from Belfast. Another song written on the same tuneis The Piper of Crossbarry, celebrating the deeds of the West Cork 3 rd Brigade in 1921, when theyescaped to the surrounding of 1200 British soldiers during the Crossbarry ambush. Down By The Liffey Side was also played by The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones. It contains a lot of political elements, as the Mary of the song is singing what will become the nationalhymn, and there is also the mention of the Sinn Féin. But what is the most interesting is that in my folksong book, the last stanza was missing, which I found in another version – I do not know though whichone came first, even if I would personally assume the second version is the original, especially since thislast stanza is the most clearly Republican and so could be a reason for erasing it from the folk songsbook, so as to be “neutral”. Here is this last stanza: And well have little children, and rear them neat and clean To shout up the Republic and to sing about Sinn Féin, Theyll do what their old fellas did, who Englands power divide, Send them off with guns against the free state huns, Down by the Liffey side. Tensions remaining Looking the impact of Irish history on its inhabitants lives, I had watched with Patricia a TV show onRTÉ One (Saturday Night with Miriam, of June 30th, 2012), where Miriam OCallaghan was receiving theformer IRA leader -now deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland- Martin McGuinness, also number 2of the Sinn Féin. Recently the visit of Elizabeth II at the end of June 2012 made quite a fuss, because theQueen and McGuinness shook hands – a big step, when we know that up to today the Sinn Féin hadalways boycotted the Queens visits. In this show, he was saying that even if a lot of people think that the peace process is over, it is on thecontrary still going on and very fragile. There are still steps to take between Northern Ireland and theRepublic of Ireland, as well as between Ireland and England. This handshake was, for McGuinness, oneof these steps towards peace, and a way to shake hands with all of Northern Irelands Unionists. The peace process is long, as it is the case with all peace processes; we must not forget that theTroubles do not have even a century of existence. Most of Irelands inhabitants today are still people whoactually lived the Troubles, and still remember the pain of losing parents or friends. As regards this, Miriam OCallaghan went straight to the point by asking McGuinness if he felt someremorse about what he had done, if all those victims were worth it. Indeed, another sensitive point inIreland is the IRA status: a lot of people, like Miriam, do not only blame England but also the IRA andtheir bombardments affecting civilians, like the one on Belfasts Bloody Friday. Many families havesuffered because of both sides in the end, and today the IRA is considered by many as a terroristorganization. I talked with Patricia about all this, and she told me there were not the same tensions as beforebetween North and South, however it is still a great conversational subject. Tensions may be less strongthan before, nevertheless this common past is still fresh in peoples minds: this is not something that cango away in only a few decades.24 Le Liffey est le fleuve qui passe à travers le centre de Dublin.
  24. 24. About this period tearing families apart, during my stay I was reading The Railway Station Man, byJennifer Johnston25 (which really was a coincidence, as I did not know what the book was about when Itook it with me!). This calm love story between an Irish widow and a former British war hero happens ona background of struggle of youngsters joining in the IRA without really knowing what to expectafterwards. I found this book to be a lovely homage and witness of this time, even though I did notexperience it. Patricia also told me that some families still did not speak to each other today because of what hashappened between their relatives during the Troubles (especially between the executed and executorssides). Ireland is a small country where it is not that much caricatural to say that everyone knowseveryone. Therefore we can easily spot the marks left by the Troubles on families and their descendants. For instance, in an article out in the Derry Journal about the commemoration week-end this year, I sawthat amongst the people present at the event there were brothers and children of one of the two fallen IRAvolunteers. Whats more, in Derry there are numerous commemorations of this kind, like the BloodySunday commemoration or the Eastern Rising one. Traditional musics status nowadays As regards the perception which young generations have today of Irish folk music, Ronan, 26 yearsold, explained to me that traditional bands were not that popular. Like everywhere else, they are a bitovershadowed by more mainstream groups: traditional musicians will not be in the top radio 10 forinstance. It is nice for pubs mood, but according to him it does not go any further. In this we can truly saythat Clannad made it, with their Harrys Game hit (but of course, 40 years before, it was not the samesocio-historical conditions). It seems that the peacemaking process is one of the reasons for this lack of interest in traditionalmusic, and even more to rebel folk music: maybe young people nowadays less feel this need of “Irishidentity” -if such a concept exists- because there is not the “common English enemy” anymore. Thepresent generations did not live the atrocities of the Troubles like their parents and grand-parents did. Ofcourse, there is a certain collective memory succession and every family passes a certain ideology to theirchildren, but even though it seems that, generally, this is less polarized than before: now what is yearnedfor is that young people learn how to make peace with their fellows, and live in harmony with everyone.People do not want this extremism which led to losses from both sides anymore. This is why some bands or parts of songs -as we saw with Down By The Liffey Side- are sort of“censored” sometimes; even American Republican bands, which we will talk about later. I talked about this with Martin Dowling, who told me that it was an important aspect of music inIreland: because of the neutrality goal, there is a sort of reject of traditional music to the profit of Irishsongs looking more like American country music – these two being quite similar at some points, even intheir instruments (like the banjo for instance); which actually is not so surprising considering the manyprevious migrations of Irish in America. So outside of the music in pubs (drinking music...!), without lyrics, we do not hear a lot of traditionalsongs: indeed, most of the time these songs are sad and/or political, which is not good for business. Whenthey go out, people buy more drinks if there is a happy music in the background instead of a sad or toocalm music. Moreover, there is something in Ireland which never happens in France: when someonestarts to sing in a pub, everyone has to stop talking as a sign of respect. So of course, this kind of “moodbreaker” is not good for drinking consumption.25 She also wrote The Old Jest, novel on background of Irish Independence War, which was adapted for the cinema in 1988.
