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The History of Irish Folk Music

Hailey Wallett

Irish music isn't just catchy tunes - it's a vibrant heartbeat thrumming through history, passion, and community. Discover how traditional melodies connect past and present, from U2's soaring hits to lively pub sessions

Many best-selling Irish music artists, such as U2 and The Script, originated from their homeland and continue to perform music that many listeners hear on the radio today. This type of Ireland's renown musical heritage adds to her great beauty and strength.


Every note and rhythm made through a musician’s passionate fingertips cherish and honor the rich history of the Irish. With an ever-changing world, this music stands strong and continues to captivate a growing audience; music forms Ireland’s identity.


In 1951, a group of Irish musicians in Mullingar, County Westmeath, decided to stop their native music’s loss in popularity. Their actions began a cultural movement called the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which translates to the Irish Musicians Organization. This organization wanted to encourage musical education throughout Ireland.

Ireland’s traditional music started off as an oral tradition among its natives. Most of their music was not written down, so people would learn the tunes by simply listening to the music and recreating it. This was how their music was passed on to generation to generation, but it was not until 1762 that the first written collection of Irish Music appeared. This practice of listening and recreating music is still encouraged today in Ireland and to students who wish to study their traditional music, expecting to be able to pick up a tune.


Since much of their music was not written down, emigration during the 19th century caused a cultural drain on Ireland's musical quality and quantity. As a result, the same group that created the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann created a festival named Fleadh Cheoil.


The role of the Fleadh Cheoil Festival is to create a place where traditional Irish musicians could perform music and be appreciated by a significant audience. The first festival in 1951 only brought in a few hundred participants who came to perform and listen to the music. Despite this small number of musicians and attendees, they were a lively group that remained invested in the traditions of Ireland. To this day, people come from across the globe to celebrate Ireland's music; the attendance for this ten-day festival sees over 440,000 attendees.

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