Monday, October 31, 2011

What Happens when you Google the words "Celtic Reggae"

As I mentioned the other day, my interest in playing folk music has now spread to the music of the West Indies, specifically Jamaican Mento music which often features a banjo with 4-strings (usually a tenor banjo).  I'm already playing some basic Irish and old-time tenor banjo - sorta traditional versions of reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, waltzes and schottishes. So, why not summon the Mento/Calypso strum and add some Caribbean style songs to my self-playlist?  This got me to thinking about what would happen if you did a mash-up of Mento and Irish trad?  Hence the Googling of the words Celtic Reggae.

Mento is a fairly obscure form of Jamaican folk music, however (ethno-musiologists cover your ears), it's basically just an earlier form of Reggae.  So Googling Celtic Reggae seemed like the obvious thing to do.  I mean, we know Celtic Rock, as crappy as it tends to be, exists, so could Celtic influenced Reggae really be any worse?  There's a strong chance that it could be more appealing.

Paddyrasta - Listen to Your Heart
I basically just wanted to hear how these sounds would sync up, and fortunately a band that mixes these styles well called Paddyrasta came up in my search. Paddyrasta is just like the name conveys - an Afro-Irish group based out of Scotland that blends Jamaican rhythms, beats and bass-grooves with traditional Irish melodies on fiddle, accordion, whistle and more...tying it all together with the universal sounds of the banjo.

I gave Paddyrasta's album Listen to Your Heart a spin on Rhapsody and I think they do a good job taking what could be (and will be) perceived as something cheesy and infusing it with a good-time energy. The mix of instruments is the appealing thing here - how well the Celtic melodies jive with the Reggae rhythm backup.  However, the socially conscious humanitarian lyrics are a little over the top.  Personally I prefer Mento's secular, tongue in cheek topics of sexual innuendo to the quasi-gospel themes of Reggae, but I'm not gonna find anybody doing Irish trad-Mento so this is as close as I'm gonna get for now.

I should mention that Irish music can easily fall into cliches as well - think Riverdance, Celtic Woman, pub songs, too many whistles, pipes, audiences clapping along, and so on.  To their credit, Paddyrasta doesn't play into those stereotypical aspects of Irish music.  At the very least this was simply an inspiring study of how these sounds intersect - perhaps giving me the affirmation I need to pursue this. Yes, this would take me even farther away from a purely traditional style...but I've never had a traditional approach to traditional music anyway. If I'm able to somehow mix elements of Mento and Irish into the music I make at least I'll have something that I enjoy.  As I always say, music self played is happiness self made.

Here's Paddyrasta's video for their song Meditation.

Good craic!  Jah rastafari!

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