  25. 25. There are also certain bands with a negative connotation: between listening to The Chieftains, which isa rather “nice” band, and listening to the Republican Wolfe Tones, there is a difference. The latter beingquite pro-IRA, and the IRA not having a good press nowadays, The Wolfe Tones therefore are consideredas extremist (which may be a reason why Derek Warfield separated from them). So Ronan told me that ifhe said he liked The Wolfe Tones for instance, he would be taken as almost pro-terrorist. After what Ronan said to me, it may betrue that traditional bands are not what isthe most listened to by youngsters;however after what I have seen myself, itseems to me that in Ireland folk music isstill much more present than folk music inFrance for instance. Just by walking in thestreets, we hear music everywhere, seehere or there a trio playing traditional airs,or a musician playing the uilleann pipe,the guitar, the banjo or the concertina. InMiltown Malbay, I also saw people in thestreet singing Republican songs. I had thought maybe that in Dublin, itwas something made up for tourists; but Improvised band of a dozen musicians in a pubwhen I started travelling a little in Ireland during the Willie Clancy festivalafter that, I saw that it was the sameeverywhere else, something really inherentto the country. Between hatred and mutual understanding Joan also told me that before, patriotism was a much more popular feeling in Ireland than today, it wasnot just about a blind hatred of the English or the Unionist. The populations understood each other bettertoo, because they were all in the “same basket”: there were losses from both sides and everyone saw thatthe war was pointless, so they stood more shoulder to shoulder. Whereas today, the paradox is that thepeople who have not known the darkest part of the Troubles are the ones maintaining this hatred – notexactly the same thing as resistance. It is often when we do not know personally something, or not wellenough, that we have the tendency to be more extreme in our judgement, to lump everything together, asour opinion is based on misinformation. However when someone loses parents and friends, it is something that cannot be understood rationally,at least not fully. Of course it is the way of war, but when it happens to ourselves, that is when we realizethat nothing should justify the death of innocent individuals. According to Joan, we can also see these changes in rebel songs: in the songs before 1798, the lyricswere much more patriotic and understanding, but now it is only about the English enemy and how muchwe must hate them. As far as I am concerned, I have to admit I do not know where to stand. England has indeed invadedIreland, this cannot be denied, and it is its fault if the country is now divided. For this I understand thepoint of view of Republicans wishing a united country as beforehand. England has colonized it for solong, and now Northern Ireland could be associated with a sort of peaceful colonization – but it is theburden of Ireland to pay its consequences: this is really something as revolting as what is being done inPalestine. England should have given up to Northern Ireland in the first place, instead of negotiating thispiece of land.
