Part of the allure of Irish dance is the strong sense of cultural tradition -- the idea that our sets and ceili dances have been passed on for generations, and we dance to the same tunes as our ancestors. But, man, those tunes get a little tired after a while. With that said, we like to liven things up on occasion with fresh, fun, lively music. And for that, many Irish dancers turn to the musical stylings of Beoga!
Beoga -- gaelic for “lively” -- is a favorite band among Irish dancers because its members have a knack for meshing traditional jigs, reels, hornpipes and slip jigs with modern influences. This week, dancers and trad music fans alike rejoice: the band’s brand new album “How to Tune a Fish” was released worldwide and is available for purchase online, and it’s sure to get toes tapping, hands clapping and -- dare I say -- hips swaying?
“One of the tracks has sort of a hip hop beat, believe it or not,” multi-instrumentalist Seán Óg Graham said of the last song on the album.
For Beoga fans, this sort of statement doesn’t come as a surprise. The band -- comprising Graham (mentioned above), accordionist Damian McKee, pianist Liam Bradley, bodhrán master Eamon Murray and vocalist-fiddler Niamh Dunne -- has a reputation for adding a little something exciting to each album, a nod to different musical eras and modern pop music.
You might even hear a little Michael Jackson in the new album -- really! “We’ve taken some of his riffs and put them next to what Seán Óg’s composed,” Dunne said, explaining that the band had additional freedoms while recording “How to Tune a Fish” because of unlimited recording time and studio space.
“I inherited a house last year and basically turned the whole thing into a recording studio,” Graham said. “We had the chance to do it all ourselves.” For a couple months, band members took to different rooms to record, with Murray even laying down some drum tracks in the bathroom.
Dunne, who expressed a love for vaudeville music, said that she had the opportunity to throw a Tin Pan Alley spin on some of the tracks. There’s also a undeniable Americana sound to “Home Cookin’,” which borrows a country twang that lends itself nicely to traditional Irish album, seeing as country music is rooted deeply in Celtic music traditions.
“Overall, this is probably my favorite album. The pieces that were chosen all sit nicely together,” Dunne said. “We hope people would like it.”
Listen to samples from “How to Tune a Fish” below, and buy the complete album on the band's website or iTunes. Like the modern sound but looking for more traditional dance tracks? Check out some of the Irish dance albums by Beoga band members McKee and Bradley, two beloved musicians in the feis circuit.