BONO and Bob loom large over everything. We might indulge ourselves for a moment with the notion that they are chuffed to hear they are being considered for the Irish Examiner’s list of the top 50 most important and influential people in Irish music during 2005.
But 2005 was the year in which Bob Geldof and Bono truly stepped beyond the world of pop music and onto centre-stage of the global geopolitical arena as anti-poverty campaigners.
True, Geldof’s track record stretches back to Live Aid in 1985 but then the focus was on a party in aid of a good cause; in 2005, more people around the world cared about the gig at Gleneagles than about Roger Waters rejoining Pink Floyd on stage at Live8.
And there in the thick of it, with the politicians kowtowing to them, not the other way around, were the two Irishmen, Bob and Bono.
No, it doesn’t prove that music can change the world, but it does prove that music/celebrity can, if channelled properly, be a powerful global force that forces politicians to at least listen.
Any attempt to manhandle the rest of the Irish music industry into the limelight after the exploits of the two lads must surely pale, but, rest assured, Irish music is alive and well.
Economic success has an obvious part to play in our increasing consumption of all things musical: for example, we continue to provide larger audiences per capita in Europe for outdoor music events.
While some voiced fears in 2005 that one of the big festivals would surely take a major fiscal hit, we just kept on plodding out into those muddy fields.
We have also finally accepted that the global success of U2 is unique, a phenomenon, and not just the start of the mother lode.
Now, a whole new independent scene has emerged in Ireland, where talent is valued above profile and control of the creative process is far more precious than any record company advance. It has taken a long time for a genuinely independent scene to develop and The Frames must take a lot of credit for pointing out the direction: they are a far bigger band in the years since establishing their own indie imprint, after losing their major label deal. One of our judges, Angela Dorgan, points to Damien Rice as a “fine example of a musician achieving success on his own terms” - an Irish indie kid.
For years, in Ireland, we were guilty of marginalising traditional music as “peasant music”, but now our real musical heritage is at last welcome in the “Big House”. (And we’re not just referring to the splendid Martin Hayes curated Masters of Tradition festival in Bantry House, in West Cork.)
Our economic success has, in recent years, been blamed for a “spiritual malaise” in the land, but the vibrant trad and folk scene offers a strong counter argument to that theory.
True, we may wobble a little as we attempt to discover new values to replace older ones, but traditional music is a lingua franca with which we are comfortable, as we are with its ambassadorial qualities abroad. And its national and international success can’t simply be attributed to the twin global assault weapons of emerald domination - Riverdance and Irish pubs.
We are almost unique as a first world nation in that our traditional music, our folk music heritage, plays a daily part in our lives and is not just wheeled out for national holidays.
And if you want to talk evolution, the necessary ingredient for sustaining life over generations (no matter what those intelligent design people would have you believe), then Irish traditional music can’t be found wanting in this respect, either.
While the oft-maligned Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann did gargantuan work in keeping the tradition alive in darker days, the nation’s youth have long assumed the baton themselves.
Since the 1960s, and the radical infusions administered by the likes of Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny, through Planxty to Moving Hearts, and right up to the present day of Dervish and Kila, young musicians - often shocking the purists by freely dipping into all the other musical traditions around the globe - have ensured Irish traditional music remains a living tradition.
Where does that leave our other musical traditions? For a lot of people in Ireland, jazz is a soundtrack to be heard Leeside over the October Bank Holiday weekend - you know, the Cork Guinness Jazz Festival.
Jazz, on a global scale, is healthier than it has been for almost half a century. Album sales and audience figures are experiencing a boom that 10 or 15 years ago would have been unthinkable, but music fans, seemingly less mindful of genre boundaries and hungry for a more challenging form of music, are responding in droves.
Okay, it ain’t New Orleans on the Emerald Isle just yet and, indeed, outside of Dublin, your Irish music fan is often starved for live jazz - but things are changing.
