Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Hi folks

Just thought I’d mention something that I have always noticed/experienced with being involved in Irish trad music, and wondered if it’s purely in Ireland, or even just in my own locality.
ITM seems to have a reputation of not being "cool" here. It was the norm to learn the tinwhistle in primary school, but if you still played when in secondary school, your peers would tend to laugh at you, so I found - as did others I’ve spoken to about it - that you tended to lead a double life almost! You would tend to keep your ITM music playing a secret.
But then, when you’re about 16 or 17, if people find out they turn to you and say "wow I wish I could play an instrument"…. That used to leave me quite tick - i.e. ITM is so accessible, tinwhistles are so cheap and lessons are also damn cheap. But they were the people who a few years previous would have slated me for playing ITM. Just something that irks me quite a bit!
Oh yeah, so i think this attitude towards ITM comes from people thinking of ITM as something to do with old men/farmers and basically and old-fashioned way of life. Which is such a pity because iTM really is so young these days. I was glad my friends got to see the Fleadh in Tullamore, because they were amazed to see the amount of young people who are involved. It warmed my heart actually!!!!!

So just wondered, does this attitude towards and perception of ITM exist only in the emerald isle or is it a worldwide thing??

Thanks
Val

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Just realised I’m a bit all over the place there… Apologies.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

People’s perception of Irish music is obviously different in other countries. They have seen it performed on stage, heard the music from CDs, and *perhaps* have witnessed very lively and vibrant sessions with some young, possibly very cool(depending on where you are) participants.

However, the view that the majority or the unitiated have re their *own* traditional music is very similar to what you’ve experienced.

Most Scots think of our music as very old fashioned, "Hoochter teucter", "tartan" etc and can’t differentiate the good music from the rest.

Being fairly close to Ireland, many Scots would also have a similar view of Irish music and disparagingly describe it as "bog music" etc although they would have heard of The Dubliners, Fureys and so on.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. We have some strong Irish communities here as well as the more discerning amongst us who appreciate the music much more.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Don’t know about the Irish scene, but I heard something interesting (relating to the Scottish scene ) whilst enjoying a chat and a pint with Chris Sherburn and the guys from Last Night’s Fun a while ago.

They were on tour up in the north of Scotland and it was evident to them that the guys regarded as the ‘cool’ guys amongst the teen-youth weren’t the ones with the designer gear, or ‘in’ hairstyles/cellphones/whatever. Rather it was the ones who played fiddle/pipes/etc , the ones who played STM.

I found that refreshing and heartening.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Punt - if you get the chance to see these guys, do so. Hilarious patter, but once the music starts, it’s a brilliant, serious business.

http://www.lastnightsfun.com/index.html

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

I don’t know how it is across the pond, but here in Alabama, Irish music is highly respected (but little understood). Many folks around here have Irish ancestry, and my fiddling, piping, or whatever gives them a feeling of connection to their lost past, however cliched.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

I never got slated for playing anything but I was aware of people who did. I think that all changes when the slaggers find themselves in a pub, listening to the trad music and they can then feel the true energy and excitement from it…. maybe..

I dunno…. i’m tired…… wisdom tooth kept me up all night…… still feel stupid though!

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

I grew up in the US mid-west, and I’d say that kind of attitude is pretty typical for that age group. Also, if ITM is taught in the schools, then I can see how a lot of kids would think of it as "academic" or "state culture" that is being forced on them, and only able to judge it independently when a bit older, and they have some distance. Back in my day (never though I’d have to say that), the only music taught in school was classical music. So, traditional music, like old-time fiddling, though it might seem strange or corney to kids, wasn’t quite as un-cool.

I remeber hearing Seamus Egan, in print or maybe a radio interview, saying that when he was in high school (in Philidelphia I think) that he defenitely did not broadcast his ITM activities to his classmates. Andeven then he must have been an absolutely brilliant player.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

There certainly is a problem with some teenagers thinking ITM isn’t cool, and dropping out of playing when they reach a certain age, although fortunately a sizable minority keep going, or maybe come back to playing again when they are older. I’ve seen this with young people I teach in Co. Cork, and also with my own children. My daughter stopped playing the fiddle for a while at school, but has gone back to it now,(she’s nearly 20). My son, (18) has caved in to peer pressure and is not playing at the moment, although he was very good on both banjo and concertina. It’s his last year of school and hopefully he might go back to playing once he leaves too.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

I recall attending a reception at the embassy of the "former" Jugoslavia in London. It was held to introduce a team of musical culture types to leaders of the English folksong revival. Apparently, Slavs who moved to the cities, got educated, and worked in offices, were tending to deny their cultural heritage. Mr. Tito’s team wanted to find out how Ewan MacColl, A.L. Lloyd, and their contemporaries went about instilling an interest in folklore in young urbanites.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

As a 17 year old, I noticed this kind of thing growing up over the past few years in Cambridge, UK. In England its a lot cooler to be a sh*te guitarist in a rock band than a good musician in most other "genres"..

