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Trad Fest!

Something special is going on in a small part of West Dublin. All walks of life have found common ground in Ballyfermot College of Further Education in the Ceolteoir class. Spanish, Italian, Polish, Irish all talking in the same language both musically and colloquially. It has brought together many diverse cultures and thrown them together in a veritable mix of traditional music. Traditional music finds its roots in the Celtic colonisation of Europe and it is evident in the Ceolteoir class with many different nations being represented.

Just off the Smithfield promenade is a small bustling pub steeped in Irish tradition, the Cobblestone. In an adjoining back room of the pub is where I witnessed this amalgamation of talent. Many  people would associate Irish traditional music solely with Irish people. To witness the camaraderie and chemistry between these musicians from different corners of the world all concentrated in one small room was mesmerising and heart warming. The night kicked off with a four piece playing their first ever gig but you would not know they were amateurs as they were a polished outfit. Exchanging banter with the crowd and whipping them into a frenzy with their frenetic pace with banjos, fiddles, flutes and guitars combining to send them into the ascendancy in traditional speak.

Vincent Roche and Eoin “Rumplestlitskin” O Neill are two of the more senior students on the course. Unemployment and a love of music combined to give these two men the impetus to return to education and pursue a love of theirs. Like a mistress they have been enjoying the honeymoon period of their affair with music and the Ceolteoir course and the excitement that accompanies a new adventure. Vincent always had this mistress in his eye but just never got around to it until the recession hit, “things were busy, busy, busy in work and then it dried up so I decided now is the time to do the course”. Vincent has been playing the tin whistle and flute for 12 years and Eoin has been playing the banjo for 4 years. Eoin feels the transition from playing in a pub to the course and professional standards has been a huge step up, “in a pub you’re just having the craic and falling in with others but here you’re actually performing, it’s geared towards performance”.

They both feel the course has given them a massive boost in confidence. The duo are of the opinion it has given them an inordinate amount of contacts and the confidence to approach professional musicians, “even professional musicians I’d have no bother approaching them, before you’d think they were a distance away in standard but they’re all actually approachable”. Intending to go back to work after the course, they feel the recession has given them an opportunity rather than steal something from them. The recession has been a positive thing for them and they feel lucky to be part of such an established and well co-ordinated course.

Back on stage the music is in full flow and the tables are littered with empty Guinness vessels. On stage is a four piece fronted by an Irish/ Italian female by the name of Emma Nicolai whose astonishing vocal prowess has managed to hypnotise the adoring crowd and leave them speechless and content, safe in the knowledge that the future of Irish traditional vocalists is in safe hands with Ms. Nicolai. Soon to follow was the banjo extraordinaire, Shauna Lynch, whose lightning quick finger work certainly left me dizzy. With the room packed with musicians of all varieties and every one of them as talented as the next I left the crowd in my rear view mirror and traditional music in the youth of the night to wallow in its future. The future that belonged to those wonderful multi cultural musicians, right there in a back room of the Cobblestone pub.

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