  26. 26. On the other hand, I also get that people do notwant any war or tension anymore, and prefer tomove on. So many families have been torn apart,and in the end, what would be the point today ofkeeping on fighting, now that it is more settled asbefore? Maybe it is better to deal with thesequestions on a diplomatic level -it is always thebetter solution- rather than by force. For thestrong Republicans, this attitude compares tosubmission, and there again I get this point ofview. Because the problem is: Ireland has much lessdiplomatic power than the United-Kingdom, sodiplomatic ways usually do not work in favour of Mural in Belfast for the Palestinian causethe weakest in these cases... What a shame that such a beautiful country hadnot had the chance to develop itself more freely.In America: the bands “too much” Republican Irish music expanded a lot in the United-States, following the massive emigrations coming fromIreland in the 19th century (because of famine or persecution as we saw), as well as in the United-Kingdom. Since the 1970s there is a “folk revival”, and Irish music became a specialized field whichdeveloped into a renown and popular academic domain (Gerry Smith, in Music in Irish Cultural History,Irish Academic Press, Dublin), especially in America where is concentrated a strong Irish community –like in Boston, where in 1900 more than half of the population is Irish, including the Kennedys. Thanksto this, Irish music is gaining an international success. It is actually a big phenomenon, which I also talked about with Martin Dowling (it is he who informedme of the band The Flogging Molly, which we will talk about later): a lot of American bands do Irishsongs, following the original version of modifying it a little, and it is often Republican songs in the samestamp as The Wolfe Tones. The difference is that in the United-States it is popular, and in Ireland it is lesswelcomed now. What had already surprised me is that in France, when I had talked about The DropkickMurphys to an Irish friend, he did not know them; and even in Ireland, the only people who knew thisband were Australian. I thought it was weird, since this band is a punk-folk Irish one; but now Iunderstand that it might be a slight censorship so as to respect the neutrality goal. However these bands are really popular in America, and I found it interesting to see how, in all forcedmigration stories, the young generations evolve. Generally the pattern is that the first generations ofmigrants, who actually do the moving, stay relatively in their community because of the new and hostileenvironment (for instance the “No Dogs, No Irish” signs we talked about). Then the second generationlearn the language and try to forget their own culture, in an effort to socialize and fit in the society. Andfinally, the following generations -so the ones of today in America- try to tie new links with their originalculture, the one of their ancestors: there is an emergence of ethnicity (Fredrik Barth in Ethnic Groups andBoundaries, 1969). In America, we gladly claim to be proud to be Irish and support the IRA; when we have beenseparated by a whole ocean from the Troubles, it is hard to be truly aware of what we are supporting. Alot of Irish-American, more Irish than the Irish themselves at times, are only guided by a glorious andidealized image of Ireland and its fight for freedom – the same idea that had most of the time the youngIrishmen when they wanted to join in the IRA or in whatever army. Though who could blame them for wanting a reunited Ireland and for wanting to renew ties with theirorigins?
  27. 27. The Dropkick Murphys This punk-rock Celtic band, that I discovered by my brother, was founded in 1996 in Quincy nearSouth Boston. In all their songs the uilleann pipe, accordion, mandolin and flute are present. I also heardrecently that every year at St Patrick they play for a whole week in Boston: proof that they areappreciated in their continent, especially in their birth city. Here are two popular songs they played: Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya: It is also known under the name of Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye or Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye. Theyplayed it in their album The Meanest of Times in 2007. The tune of the song was also long ago taken forthe War of Secession song When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. It goes back to the 19th century when the Irish troops were sent in reinforcement of the British army inIndia. The song talks about a woman in County Kildare finding her mutilated husband back from war.This way of showing the horrors of war was often used in anti-war songs and poems so as to dissuade theyoungsters to join in the army, to show that war does not give anything good: because recruitmentcampaigns always gave a glorified idea of war without talking about the dead, the torture and theloneliness, but only by talking of bravery, patriotism, and all those lovely concepts. This anti-war song and its rather grotesque but nonetheless horrifying images was therefore a goodmean of dissuasion to fight for the English army. Whats more, the Irish mutilated survivors were noteven taken in charge by the British government and were abandoned to their sad fate, as the song says it:“Yell have to be put with a bowl out to beg”. The same phenomenon happened in France with our“Harkis”, after the Algerian War. When I visited the Museum ofGalway, I saw two posters of theFirst World War calling youngmen to join. They both usedrepresentations of harp anduilleann pipe so as to speak of the“call to arms”, as if it were anatural instinct: The Green Fields of France: It is also an anti-war song, written by Eric Bogle, a Scottish-Australian singer. The song was primarilycalled No Mans Land, but is also commonly known as William McBride. The Dropkick Murphys took itin their 2005 album The Warriors Code. In the song the author is visiting a World War I graveyard of the Western Front, and sits beside thegrave of an Irish or Scottish 19-year-old soldier of the name of William McBride; he then starts askingwhat was the point of this war, what did that poor soldier gain in all this and so on.
  28. 28. In the lyrics, the author makes a reference to the military tunes The Last Post (played by a bugleduring the funerals of the soldiers from the ex-British empire and its allies) and The Flowers of the Forest(ancient Scottish tune about the death of James IV and his nobles during the battle of Flodden Field,1513, in Northern England). The latter is by the way known in all the Commonwealth as The Lament,played on Remembrance Day (November 11th), in commemoration of the fallen soldiers of the WWI. We can also make a parallel between The Green Fields of France and John MacCraes poem InFlanders Fields, written during the battle of Flandres in May 1915. In the poem, the author asks to thosestill alive to defend their cause, so as not to have died in vain; on the contrary, in Bogles song theworthless dimension of war is underlined, showing that a war will not stop the others and that thereforethe dead have died for nothing. In both the poem and the song, besides the similarity of the title, we can also point at the presence of“poppies”, which is the flower found on British graves. They are still worn by British and Canadians atevery commemorative ceremony. The Black 47 They formed in 1989 in New-York 26, their name being inspired from the year 1847, the worst one ofthe Great Irish Famine. They were the first band to be called as “Irish-American”. They became successful because of their politically involved songs dealing with social topics,attracting both left-wing people by their socialist lyrics, and more conservative people by their Americaneveryday-life subjects. Fire of Freedom: This 1993 song deals with the Troubles, on a reggae background. The singer talks about a woman whohas been betrayed by her State and her Church, but who will not stop fighting for freedom. As always, itlooks like a personification of Ireland. There is also 2 verses written in Irish and repeated 3 times, which is none other than the chorus of thesong we already talked about: Oró se do bheatha bhaile. I made the following table to rapidly represent the two main aspects of the song: the first one talkingabout the disastrous and unfair state of things, the other one expressing the hope and struggle for freedomthrough generations. Ending the song on this positive note is an aspect shared with many other popularsongs, as for instance in Four Green Fields that we saw earlier, the end of which is about the hope ofseeing Ireland reunited one day. Out in the streets all I hear is violence But the authorities react with silence One law for you, for me its another “Power to the people” sang Johnny Lennon 20 years later were back at the beginning I want you to know, Ill love you forever Our dreams will continue in the eyes of our children Oró se do bheatha bhaile (Ah, welcome home) anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh (Now that summer is coming)26 Fun fact: this band got known with their song Home of the Brave, heard by the manager of the British band The Pogues.
  29. 29. The Flogging Molly They got together for the first time in 1997 in Los Angeles. On the musical level, they sound more likeThe Dropkick Murphys than The Black 47. The founder of the band, Dave King27, was born in Dublin,then left briefly for London before finally leaving for Los Angeles. They recorded their 2007 album Float in Wexford, County Wexford. Drunken Lullabies: When we see its title we could think it is only a drinking song; but like most of these kind of tunes, itis politically influenced and clearly makes reference to the Troubles, and the vain Catholic/Protestantsquabbles. This song might nevertheless extend to all wars. The author mentions “Roisin” and looks at her eyes of a blood-red colour: here is a reference to“Róisín Dubh”, the popular political Irish song translated by Pádraig Pearse we already talked about. Drunken Lullabies has a Republican touch, yearning to see Ireland reunited – but it is also an anti-warsong as it preaches peaceful means. Whats Left of the Flag: This song deals with the Irish flag -clearly- which is green/white/orange. The green represents theCatholics, or the republicanism of the 1790 United Irishmen Society; the orange stands for theProtestants, or the followers of William of Orange; the white is for peace between both populations andtraditions in Ireland. And by mornin well be free Wipe that golden tear from your mother dear And raise whats left of the flag for me From the East out to the Western shore Where many men and many more will fall But no angel flies with me tonight Till freedom reigns on all. This song deals with the Irish-British conflict as the previous one, with freedom, and with Irelandsreunification. When the person of the song says to raise what is left of the flag, it can be understood as todefend what is left of Ireland, or maybe to pursue the quest for the reunification of Ireland with NorthernIreland – which is hers; and then only “freedom [will reign] on all”, once the colonizer has fledcompletely the country.27 Fun fact: Dave King writes his songs on a typewriter from 1916, just because it dates from the Easter Rising!