But, as I thought then, its worth remembering that those who are taking the p*ss are not the kind of people who I’d ask for an opinion on anything anyway.

Now I’m at the age where I spend lots of time playing good music in nice pubs and if anybody who went to the same school sees me, they’re a bit different about it, like how savage said.

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Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

In some ways I’m glad I’m of an age where it doesn’t matter so much whether what you do is "cool" or not. I’m sure I gave in to that kind of peer pressure a lot when I was a teen and missed out on a lot of things as a result.

I’m impressed with the smarter kids who see through all that stuff or are immune to it.

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Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

In Ireland it is often seen as "bog" music, reflecting the bad old days, especially now when we are super duper European whizz kids, complete with US of A accent. Yes, that is a paradox.

In England, the music, dancing, games and all the rest seemed to be carried on by many as a means of retaining their Irishness, clinging to the past.

I haven’t lived anywhere else.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

It’s always like that about SOMETHING or other when you are that age. Fortunately by your 10th high school reunion none of that is really important. At least if you are smart.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Shaved yer beard, Will?

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Nah, that was me as a nipper, in highschool, just before the beard broke out and took over.

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Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

5000 miles to the west in Northern California, I’m sure it’s no shock to find that ITM is a fringe music—only those in the know and interested have any inkling about it. We do have a number of sessions mainly due to the large Irish/Irish-decent communities in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. But the vast majority have no clue apart from (and I know this ain’t pure ITM, so don’t shoot me…) "Riverdance". I wish I’d had a chance to play ITM as a kid—I was into classical and jazz which were not ‘cool’—and ITM is the most fun of the bunch.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

InSearchofCraic—I like the way you distinguish there between the Irish and the decent Irish. Is that a religious thing, or how frequently they shower, or what?

🙂

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Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

LOL! Ay, grego, that was a Kodak moment, sure enough.

Posted .

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

That wasn’t very descent of me…apologies.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

yea craic, your going down!

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

I live in New York in the united states (cow country I’m afraid, not the city.) And here any kind of ‘Country-western’ music (line dancing etc.) is very ‘uncool’ and people who like it are ‘hay seeds’ ‘red necks’ or ‘hicks.’ Except to the people who love it of course.

ITM however *is* cool here. It is also cool in Nova Scotia Canada. If an Irishman said "I’m going to go jump off that cliff over there.." you’d find about 80 Canadians within a 0.5 mile radius who’d enthusiastically want join him and think it a marvelous idea. Even though the majority who live there are of Scottish and French descent.

I think when people are ‘close’ to something, it’s Not Cool. I live in cow country, so people either passionately love or hate Country Western. I expect it’s the same where you are.

I mentioned ITM to an Irish woman who was in the area, and she scoffed at my interest. It felt weird until I imagined some Irish kid gushing over country-western to my neighbor. it would NOT go over well LOL.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

LOL, over here, on the other side of the pond, line dancing and country music are big things! They might even dress up as cowboys! oh dear…

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Jig: Are you Kidding me????!!! LOL

Line dancing especially is considered so ‘lame’ over here by many in metropolitan areas.

ITM in my area however is ‘intellectual’ and/or bohemian…go figure.

I have a question. does the perception of ITM in Ireland vary between city areas and the country? Is it ‘cooler’ in one type of area?

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

thanks for the news, im out of touch with the line dancing scene🙂LOL
But yes there are big differences between town and country.
But i have to say im not cool, never have been, never will. well as far as i can know…

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

It seems like we’re all a bunch of geeks here ;)

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

No, im not a geek, maybe i have geek tendencies, but i generally am able to keep them in check. I dunno, more like a geek in wolfs clothing?

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Oooo.. ‘Undercover Geek’….Very Fetching.

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Geeks of the world unite, After all isnt there a saying; The geeks shall inherit the earth?🙂

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

It seems like the "freaks" have already gotten a hold of it, but I know we shall prevail in the end :D

Re: Reputation / Perception of Irish Music

Trust me on this one. Kids concerned with "Cool" are aficionados of the transient vagaries of popular culture. Most popular musicians cannot even play their instruments. The Irish tradition has been around for many hundreds of years. There is no sign that matters are going to change. If you like it, or love it, play it, & let the "Cool" mob worry about stupidities of whether or not they are wearing the correct T-shirts, or trainers, or whatever.