Another huge development has been the opening of the jazz department at the Newpark Music Centre, with jazz composer/musician Ronan Guilfoyle in charge, providing for the first time in this country a jazz musical education of international calibre.
So, where does that leave classical music and opera in the grand scheme of things? For a while, it seemed as if old aristocrats had fallen on hard times, playing out the old parlour games from memory, but offering little that would have you prancing around the ballroom.
But there is also change in the “posh music” world. Gerald Barry’s opera at Covent Garden last year was a huge event, and the emergence of a raft of younger musicians, like violinist Catherine Leonard, bodes well for the future. Even the entry at No 50 is an acknowledgement that Lyric FM, while not burning up the airwaves, is steadily holding its own loyal audience.
These are exciting times for music in Ireland and our daily expanding immigrant populations are sure to add further spice to the pot in the years ahead. We hope to see a few of those same immigrants making this list in a few years time.
: Cashel,Co Tipperary, 1939
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is Ireland’s largest organisation promoting the playing and studying of Irish traditional music and dancing. Founded in 1968, it has fostered an interest in Irish music and culture ever since. Ó Murchú edits CCE’s magazine, Treoir, and is the organisation’s outspoken and controversial árd stiúrthóir. While he has often criticised the Arts Council - as when Comhaltas’s suggestion of a separate Arts Council for traditional music was dropped by the Arts Minister, John O’Donoghue - CCE itself has come under fire from musicians for canonising a narrow repertoire.
: A prominent and controversial voice for traditional music.
Owner of the PoD, Reynolds has developed the nightclub into a leading venue for dance music and, at the recently opened adjoining Crawdaddy, live music. His latest Dublin club and pub ventures, Spy and the Market Bar, have also proved successful. He has promoted and managed various acts, often in association with Louis Walsh, including some early investment in Boyzone. His latest was in the female group Bellefire. Reynolds has worked with Aiken Promotions with acts as big as Metallica, but he is now best known in the live music sphere for the Electric Picnic.
: For his role in the development of Dublin nightlife and for the Electric Picnic, which changed the nature of live music festivals in Ireland.
: Dingle, 1944
Ó Rócháin studied Irish and Maths at UCC before becoming a teacher in Dublin. When it was founded in 1973, the Willie Clancy summer school was arguably the first of its kind in the world. Its independence and high standards, both of pupils and staff, soon won it high esteem. In its first year, the school attracted 80 pupils; last year there were 1,500 from 41 countries, taught by 250 tutors in pipes, whistle, flute, fiddle, concertina, accordion, banjo, harmonica, singing and set dancing. It remains important to the health of the trad scene at home and abroad, and has acted as an advisor to several similar schools in Europe and the US.
: The influence and quality of the Willie Clancy School as an international model.
: Kiltimagh,Co Mayo, 1956
For over a decade, Walsh has been a pop kingmaker, discovering a host of critically-despised and incredibly popular acts. Without him there would have been no Boyzone, and possibly none of the plethora of imitators. It was Walsh’s own Westlife which proved the most successful. A veteran of the showband scene, he began working in the early 1970s for booking agent Tommy Hayden. He also worked with Eurovision winners Johnny Logan and Linda Martin. His showband attitude persists: “It won’t last” is his motto, for his acts if not for himself. Over the last few years, Walsh has become more prominent with his often controversial participation in talent shows on UK TV.
: The most powerful figure in Irish pop.
: Waterford, 1954
After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, where he was Entertainments officer and Students’ Union President, Wilson joined the fledgling 2FM as a producer in 1978. Along with Dave Fanning on The Rock Show, he broke new ground in music broadcasting, their live sessions giving a host of bands a first taste of recording and broadcasting.
Furthermore, the show has remained the most popular rock show on radio since its inception. Wilson was also behind Cork’s Lark by the Lee and Lark in the Park, which were summer mainstays during the 1980s.
He is now a senior producer with 2FM.
: He has been a champion of indie music in Ireland for three decades.
: Caherciveen, Co Kerry, 1956
O’Donoghue was appointed to his current position in 2002 and was largely welcomed by the arts community as a cabinet heavy-hitter, with influence at the highest levels of government.
His appointment of all-rounder Fiach Mac Congail as arts adviser was a clever move, considering the expertise and experience of Mac Congail in the arts world. He has been replaced by Tony Sheehan.
Not only has he committed to funding the new National Concert Hall, but he has also come in with funding for a new opera venue for Wexford. During his tenure, the Arts Council’s report on traditional arts has put traditional music on a firm footing.
: His influence on funding and strategy for the music industry.
: Dublin, 1953
McKenna worked in theatre and in journalism for In Dublin, the Sunday Tribune and Magill magazine, before joining RTÉ as a TV producer/director in 1988. He has worked in drama and factual programmes, including Fair City, Glenroe, and, most recently, The View. He is now Executive Producer for Music and Arts Television, the first to take the new role, which RTÉ created 18 months ago. McKenna produces in-house programmes, such as last year’s The Symphony Sessions, featuring the RTÉ National Symphony; he also manages the production of independent commissions, such as the RTÉ Two series Other Voices, from Hummingbird Productions.
: His appointment is a positive step by RTÉ in placing greater importance on music.
Ó Dubhghaill first worked in radio as presenter of a traditional music show on a Dublin pirate station.
He joined RTÉ in 1979 as a trainee sound engineer and worked as an engineer for a number of years before becoming a radio producer.
Ó Dubhghaill was then involved in the initial set-up of RTÉ Lyric FM in 1998 and was a senior producer when the station went on air in 1999. He subsequently worked as a producer and producer-in-charge in Lyric, prior to being appointed as head of the station in mid-2003.
: Lyric FM continues to hold its audience share, offering choice for fans of opera, classical, jazz, contemporary and world music.
: Fermanagh, 1965
Kelly presents The Mystery Train on RTÉ Radio One. After a degree in law at Queen’s, Kelly joined the BBC and went on to win two EMA awards and a Sony Award for his music and arts documentaries for radio and television with BBC, UTV and C4. He moved to Dublin in 1998 to present the Eclectic Ballroom on Radio Ireland. He won the PPI Award for Music Broadcaster of the Year for 2002. He has written a column for The Irish Times, narrated U2’s Missing Sarajevo DVD documentary, and filmed his own documentary on Elvis in the US. He has also written two novels, The Little Hammer and Sophisticated Boom Boom.
: His eclecticism in the increasingly bland world of music broadcasting.
: Belfast: Peter, 1961; Jim 1932
Jim Aiken was a teacher for 10 years before becoming a full-time promoter during the showband era. Aiken helped put Ireland on the map for touring artists, bringing over Tom Jones, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and others. Since Peter Aiken joined the company it has grown to promote 400 gigs per year and its Vicar Street venue, in partnership with Harry Crosbie, remains a vital venue for quality music and a favourite with discerning fans.
Jim has been a board member of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Investment Belfast, Imagine Belfast 2008, and a number of charity and fundraising boards.
: Aiken Promotions is one of the two most important music promoters in the country.
Tom Dunne is best known as lead singer with Dublin group Something Happens, a leading band from the early 1990s. His and Ed Smith’s songwriting were displayed on albums such as Bedlam A Go-Go and Stuck Together With God’s Glue, and perennial singles like Parachute and Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello (Petrol).
Dunne now presents Pet Sounds on Today FM, winning a Hot Press award within months of starting in 1999. In 2002, Dunne won the Best DJ title at the Meteor Awards and the same prize from Hot Press readers - an award previously only won by Dave Fanning.
: For his championing, through Pet Sounds, of fledgling Irish bands.
: Buncrana, Co Donegal
As a member of the arts policy team reporting to Séamus Crimmins, she is responsible for providing policy advice to the council on traditional arts. Doherty is a musician, teacher and researcher. She graduated from UCC with a BMus in 1991 and was awarded a PhD by the University of Limerick in 1996, for her research and dissertation on the fiddle music tradition of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. She was a lecturer in the Music Department, UCC, from 1994-2001, and since 2003 has been lecturing in the School of Media and Performing Arts and the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages, at the University of Ulster.
: An influential figure in music policy making.
: Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, 1966
Educated at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and NUI Galway, Ní Ghráinne joined TG4 before the station went on air in 1996 and held positions as youth officer and commissioning assistant before being appointed commissioning editor in 2000.
She has responsibility for the music and arts output of the station. From the station’s inception, traditional music and song have been to the fore in TG4’s programme schedule.
Music and sport are now its strongest brands. The centrepiece of the traditional music schedule is the annual Traditional Music Awards.
: For her work in providing a place for traditional music on television.
: Tipperary, 1968
Carroll has been writing about music and the music business for The Irish Times since November 2000.
In 1997, he founded and edited online music magazine Muse. The title was subsequently purchased by Eircom. Before this, he worked in London with London Records as a press officer and, in 1994, co-founded the Lakota record label, as a joint venture with Sony Music. He has also worked as an A&R scout for several UK recording and publishing companies and has run his own independent music PR company.
He is one of the coordinators of the Choice Music Prize, the recently launched Irish Album of the Year award.
: His column remains one of the most influential on music.
: Dublin, 1951
Woodworth has maintained the Concert Hall as Ireland’s premier venue for classical music, as well as establishing its profile internationally with high-calibre guests, such as the San Francisco and Vienna symphony orchestras, and world renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma. In 1998, the Government appointed Woodworth as the first Chair of the Council of National Cultural Institutions. Woodworth is also a member of the Irish Music industry charity, the IRMA Trust, and a founder member of the Dublin branch of the International Women’s Forum. She has broadcast frequently on RTÉ as a singer, and as a contributor on a broad range of topics associated with the arts.
: Holds a key position at the NCH.
: Dublin, 1943
McGouran has been programming the Guinness Jazz Festival for the past 22 years and books up to 80 acts each year for an event which is one of the world’s top jazz festivals and which has been recently described as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of Irish festivals. The festival has played a pivotal role in the development of jazz as a dynamic art form in Ireland and was one of the major factors in the selection of Cork as European Capital of Culture in 2005. McGouran was part of the team who recommended that Guinness take up the sponsorship of the event when John Player relinquished it in 1982.
: Has helped make the Cork Jazz Festival an important part of the international calendar.
O’Sullivan moved to Cork when she was a child. She spent a year studying fine art painting then moved to UCD, where she graduated as an architect. She won the prestigious AAI award in 2000 and has also exhibited in the RHA as a painter. As an actress, she’s worked with Conall Morrison and also in film, with roles in November Afternoon and On the Edge. She is well known for her passionate and dramatic interpretations of the songs of Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, Nick Cave, Hans Eisler, Bowie and Tom Waits, with her shows The Dark Angel, The Carney Dream and Brel. She sold out at the Spiegeltent during the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2005.
: A leading and individual Irish performer.
: Co Waterford
Doyle is responsible for developing RTÉ’s policy of reaffirming the continuing role of music-making in the broadcasting service. He also manages RTÉ’s Performing Groups, including the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Doyle studied music at Trinity College and worked as a professional tuba player with the RTÉ Orchestras. In Australia, he worked with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Queensland Brass Ensemble. Formerly CEO of Music Network, he has taught tuba and lectured in musicianship at the Dublin College of Music.
: A key figure in maintaining RTÉ’s commitment to live music.
: Dublin, 1951
After completing a BA at UCD, where he was in the band Eyeless with Neil Jordan, Stokes was a freelance journalist, before founding Hot Press in 1977. The magazine is a vital outlet for up and coming Irish music and music writers, having given starts to Declan Lynch, Liam Mackey and Liam Fay. For the past two years, the magazine has worked with the Tisch School of Art at New York University, matching young filmmakers with unsigned Irish acts, to make music videos. Stokes has written Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song, and was chairman of the Independent Radio and Television Commission, from 1993-1998.