  30. 30. In Northern Ireland: the marching bands These marching bands are a rising -though not new- phenomenon in Northern Ireland, which areProtestants groups composed of flutes and percussions. According to the Belfast Telegraph, “in the early21st century […] Blood and Thunder marching bands are the most energetic and fastest growingtraditional cultural movement on this island”. They parade in streets all summer, and these organizedmarches culminate with the 12th of July, also called “the Glorious Twelfth”, marking the 1960 victory ofProtestants (king William of Orange) over Catholics (king James II) at the Battle of the Boyne. Their music is often perceived as highlyprovocative for Nationalist traditions, and theseparades have often been the source of sectariantensions. The only times these bands are referred to isnegatively, in relation with riots and civildisturbances, which does not improve their popularityamongst Catholics. The author of the book Blood and Thunder, DarachMacDonald, says that he himself had a low opinion ofthese bands, which he saw only as “makey-up outfits,attached to Orange lodges, and dragged together at thestart of the season to play loud music to provoke theirpeaceful Catholic neighbours”.28 A Unionist neighbourhood in Belfast But he discovered it was “an awful lot more complex”, as it is a whole tradition part of youngProtestants culture: “A large part of their very identity comes from musical parading.” In this they look more than they think to the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), which is also anorganization promoting old Gaelic games, music, language and dance. So indeed they both have the samegoal of perpetuating the tradition in each of their respective sides. The author has spent a whole season with the Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band in order to seethings from the inside, and better understand this phenomenon. This is how his opinion changed on thesemarching bands: I shared the media perception that they were thuggish throwbacks, pounding out dour dirges with more decibels than deference for peace and goodwill. I thought their annual parades were coat- trailing shows of Protestant supremacy, solely designed to annoy peaceable neighbours. But I knew nothing then and since I began research for my new book, Blood and Thunder: Inside an Ulster Protestant Band, it is remarkable how much I learned in just a year of attending practices and parades with an open mind. I learned for instance that Blood and Thunder bands: – Brought popular youth culture to traditional flute bands in the 1970s; – Play a range of airs that encompasses shared traditional Irish music to hymns, movie themes and popular tunes; – Provide year-round involvement in cultural and music pursuits for thousands of young band members; – Compete through a parade season that lasts for 9 months from, and then go indoors for a packed programme of winter concerts; – Teach and value discipline and orderly parading, as well as musical ability.” With sociological investigations like this one delivering a better understanding of cultural differencesto the public, maybe tensions between Catholics and Protestants will ease one day so as to favour a bettercohabitation. There is a long way to go, but eventually we will get there.28 On, in an interview with Garbhan Dawney in October 2010.
  31. 31. Folk music as a mean of heritage transmission is a method used since always. In Ireland, it stillconstitutes a living legacy and is based on the oral transmission of the countrys collective memory, as inthe times of the first Gaelic harpists. The countrys three main songs, used at football or rugby matches,certify that people want to keep their traditions and memory in our modern world. Irish music is certainly not only a collection of cliché drinking songs: the dimension focused onstruggles against the colonizer is very present and constantly renewed, constituting day after day asource of inspiration for artists willing to pass on the tradition. For the people of a country with such arecent independence, it is capital not to forget their ancestors struggles and resistance which happenedboth through the arms and the arts. Another consequence of previous persecutions is the present result of the Irish diaspora – of the 20 thcentury in particular: now various Irish communities exist throughout the world, composed of the thirdand fourth generations of immigrants yearning to feel again their “Irish identity”. Therefore theperpetuation of Irish songs tradition is even assured outside of the mother island. The young generations in Ireland, however, who did not know the worst of the Irish-British conflict, donot find any real interest in their ancestors music, and do not find the same push so as to feel their“identity” like the exiled. But not to make generalities, still a good part of Ireland stays attached to itsroots – as events like the traditional Willie Clancy festival testify of. Ireland kept scars from her past. Today still, old tensions remain between Catholics and Protestants,and Nationalists and Unionists. Recent histories between families are far from forgotten, and culturalmisunderstandings often impeach a general harmony. Despite all that, Ireland is moving towards a calmer future. Without forgetting her martyrs dead forher liberation, she tries to make peace with her old fears and draw lessons from all this violence. Thiswillingness of easing tensions can have negative effects on tradition though, like when it leads to a slight“censorship” of certain songs or parts of songs. Fortunately Irish artists do not stop, and always renew rebel songs or write new ones. Whatever theaim targeted -call for a reunification of the country or dissuade from war, or just bring to life old songsagain- they keep the same main property: perpetuate the memory of a passed and common struggle in themost lively way possible, and sing it to the world so that no one forgets.
  32. 32. Bibliography: Folksongs & Ballads Popular in Ireland, volume 3, edited par John Loesberg, ed. Ossian (Cork), 1980. The Past in the Present: A Study of Some Aspects of the Politics of Music in Belfast, Thesis in Philosophy by May McCann, Queens University of Belfast, July 1985 Songs of Irish Rebellion, Political Street Ballads and Rebel Songs, 1780 – 1900, by Georges-Denis Zimmerman, Dublin, 1967 Songs of Resistance, published by the Jackie Griffith Cumann of Sinn Féin, Dublin, first time in June 1975 Songs of struggle and protest, by J. McDonnell (Ed.)1979. Dubliners Song Book, by Eric Winter, 1974 Folk and Traditional Music and the Conflict in Northern Ireland, A Troubles Archive Essay, by Martin Dowling, 2010 Blood & Thunder: Inside an Ulster Protestant Band, by Darach MacDonald, The Mercier Press Ltd, 1st June 2010Websites: