How do you describe one of the best emerging music hotspots in Europe? Northern Ireland songstress (and actress from The Commitments), Bronagh Gallagher, gives it a go: “If you are a blues head, if you are a reggae head, if you are a techno head, if you’re just a wee groover – there’s always somewhere in Belfast that’s doing it.”
And Belfast’s reputation has gone international. In 2011, the MTV Europe Music Awards shook the city’s Odyssey Arena with international music heavyweights in tow, and you could feel the excitement – it was finally Belfast’s moment to shine on the global music stage. Executive producer of the event, Richard Godfrey, said the time was just right. “The changes in the city are phenomenal. Artists tell us they love playing here; they love staying here. The audiences are brilliant.”
Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher also has a good idea about what makes the city’s music scene so special: “The people in Northern Ireland are always so up for it – they just get it.” Justin Bieber was moved to Tweet “lovin’ Belfast” when he was in town, and Rihanna grabbed a microphone and shouted out “I love you Belfast” while recording a video in New Lodge, in the north of the city.
Nourishing new talent
But Belfast isn’t just a place to listen to great music; it’s a place that’s creates it too. Van Morrison is undoubtedly the city’s biggest star, but The Undertones, Ash and Snow Patrol have also made it on the international stage. Meanwhile, new talent keeps things fresh – thanks in part to the Oh Yeah Music Centre. Ticking all the required boxes of music venue, recording studio and music exhibition, the Oh Yeah nourishes new talent on their way to the top and is one of the hottest gig venues in town.
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Regardless of how many platinum discs or MTV awards on the walls, though, Belfast keeps its feet on the ground. Terri Hooley, founder of Good Vibrations record label and store says, “no matter who you are, when you’re back here in Belfast, whether in the pub or walking down the street, everyone tells you you’re rubbish”.
Luckily the rest of the world knows better.