The Artists
Home Musica Amici nel web Keltika Links Page CD Reviews




The Twentieth Century

The first recordings of Celtic music were published in America. The early recording labels understood that, due to the increasing number of immigrants to America, there was a large market for ethnic recordings: Irish, Italian, Jewish, Latin-American and Afro-American bluesmen, too. They began to record the sounds and melodies of their native countries, and these records were sold in great numbers. Music-hall artists put in their shows elements derived from these various ethnic sources, and for this reason many Irish and Scottish melodies became known to a wider audience. At that time there wasn't much interest in separating the various cultural sources: for example, the American (German in origin) accordion player John J. Kimmel, very good at playing Irish music, had the nickname of "The Irish Dutchman" (!!!).(1) 

Ethnic and pop music began to mix themselves: Irish music, as we already said, based on a melodic approach, was now accompanied by piano, guitar or perhaps a full  rhythm section! (2) 

In Ireland the first records arrived at the same time as the founding of the Ceili Bands. In the 1930s began a more professional approach to the music (due to the  first 78s), and arrangements with a richer sound. This would lead to a change in the places where dancing music was performed. Because transportation was more accessible and country people could get to the towns more easily, dance halls sprung up and there was a decline in the number of house and street dances which had been typical of 18th and 19th century Irish music.

These variations of the  Irish music scene overlapped with one of the less happy periods of the social  history of Ireland. Anyway, due to these changes, music went out of Irish home and came into the dance halls. The musicians played on a stage with microphones. It was the birth of the Ceili Band. (3) 

Musicians needed a solid musical base to play for hours and hours in noisy and crowded dance halls: this base could be the accompaniment by a piano, or a full rhythm section with piano, guitar, bass and drums. The melody line was carried by the fiddle, flute, tin whistle, accordion or banjo, and sometimes with  "pop" instruments such as sax or clarinet. The repertoire was varied by the  circumstance: it's difficult to say if Ceili bands were more Irish dancing music  bands infuenced by pop music or vice versa (4). 

This was, anyway, the historical precedent of a fusion between traditional music and modern styles. This trend grew stronger in the 1960s and the 1970s with the development of a "modern" approach to this music by indigenous Irish musicians including Planxty, the Bothy Band, De Dannan, Clannad, Paul Brady and the Chieftains in  Ireland; and in Scotland the Battlefield Band, the Tannahill Weavers and Dick Gaughan. These new  Celtic musicians were someway able to increase the interest for Celtic music in a generation closer to the musical styles of popular musicians such as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan than to the great Irish musicians of the past, such as Padraig  O'Keeffe or Willie Clancy. 

For this reason, the musicians in the Celtic bands of these recent years, even if strictly linked to their musical background, approach their music with a more "pop" oriented style, more accessible to the general public. The growing interest in Celtic music for many people, who otherwise are not very "tradition-oriented" (me  included...) comes directly from this modern approach and intelligent point of  view (5).

These are the homepages of the most important ( my opinion) musicians of the Celtic area, by nation:


bulletAltan traditional band, very popular in Donegal. This is their official web page
bulletBothy Band One of the most famous Irish bands of the Seventies.
bulletBoys of the Lough Some of them are from Ireland, others from Scotland. This is their official web page.
bulletJohn Whelan a great accordionist. John lives in the States. 
bulletMary Black: this is an unofficial web page. One of the most popular Irish (folk but also pop) singers ; other sites by Carolyn Andre, and by Mark van Setten and Andreas Wilkes.
bulletKevin Burke one of the most important Irish fiddle players.
bulletTurlough O'Carolan: XVIII Century harpist/composerpositore; today his music is very popular: web sites by Art Edelstein, Lesley Nelson and this one, in Italian.
bulletChieftains Discography and links of the most famous Irish music group (for me, THEY ARE THE BEST!!!). The Chieftains WWW site is their official web site.
bullet Maura O'Connell: previously singer with De Dannan, actually singer of...everykind of good songs.
bulletClannad: Many sites about them: Discography , texts and translations. This is an US web site about Clannad.
bulletSinead O'Connor (often) discussed Irish pop singer.
bulletThe Corrs. Probably, actually the most popular Iris band. Their official web siteis by their recording label, Atlantic Records. There are obviously many other unofficial web sites: this is one of the best. This too is very good.
bulletDubliners: discography of the legendary band fom Dublin.
bulletEnya: very, very good, this Enya archive.
bulletHothouse Flowers: discography; another website.
bulletFrankie Gavin: surely the most famous Irish fiddler. Leader of the band De Dannan.
bulletThe Horslips: among the founders of celtic rock; site by Martin Feeney.
bulletAndy Irvine ...Planxty, Patrick Street and many other bands. These two sites are very good: Andy Irvine 1 and Andy Irvine 2
bulletPaddy Keenan GREAT, GREAT uillean piper and good friend of mine (Bothy Band, Moving Hearts...).
bulletDonal Lunny One of the "historical" names of Irish music scene, (Planxty...). This is  another site dedicated to Donal Lunny.
bulletChristy Moore famous Irish folk singer: it's a discography (both solo and bands (Planxty, Moving Hearts). This instead is his official web page.
bulletThe Pogues: the band that linked punk and Irish music in a mix of great success. These sites: Devan MacFarlane ; are very intersting. There is a Shane McGowan fan club too.
bulletStockton's Wing very "strong" pop/traditional Irish band
bulletMicheál Ó Súilleabháin musician and musicologist, mainly known for his piano arrangements of many Irish tunes.
bulletSweeney's Men historical band of the Sixties/Seventies
bulletWaterboys  folk-rock band by Mike Scott. This is their official web page.
bulletLunasa: one of the most interesting new bands of Irish folk music.
bulletPaul Brady actually an international pop star, but his roots are strongly into Irish music...
bulletCharlie Lennon: great Irish fiddler.
bullet Sean Keane: he is voted the "best male singer" by the readers of the Irish Music Magazine since many years...
bulletCéide: sensational band, born in the legendary Matt Molloy's Pub di Westport.
bulletCara Dillon: one of the new voices of Irish music.
bulletJohn Williams: one of the best Irish accordionists. He lives in America.
bulletShantalla: they are Irish (but the singer is Scottish), but they live in Belgium. They are great.
bulletTim O'Brien: he is an Irish/American. Very good bluegrass-man, actually he plays good Irish traditional music.
bulletMaurice Lennon: another "great" of the fiddle...
bullet Mairtin O'Connor: the great accordionist from Galway....and a good friend of mine too!