: Hot Press still gives a platform to Irish music.
: Dublin, 1986
Seán McKeon won many Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann competitions at a young age, and later the senior Oireachtas title. His main piping teacher in his early years was Seán Óg Potts. McKeon later took to the playing of the old masters, with greats such as Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy and Patsy Tuohey influencing him. He has toured Europe performing and teaching music and was a guest of The Chieftains last year. He teaches piping with Na Piobairi Uilleann and at schools such as the Willie Clancy Summer School and Frankie Kennedy Winter School. With his father Gay and brother Conor, he released the CD The Dusty Miller last year to critical acclaim.
: He is a major young talent on the trad scene.
: Dublin, 1981
Rynhart began learning piano seriously in 1996 and started on the Hammond organ in 1998. Influenced by the infamous exploits of his uncle Ivor Carroll, who had a close association with Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk in New York in the 1950s, Rynhart developed a keen interest in jazz. He studied for three years at the Newpark Music Centre, on their jazz diploma program, and has since started a masters degree in music technology in Trinity College, Dublin. His Fuzzy Logic Ensemble, formed in September 2002, features 11 of Ireland’s finest young jazz and classical musicians. What set’s them apart from other jazz groups is the flexibility and sonority of their instrumentation.
: An exceptional young talent.
: Cork, 1952
King received an Emmy for a one-hour version of his 1991 television series Bringing it all Back Home and in 1993 was nominated for a Grammy for his documentary, Rocky World, on Canadian musician Daniel Lanois. As a musician, he has recorded seven albums. In the past year, King has produced Other Voices - Songs From a Room, a 13-part TV series on contemporary Irish musicians; a special on Nigel Kennedy and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and a documentary on Nigel Kennedy. King presented the South Wind Blows on RTÉ radio for many years. In 1987, he set up Hummingbird Productions with Nuala O’Connor and Kieran Corrigan. He was appointed to the Committee on the Traditional Arts in 2003.
: Range of output.
: Dublin, 1966
McEvoy has been involved in the financial end of the industry since 1985. He spent his first 10 years dealing with both internationally established and up-and-coming acts during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1995, he moved to work in-house with the Cranberries in Limerick, and soon established an independent niche under the name of Live Wire Business Management, acting as business manager for many of the country’s rock and pop acts. McEvoy has followed the progression into management through Back Seat Management, and has also established an independent record label, West Clay Records.
: Manages many of the country’s leading rock and pop acts.
: Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, 1959; died September 2005
Hynes built a reputation as the country’s finest arts manager and began his career working part-time for his older sister, Garry, at Druid Theatre Company. After taking a BA at NUIG, he became full-time administrator and subsequently general manager of Druid. In 1988, Hynes became managing director at the Wexford Festival Opera.
During his time, the festival doubled its capacity, achieved 100% audiences and brought its plans well along the way towards developing a new theatre on the site of the existing Theatre Royal. He was appointed vice-chairman of the Arts Council in 2003.
: His influence is still felt by a successful and flourishing Wexford Festival Opera.
Dervish was formed in 1989 by Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley, Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes. In 1991, Roscommon-born singer Cathy Jordan and Shane McAleer joined to produce the first Dervish album, Harmony Hill. The album was described as “a landmark Irish traditional album”, placing Dervish at the forefront of the traditional Irish music bands. Their 1996 album, At the End of the Day, won the Hot Press folk album of the year award.
The band has toured worldwide and shared stages with James Brown, The Buena Vista Social Club, Oasis, Sting, REM, and others.
: Dervish combines the talents of some of Ireland’s leading musicians.
