In the words of a very old song: Óró, sé do bheatha ‘‘bhaile. Welcome homeby Caroline O'Donoghue / October 6, 2020 / Leave a comment
I have a new thing. Whenever I come back to our London flat from a night out with my boyfriend, we crack open a beer, sit at the kitchen table, and listen to Irish traditional music—otherwise known as Irish trad—for two hours. We’ve been doing this for about a year. The sessions get longer each time, and it’s become a regular feature of spending time at our house. “I went to Gavin and Caroline’s for dinner last night” will now be followed up with “…and did they make you listen to Irish trad?” A question that has been delivered in a variety of tones and levels of sarcasm.
I’m not sure where this new habit came from. A friend of ours says it’s us preparing for the next phase of our lives by “ironically” performing it. Much like how the people who jokingly refer to their pets as their “fur babies” are mentally preparing for parenthood, my new hobby is gearing me up for my middle-aged self: a walking boots-owning trad-listener who knows all the Child Ballads and employs a harpist to play at major life events.
“Trad” is a vague term—and one many people are protective about—so let me specify. When I say Irish trad, I mean anything that reminds me of home. It’s the kind of music that I used to hear in Cork pubs in the nineties, back when children were allowed in pubs. I mean The Dubliners; The High Kings; The Corrs before they went pop. People often talk about what they would say to their younger selves. If I had to talk to my younger self—specifically the 19-year-old who worked in the “specialty’” department of HMV and sold Irish pipe music to passing tourists in the summertime—that I was willingly listening to Luke Kelly, I would be so paralysed by her disgusted face that I’m sure it would prevent me from travelling forward in time.
So why trad? And why now? On a very simple level, I just like it. My boyfriend, who is English yet prone to drunken renditions of “Come Out Ye Black and Tans,”…