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William Kennedy Piping Festival talk, Armagh

16 November, 2013
William Kennedy Piping Festival
Trian centre, Armagh
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English St., Armagh, Ulster, Ireland

Hunting for the (bor-) -rán … a (nother) talk on the bodhrán

A lecture on percussion in Traditional music in Ireland which shakes a stick at some of the  alleged origin-myths concerning the unique Irish drum, the bodhrán.

The paper challenges myth, imagination and wishful thinking in the currently accepted history of that unique Irish percussion, the ‘bodhrán’. It explores the use of percussion in Irish music, despite delial of that, and looks at the perceptions of Irish drum culture. The evidence of the drum’s antecedents is looked at methodically, as is the meaning of the word ‘bodhrán’ itself. The interim conclusions of this work in progress are that the famous Irish drum has no ancient artistic past: it was never any more than a tambourine. The Irish device, from which the word ‘bodhrán’ comes, most likely originally was an agricultural and domestic tray or container – even a sieve: indeed, the history of the bodhrán that we have is riddled with holes. Yet the bodhrán IS around, and being brilliantly played, as solid an art and presence as the harp or the pipes. But we borrowed the rhythms from dancers’ feet, the device itself from either black and white minstrels or the Salvation Army, and synthesized the modern playing style from the sounds of Ulster Lambeggers, Indian tabla tippers and Scottish pipe-band snare drummers  … yet what other instrument has suffered such scorn, been subjected to such unsupported nonsense talk – or has so many songs and jokes penned about it?

Hosted by the William Kennedy Piping Festival, organised by Armagh Pipers’ Club.

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