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Irish Folk Music

Well ladies and gentlemen, it is time once again for Gear Grease. Make sure you have your favorite cup of brew as you sit down to read this. Today's topic will be Irish Folk Music which collection have been saved from as far back as the 1700s. Although it dates much farther back as its origins like most story telling came from being passed down orally. Why Irish Folk Music because why not?


Boiling down the composition to the most basic form, it is isometric. This means that the beat of the music may vary according to what the artist is singing including if the artist is singing multisyllabic (my five dollar word for this blog). So if you were to look at something by John Philip Sousa his marching music has a set beat. Each and every new measure can be perfectly timed and will match. Irish Folk Music may have some twice as long as others depending on the word and syllable count. Another commonly featured trait of Irish Folk Music is that it will feature a call and response form. So it will have one or two phrases (set of measures) that alternate.



Fiddles (violins), uilleann pipes, wooden flutes, and tin whistles are traditional (pre-1900) instruments used by bards when performing for the Chieftains of Ireland. Only in the latter half of the 20th century did the guitar, harp, and other instruments —the bodhrán (drum), for example—join traditional music ensembles.


The oldest forms of Irish Folk were not accompanied by instruments. This was called "sean nos" or "in the old style". This is also done as a solo performance. Seldom as a duet. Below is an example of this type of music. You can hear how the singer varies her tones without obstructing the words. Tomás Ó Canainn asserts that 'no aspect of Irish music can be fully understood without a deep appreciation of sean-nós singing. It is the key which opens every lock'.



A second style of Fold Music is Caoineadh. Irish for "lament," caoineadh is a song that emphasizes sadness and pain in its lyrics. "Keening" is how the word is Anglicized. The Caoineadh song traditionally included lyrics in which the vocalist bemoaned leaving Ireland after being compelled to do so for political or financial reasons. The loss of a family member or the silence from close ones may also be lamented in the song. The Caoineadh tradition was formerly widely practiced in Irish music, but it started to disappear in the 18th century and was all but gone by the middle of the 20th. Below is an example of Caoineadh.


Irish Folk Music has even penetrated the mainstream. Bands like Drop Kick Murphy and Flogging Molly keep it rocking on the Alternative Music Charts. U2 was influenced by it in their music. In fact their song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" fits into the Caoineadh category. More recently Bad Wolf covered the Cranberries' song "Zombies" another Caoineadh about 1993 IRA bombings in Warrington, Chesire, England. This song would top the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts. Maybe even one of the more surprising songs that is a traditional Irish Folk Song is "Whiskey in a Jar" famously covered by Metallica.


Here is the lyrics for "Whiskey in the Jar":


As I was goin' over the Cork and Kerry Mountains

I saw Captain Farrell and his money, he was countin'

I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier

I said, "Stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya"


I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny

I took all of his money, yeah, and I brought it home to Molly

She swore that she loved me, no, never would she leave me

But the devil take that woman, yeah, for you know she tricked me easy

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da Whack for my daddy, oh

Whack for my daddy, oh

There's whiskey in the jar, oh


Being drunk and weary I went to Molly's chamber

Takin' Molly with me but I never knew the danger

For about six or maybe seven, yeah, in walked Captain Farrell

I jumped up, fired my pistols and I shot him with both barrels


Yeah, musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, ha, yeah

Whack for my daddy, oh Whack for my daddy, oh

There's whiskey in the jar, oh


Yeah, whiskey, yo, whiskey

Oh, oh, yeah

Oh, oh, yeah


Now some men like a fishin' but some men like the fowlin'

Some men like to hear, to hear the cannonball roarin'

But me, I like sleepin', 'specially in my Molly's chamber

But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain, yeah

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, heh, heh

Whack for my daddy, oh

Whack for my daddy, oh

There's whiskey in the jar, oh, yeah

Whiskey in the jar, oh


Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, hey

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, yeah


Well I hope you enjoyed this as much as you enjoyed your cup of Gear Grease until next time.



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