Today’s Irish Times has a lengthy examination by Úna Mullally of the Irish arts scene that is well worth reading:
“Imram, the Irish-Language Literature Festival takes place from October 11th to the 20th, and offers a dynamic programme. There are familiar names participating: Louis de Paor, Dairena Ní Chinnéide, Micheál Ó Conghaile. And there are familiar names discussed: Pádraic Ó Conaire and Seán Ó Ríordáin among them. But there is a current of energy flowing through the festival that those used to the traditional narratives of the Irish language in the arts might be surprised by.
There is an indoor and outdoor multimedia installation by Ceaití Ní Bheildiúin; a dance piece called Ré written by Daithí Ó Muirí and choreographed by Fearghus Ó Conchúir; contemporary prose from Éilís Ní Anluain; the Mouth On Fire theatre company reading Beckett’s poetry in Irish; The Cohen Project sees poets Liam Ó Muirthile and Gabriel Rosenstock translate some of Leonard Cohen’s work into Irish, with Liam Ó Maonlaí, David Blake, Hilary Bow and the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra providing the music.
Next week, a two-day symposium is being held in Dublin aiming to “explore, challenge and provoke notions of contemporary arts practice in Irish.” The symposium, titled Fás agus Forbairt’ (Grow and Develop) is hoping to bring together contemporary artists who are currently working in Irish and artists who may speak Irish but whose work is in English.
In music, the Kilas and the Ó Maonlaís were flying the flag for Irish-inflected contemporary music from the 1990s on, and that’s still the case. The annual Seachtain na Gaeilge Ceol compilation CDs feature contemporary Irish artists singing Irish-language versions of their songs. While the overall result might be nice, there’s a sense of tokenism about it, even if, on occasion, these songs are occasionally brought to a live setting.
But things are changing. Temper-Mental MissElayneous, an upcoming Dublin rapper, has a tendency to drop Irish rhymes into her raps accompanied by bodhrán instead of beats, namely with her track Cailín Rua. And Daithí, a Clare fiddle player who has managed to successfully fuse traditional strains with contemporary electronic music, recently sampled the singer Mary O’Hara in one of his tracks, a trick last pulled by Massachusetts band Passion Pit in their break-out single Sleepyhead.
From the Puball Gaeilge tent at Electric Picnic to Manchán Mangan’s theatre work, there is an edge to the Irish language in a contemporary artistic context, and that edge is growing as those in charge of funding continue to quietly seek out more non-traditional targets. But a new generation of artists also need to take the leap. Perhaps next week’s Fás agus Forbairt symposium will put a real structure around such tentative, yet quickening steps.”
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