SO, just how did we arrive at that list? ‘Current’ is the !one little word to bear in mind before the axes are sharpened and the flaming torches are passed out to the angry mobs provoked beyond all reason at the results of our poll.
‘Current’ was the most essential criterion in choosing this list of the most important and influential figures in the Irish music industry during the course of 2005. Very simply, if you sold eight billion albums in 2004 but headed off to the rainforest for a spot of deep karmic retooling for the whole of 2005, then you wouldn’t make the grade - it was the ‘currently’ thing, you see.
This list was always going to be about much more than just pop music. Musical traditions in Ireland run far deeper and have run for far longer than the relatively callow young pup that is the Irish pop industry.
So, into contention came all the other genres which flourish in varying degrees of health in Ireland: trad, folk, classical, opera, jazz and contemporary, and whatever else you’re having yourself. Nor would it be limited to performers: those behind the scenes would also be considered.
Then came the choosing of the judges. We wanted a cross-section of knowledge of all the above genres - not just of the music, but also the industry figures behind the scenes.
To be honest, we selected the judges so well that, in all likelihood, we lost three near-automatic entries into our top 50. All three judges are not only equipped with the necessary musical knowledge of their specialist fields, but are very active participants in the industry as part of their day to day jobs. And their contributions do much to ensure the continued development of the industry from the grassroots up.
After a day’s haggling, an extremely long long-list was eventually whittled down to a shortlist of 50.
There is no doubt that if each judge had then been asked to rate the chosen 50 in order of preference, the results would be wildly differing. The judges were subsequently presented with a set of criteria - over 40 detailed questions, which required scored answers, allowing little or no room for personal bias.
The questions themselves covered all manner of topics: creative ability; performing ability; administrative ability; financial wizardry or simple earning power; longevity; status, in public and among peers. These and many other questions were asked in the context of both Irish and international markets.
If the questions were skewed in any way, it was with a bias towards musicians: for example, if you were not a musician, then the only possible score you could achieve for the first nine questions was zero - in other words, not applicable.
Without the musicians and the performers, there is simply no music ‘industry’, and while some jaws might drop that Louis Walsh is not automatically in pole position, it reflects the fact that his talent is for business not music.
Now, if after all that, you can’t agree that lists are nothing more than a bit of good clean fun - well, start sharpening those axes. Joe McNamee
Music Network has worked with hundreds of locally-based promoters since its foundation in 1986. Its core brief is to improve access to live classical, jazz and traditional Irish music around the country.
McCrea joined Music Network in 1996 as Regional Development Officer, and became Education and Healthcare Manager in 1999. During this time, she was responsible for planning and implementing a number of new music development programmes, including the Music in Healthcare partnership programme with the Midland Health Board; a Continuing Professional Development programme for musicians; audience development initiatives and school-based music programmes.
A late convert to a life in music and the arts, Gerry Godley is also a qualified chef.
As artistic director of the Arts Council-funded organisation, Improvised Music Company, he curates a diverse and busy portfolio of musical activities.
These include the Dublin Jazz Festival, the World Music Series Routes in Rhythm, in addition to regional touring and education programmes, IMC Records and the Pendulum Jazz Club.
Godley is also a well regarded saxophonist, the main outlet for which is The Night in Havana Orchestra, a 20 piece Afro-Cuban big band ensemble. He is also an active broadcaster, and can be heard weekly on RTÉ Lyric FM (Reels to Ragas, Saturdays & Sundays, 6-7pm).
Affectionately known as the fairy godmother of Irish bands, Angela Dorgan heads up the First Music Contact (FMC), formerly Federation of Music Collectives, which has developed into the central source of information and advice for Ireland’s independent music sector.
A native of Cork, Dorgan has been instrumental in bringing Irish bands to the attention of the international market. Her campaign to put Ireland on the musical map also involves organising the Hard Working Class Heroes festival, the foremost festival in the country for Irish acts looking for exposure. No fewer than 11 of this year’s Meteor Award nominees have had help from the company at some stage of their careers.