By: S.J. Velasquez | Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 12:00 PM | Updated Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 12:00 PM
Riverdance musicians aren't all about traditional tunes all the time. Just take a look at Riverdance fiddler Pat Mangan's YouTube page, and you'll soon see what I mean.
Rihanna, Usher, Swizz Beatz, Calvin Harris, Antoine Dodson -- those aren't names often referenced around the trad music scene, but they are definitely artists and popular culture icons who have influenced Mangan, a 27-year-old Brooklyn native.
Mangan, who made his Riverdance debut on Broadway at the young age of 16, has been soaking up sounds his whole life, having been raised in the New York borough and surrounded by the constant cadence of the city.
"Even just walking down the street," Mangan said, "there's music coming out of cars and open doors. And there are so many amazing opportunities to hear live music -- the best of the best are always in New York."
So for Mangan, a two-time all-Ireland fiddle champion who began playing acoustic violin in kindergarten, the combining of classics with urban influences just seemed natural, innate.
"I'm very much into the real old style music, and at the same time, I don’t see a conflict in breaking off and experimenting in something very different," he said, adding that whatever music he creates "will have a bit of that Irish in it."
Lucky for Mangan, he's not alone in his folk-meets-modern mindset. He regularly performs with Hammerstep -- Irish show dancers who mash up step dancing with other forms of urban street dance and hip-hop choreography -- doubling as both electric violin player and DJ in the music-and-dance stage shows.
"They're on some next level," Mangan said of the Hammerstep dancers, remembering their recent St. Patrick's Day performance at London's Trafalgar Square where they entertained an audience of approximately 18,000.
He's also constantly surrounded by other creative types while touring with Riverdance, and he gets to travel the world, affording him a unique opportunity to learn about the world's cultures and various forms of music.
With Riverdance wrapping up stateside, Mangan's focusing on a different way to expand his international visibility. He's taken to YouTube to post everything from live performances to studio sessions to professional-grade music videos. His latest upload, "Strings for the Street," is both audibly and aesthetically enticing. The backdrop is Mangan's native Brooklyn, a colorful street setting for a musical mix.
He said, much like the TapTronic dancers expressed in a recent IrishCentral article, that he really just wanted to create a video reflection of himself to float around to interested parties.
"I’m hoping that things will organically continue down this path," Mangan said. But he admitted that he wouldn't mind having someone like Jay-Z watch it and maybe want to collaborate on something. (Hey, we have any members of Shawn Carter's entourage reading Irish Central?)
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