bulletBattlefield Band one of the most famous Scottish bands. This is their fan site
bulletRobin Williamson the founder of the great  Incredible String Band still today is very active, both as a soloist and with the old band. 
bulletCapercaillie very popular Scottish band; very good modern arrangements of traditional Scottish music. This is their official web page.
bulletDick Gaughan In my opinion he is the best Scottish folk singer/songwriter. This is Dick Gaughan's official Web Site (very, very good site!!!) 
bulletDougie MacLean great folk songwriter. This is his personal web page.
bulletRunrig folk/rock Scottish band. This is Runrig's official web page.
bulletShooglenifty VERY HIGH ENERGY (!!!) Scottish Celtic rock.
bulletSileas Scottish harp duo: Patsy Seddon & Mary MacMaster.
bulletSilly Wizard "historical" band of the Scottish folk revival. Interesting  this site, dedicated to the Scottish band.
bulletTannahill Weavers another very famous Scottish band. This is their official web page
bulletCoila good Scottish band, very good at mixing tradition and "new" sounds.
bulletSlide (UK): great folk-rock band from Leeds
bullet Afro Celt Sound System: probably World music, ethno-pop...anyway they are great!


bulletDan Ar Braz great Breton guitar player.
bulletAlan Stivell discography of the most important Breton musicians of the last decades; this is his official web site.
bullet Mugar: wonderful example of fusion between Celtic an Arabian music. Great, indeed...
bulletDominig Bouchaud Breton Celtic harp player. The web site is also about the learning of the instrument and the strong relations between Celtic music and harp.
bulletEric Ollu one of the best Breton traditional "sonneurs". Eric is also a maker of high quality traditional wind instruments (bombarde, biniou-coz, oboe).



Hevia: very popular in Italy, he could be the starting point of a new trend in Celtic music. A very good mix between pop and Celtic/mediterranean sounds...



Loreena McKennitt actually one of the most popular artists of the Celtic music scene.



Aes Dana historical band (they have been playing Celtic music for more than twenty years...) from Palermo, Sicily: ethnosounds from Sicily to Ireland. In 1986 they were on stage with Robin Williamson...News about the harp/guitar duo Giuseppe Leopizzi & Rosellina Guzzo here.


Birkin Tree one of the most important and known Italian Celtic music bands.


Babemalà folk band from Turin: songs & dances from the Italian & Celtic folk areas, but also folk arrangements of songs by songwriters.


Tùatha Dé Danann traditional band playing Celtic music.

bulletKeltica instrumental band specialized in Irish music from Bari (Puglia) with classical origins.
bulletIn the Kitchen folk-rock band, mixing  Pogues, rock, Celtic music, Piedmontese traditional music... 

O'Brian's Favourites from Puglia too, their music tends to mantain the flavor of traditional Irish music.


Kyle-na-no musical group composed of musicians with various backgrounds (classical, jazz, folk-rock) 


Samhradh (it means summer): young trio from Bologna. Music for harp, flute and guitar.

bulletJenny Sorrenti her mother was born in Wales,and the the father in Neaples ; that's why she mixing Celtic and Neapolitan classic folk music.
bulletGlee's Irish music group from Sardinia.
bulletCnó (In gaelic "walnut") Traditional Irish Music Band from Verona.
bulletMac Antock specialized in Irish music.
bulletThe Boxer's Italian band playing Irish music.
bulletInis Fail: one of the historical Italian Celtic music bands.
bulletVincenzo Zitello very good harp player.

(1) adapted from Paul De Grae: Traditional Irish Guitar, page 11; (2) adapted from Paul De Grae: Traditional Irish Guitar, page 11; (3) adapted from Paul De Grae: Traditional Irish Guitar, page 12; (4) adapted from Paul De Grae: Traditional Irish Guitar, page 12; (5) adapted from Paul De Grae: Traditional Irish Guitar, page 13

Introduction ] [ The Artists ] The Instruments ] Celtic Fingerstyle ] Photo gallery ]

back to Celtic music