Ireland’s musical pedigree is epic. We’ve given the world some of its favourite musicians and bands including U2, Sinéad O’Connor, Van Morrison, Phil Lynott and The Cranberries – and we have some of the best music festivals around. But our influence goes deeper than that.
Rory Gallagher's guitar
Arguably one of the biggest bands of the 20th century, U2 is synonymous with Dublin city. The Cranberries all hail from Limerick, and music titan Van Morrison is a Belfast man born and bred.
The best guitarist in the world (in our opinion), Rory Gallagher, lived in counties Donegal and Cork, and because of his influence, people still flock every year to Donegal for the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival.
Rock and roll rebels Thin Lizzy (also from Dublin) brought their raucous live shows to stadiums all over the world. Even The Dubliners – traditional Irish musicians – have rock star status.
So, as you can see, Ireland’s influence on rock ‘n’ roll is heavy. But there’s more to the Irish music scene than that. Each of these artists brings something special to rock music and their chosen musical genre. It's something intangible and magical, and is deeply influenced by these artists’ roots...
Traditional music session in Galway city
Put simply, it’s the influence that traditional Irish music has on Ireland’s biggest rock stars and Irish rock music in Ireland.
The music styles of trad differ depending on what part of Ireland you’re in. But the spirit of trad music is the same all over. It’s a vibrant, rhythmic affair, that’s all about having a good time. And isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is all about?
It’s easy to see the influence trad music has had on Irish musicians such as Enya, Hothouse Flowers, Horslips, Thin Lizzy and more. Horslips paired their electric guitars with traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle and fiddle, and created a thrilling mix of trad and rock in their songs.
U2’s music is rooted in rock with trad influences, too. They have created songs such as “Wild Irish Rose” inspired by the ballad tradition often found in old Irish songs. They also often play famous trad songs in their set list, such as The Auld Triangle.
Performer on stage
Whiskey in the Jar is the perfect example of how Irish trad music influences rock ‘n’ roll. The popular song was first made famous by Irish trad band The Dubliners. Then, Thin Lizzy broke into the UK music scene with their cover of the track. Heavy metal icons Metallica also covered the song, while Nashville band Kings of Leon referenced it in their track, Molly’s Chambers.
One traditional Irish music song influencing rock stars across several generations – that’s powerful stuff! It must be the rebellious spirit you find in trad music that attracts the rock stars, alongside the love of mischief and adventure that can often be found in the lyrics.
Traditional Irish music remains very popular in Ireland today. Every night of the week across Ireland’s cities, towns and villages, pubs rock to the sounds of trad. Our traditional Irish pubs are copied the world over, but you can never beat the real thing.
A festival is a great place to check out, some trad music and you’ll find great tunes happening at the Galway International Arts Festival in Galway city, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast, to TradFest in Dublin’s Temple Bar every January.. The festival is held every January and is solely dedicated to the magic of trad music, bringing together well-established trad musicians as well as upcoming rising stars of the scene.
Traditions in Ireland run deep. And that goes for musical ones, too. Traditional Irish music continues to be a source of great inspiration to Irish musicians. So, next time you think trad music is just for the old men in the pub, you may just think twice!