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Traditional Irish Music in Dublin

By Visit DublinDublin's Official Tourism SiteBIO
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Traditional music is one of the most exciting and rich elements of Irish culture. Multi-faceted and always evolving, it’s no longer just a passion of the older generations – so banish those images of beige Aran sweaters and tin whistles! Over the years, traditional Irish music has been embraced by modern musicians who’ve added pop, rock, dance and electronic components, experimented with new rhythms and generally had lots of fun. Today, a new wave of acts continue to develop this unique genre...


Traditional Irish Music in Dublin

Contemporary trad five-piece, The Gloaming, are probably one of the most prominent traditional Irish music acts today; they’ve truly succeeded in bringing their unique blend of Irish language lyrics, haunting melodies and lively jigs to the mainstream – inspiring lots of younger musicians in the process. It’s gone down well; last year they scooped the Choice Music Prize, a prestigious honour akin to the UK’s Mercury, awarded to the annual album of the year. The Gloaming played to a sold-out National Concert Hall in March 2015; keep an eye on The Gloaming website for a list of upcoming shows.

Traditional Art Collective are another dynamic collective based in Dublin. This talented group of musicians, singers and dancers host wild céilís (Irish group dances – trust us, they’re fun!) in the very cool The Grand Social pub and venue, to mark all the major Celtic festivals. Stay up-to-date and search for new events on The Grand Social’s website.

Traditional Irish Music in Dublin
Traditional Irish Music in Dublin

Equally exciting is when different sounds merge to create something new, and Mutefish are a shining example. Like mighty gypsy folk act Kíla, who mix an Irish sound with Eastern European influences, Mutefish’s wild stylings are guaranteed to have you dancing. You’ll often find this six-piece from Ireland, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine rocking their exciting brand of ‘progressive techno folk’ (yep, you read that right!) on bustling Grafton Street and in the cultural quarter of Temple Bar; both meccas for local buskers.

Self-professed ‘Dublin folk miscreants’ Lynched channel iconic trad balladeers The Dubliners, complete with gritty vocals, beautiful four-part harmonies and Irish instrumental arrangements; a real slice of authentic traditional musicianship. Perfect Friction meanwhile feature vocals, fiddle, flute, uilleann pipes, whistles, bodhrán and guitars, to name but a few! This six-piece take well-known pop and rock songs and give them a trad twist; we love their take on The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’.

Traditional Irish Music in Dublin
Traditional Irish Music in Dublin

If you’re visiting Dublin soon, we highly recommend you catch a live trad music session to give you an idea of what this vibrant genre is all about. The front bar of iconic Whelan’s (a venue which has welcomed indie, rock and electronic acts from around the world for over 25 years) plays host to The Folk Club every Tuesday evening. This session showcases both new and established acts, with the likes of lively five-piece Skipper’s Alley, gorgeous electro-folk act Fox Owl Crow and Irish bouzouki player Daoirí Farrell (from the excellent Four Winds) all recently featuring in this intimate fireside session. Be sure to grab a pint at the bar and pull up a seat beside them next time you’re passing. 
 
You’ll find plenty of other free trad music pubs and venues dotted around the city too. O’Donoghue’s pub on Baggot Street is steeped in folk history and plays host to a traditional and lively music session seven nights a week. The Cobblestone meanwhile is the perfect melting pot of old and new. Located in trendy Smithfield, this cosy pub serves great Guinness and also hosts regular live music sessions. Across the river you’ll find The Brazen Head (Dublin’s oldest pub), which hosts a live show every night, as well as a fantastic Sunday afternoon session (3.30pm – 6.30pm).
 
Further afield in the suburb of Rathfarnham you can catch trad act The Merry Ploughboys, who play a lively show every night in the pub of the same name. And of course we urge you check out Johnny Foxes, a cosy getaway nestled in the Dublin mountains. It’s easily accessible though, with a shuttle bus running from the city-centre. Established back in 1798, there’s traditional music and Irish dancing every day; check out their Hooley Night in particular! 

Back in the city, Temple Bar plays host to Tradfest in January of each year. This lively festival – which just celebrated its tenth anniversary – showcases the full spectrum of new and old traditional and folk music, in some of the city’s most unique venues. This year organisers chose atmospheric historical landmarks like Christ Church Cathedral, St Michan’s Church and Dublin Castle for the headline concerts, as well as popular pubs in Temple Bar, where a series of ‘Front Row Sessions’ took place. The event hosts fun activities for all the family, including singalongs on the Tradfest Trail, and a series of events for kids like the Children’s Céilí, Clayotic Workshop and a Family Hub.

Traditional Irish Music in Dublin

To give you an introduction to this diverse genre, we’ve put together a special Spotify playlist featuring artists both old and new: