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THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

ALBUM REVIEW: SIGELPA- ‘Rabant Original’ (2016)

Folk core + Punk Rock + Ireland + Celtic + Catalonia = SIGELPA

Sigelpa

Now we have been around now for so long that we are beginning to do reviews from bands we have already reviewed before but only one band is rounding the corner for their third review and that is the wonderful Sigelpa from Catalonia. The group hail from Terrassa in the Barcelona region of Catalonia and their mix of punk, hardcore and good old fashioned Irish folk music, as I have said before, is right up my street. Everything about the band is pretty amazing right down to their extremely clever name. Its an acronym of the initials of the seven deadly sins in Catalonian. Superbia/ Pride, Ira/ Wrath, Gula/ Gluttony, Enveja/ Envy, Luxuria/ Lust, Peresa/ Sloth and Avaricia/ Greed making up the letters in their name.

Their new album, Rabant Original, was officially released on July 7th just gone and got a limited free release for a week which is when I downloaded it. Now I can’t tell you much about any of the song lyrics sadly as they are all, bar two (one in English and one in Galician), in Catalan so will just stick to the basics here. Sigelpa rattle Sigelpathrough their fourteen songs in no time at all with the whole album coming in at only twenty seven minutes and with the majority of their songs around the one and a half / two minute mark it’s a gloriously fast and wicked ride through celtic-punk owned territory! Rabant Original begins with a short intro ‘(pou)’ before ‘Aquí Ens Tens’ and the sound of electric guitar, accordion and fiddle fills the air and we are well away. Dual male and female vocals that is neither shouty nor crooned but fits the music perfectly. The accordion is to the fore in ‘Bronca’ and its really nice to hear female vocals at the front of a band for once rather than just singing the chorus and ‘Puta Ciutat’ show it off perfectly. The video for ‘A Saia Da Carolina’ will be just up your street if you can speak Galician but if not welcome to our world! A top version of this traditional Celtic folk song from Galicia.

The album signature tune ‘Rabant Original’ is pure pop punk with added accordion and fast drumming keeping the tempo right up high. Another highlight is ‘Dinamita’ which is a fast and furious racket with more lovely accordion and reminds me of the Brazilian celtic-punk band Lugh. Only 72 seconds long and over just as it gets going it’s accompanied by a video which shows Sigelpa in all their glory.

The band’s sound is never better than on ‘Us Tornarem A Votar’ with a great slab of celtic punk rock sure to get any bar room up on its feet and dancing away. Their simply is no let up and no time for anything slow here and ‘Culvolució’ carries it all on while ‘Mojigatrix’ is even faster! The only song sung in English is up next with the fecking amazing ‘Excursion Around The Bay’. Made most famous by one of celtic music’s big hitters Great Big Sea from Canada in 2000 on their Road Rage album. Written by Johnny Burke (1851–1930) who was a famous Newfoundland balladeer of his time. Not content to just copy the song Sigelpa inject it full of punk rock spirits and though it may start off quite familiar it ends a million miles away from the original. ‘L’Infern Està Pujant’ and ‘Exorcisme Vaginal’ take us up to the end and more of the same is all we are asking for now. Well played and expertly recorded and produced as well I have to say so well done to JM Castelló and Matias Scheinkman at Canela Hank Studio in Barcelona. The final track is ‘Sexual GGesus’ a fast and relatively long song for them at just under two minutes. Excellent country fiddle giving it a bluegrass sound in a song about punk rock wierdo GG Allin who died of a heroin overdose back in 1993.

Sigelpa

Sigelpa left to right: Albert (violin), Robert (guitar), Bruna (vocals), Guille (drums), Pol (vocals and guitar), Alba (accordion), Xavi ( bass)

And their you have it. All over in well under a half hour and as good a celtic-punk album has been released this year. Fourteen songs of which only two are cover versions. Sigelpa are a brilliant band and one of my favourites in the current celtic-punk scene. Everything they do has a great deal of thought put into it. Both their debut album and ‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’ were outstanding. Great politics, great musicians, great songs and a great spirit too. Trust me it’s no gamble here get this album and enjoy one of the very best bands in the celtic punk scene today, and certainly one of the most inventive, in ANY scene right now.

(you can listen to the entire album below by pressing play on the Bandcamp player. Its available on CD for only 7 Euros and that is as cheap as chips!)

Buy The Album

FromTheBand

Contact The Band

Soundcloud  YouTube  Facebook  Twitter  Bandcamp  YouTube

  • for our review of the first album TerraMotta from Sigelpa look here
  • for our review of last years EP Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn from Sigelpa look here

FLOGGING MOLLY: EMIGRANTS, EXILES AND ELECTRIC GUITARS

by Becca

I have a confession to make: I’m not really a music person. This is the sort of statement that raises eyebrows of confusion among my peers. No, I don’t really need a pandora and a blip and a last.fm account. I appreciate the ambiance created by live music, but don’t really see the need to seek out full-blown concerts of either the popular of classical variety. For me, music is best when it’s being used to present or prop up something else: a story, a dance, a mood. Music is powerful, but rarely does a musician or band grab me all on its own.

Flogging Molly Pub

But there’s one band that rises above all others and gives me everything I could want in music and more, a band that produces songs with narrative, songs that make you want to get out on a scuffed wood floor and dance (and I’m talking real swing-your-partner-until-she’s-dizzy, breathless, stylized partner dancing that fell out of popularity somewhere in the 1950s, not the bump-and-grind of the modern club), song that combine acoustic and electric and old and new seamlessly. And best of all, if you know what to listen for, their lyrics are really, really nerdy.

I’m talking about Flogging Molly.

For the non-folk music (and/or non-punk music) nerds among us, Flogging Molly is an Irish-American celtic-punk band founded in Los Angeles, California by Dave King, Ted Hutt, Jeff Peters, and Bridget Regan, who first began fusing traditional Irish music and contemporary punk sounds in the early ’90s playing in a Los Angeles pub, Molly Malone’s. They eventually signed onto a record deal with SideOneDummy Records. To quote the all-knowing source known as Wikipedia, “Flogging Molly has released an independent (26f Records) live album titled Alive Behind the Green Door, as well as five studio albums: Swagger, Drunken Lullabies, Within a Mile of Home, Float and Speed of Darkness; and an acoustic/live DVD/cd combo Whiskey on a Sunday. They have toured with the Warped Tour, Larry Kirwan’s American Fléadh Festival and contributed to the Rock Against Bush project etc., etc.,”

Best of all, even within the history-heavy Irish music genre, Flogging Molly this ability to invoke historical images and historical narrative better than any other band or musical group I have ever heard. More than the Dropkick Murphys, or The Pogues (yes, even more than The Pogues), or even more traditional-sounding bands like Great Big Sea and Gaelic Storm, they are attuned not only to the celtic folk musical tradition they are following in, but to the complicated, muddy history of Ireland itself.

And let’s face it, guys. That’s my kind of nerdy.

One of my favourite songs, for its style as well as its content, is the underrated “Tobacco Island,” which appears buried in the middle of their third CD, Within a Mile of Home. With their usual punk-folk flair, they sing:

” ‘Twas 1659, forgotten now for sure

They dragged us from our homeland

With the musket and their gun

Cromwell and his roundheads

Battered all we know

Shackled hopes of freedom

We’re now but stolen goods

Darken the horizon

Blackened from the sun

This rotten cage of Bridgetown Is where I now belong”

There, smack in the middle of contemporary pop song, is a short, emotional history lesson of that dreaded Irish side of the English Civil War. To fill things out a bit, here are the sordid historical details: Once Oliver Cromwell had taken control of Parliament, executed Charles I, and named himself Lord Protector, he set to conquering Ireland. After three years of some of the bloodiest fighting of the English Civil War, Cromwell’s army defeated the largely Catholic Irish insurgents, stripped Irish-Catholic nobles of their land, and sent Irish prisoners of war and their families into forced slavery in the West Indies – and thus effectively set the stage for the history of Ireland for the next three hundred years.* The song is chock full of historical vocabulary: it refers to “roundheads” (Cromwell’s political supporters in Parliament), “the Butcher” (a Cromwellian nickname), and “redlegs” (nickname for the Barbadian descendants of those Irish slaves and other poor whites). Though the song’s lyrics do not make the direct link, it is about an event that came to define the worst of Irish politics and turmoil until very recently.

flog8That’s not the only historical event to which the band directly refers, either. “Far Away Boys,” takes on the topic of the building of America’s trans-continental railroad, which famously used and abused Irish immigrant labour to create the railway that, for the first time connected the United States from East to West. Likewise, the opening verse of “To Youth” speaks of the Great Migration to America after and during the famine.

“Tell me why are our fields filled with hunger

And fruitless the crop bitter soil

So I say my farewell to a nation

As the leaf waves goodbye to it’s son”

“Screaming at the Wailing Wall” directly addresses the madness of religious war in the context of the Middle East conflict. There’s a mood and a tone to Flogging Molly’s lyrics and style that remind me, whether it was meant to or not, of some of the most noted Irish scholarship. The sense of loss and uncertainty in “Black Friday Rule,” is the heartfelt musicians’ answer to Kerby Miller’s seminal Emigrants and Exiles, one of the most detailed pieces of historical scholarship in existence about Irish emigration to America. “Drunken Lullabies” speaks with a cynicism and despair at Ireland’s obsession with its bloody past. “Must we starve on crumbs from long ago?”  Dave King asks.

flog7Here’s a grand, sweeping statement sure to make any professional scholar of Irish culture or history cringe: Flogging Molly is the modern answer to the intimidatingly grand and deeply rooted tradition of Irish music as Roddy Doyle was to the equally intimidating tradition of Irish literature. Both are rooted in an Irish tradition that has been romanticized on both sides of the Atlantic, both speak to modern cynicism and wryness, and both inject irreverence where it is most needed. Both are well aware of the complicated water into which they wade. In its own pop culture-laden sort of way, Flogging Molly brings the long tradition of Irish folk music into the new millennium not by watering it down in the awful tradition of green St. Patrick’s Day beer, but by providing a new perspective, relevant to Irish history and to the world.

“Must it take a life For hateful eyes to glisten once again?

’cause we find ourselves in the same old mess Singing drunken lullabies”

Flogging Molly  Web-Site  Facebook   Wikipedia  You-Tube

there’s a fan run Twitter site that’s better than the official one here!

to catch up with Becca her blog about issues in museums and historic sites ‘Adventures In History’ is here

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