The origins of Irish folk or ethnic music can be traced back to thousands of years ago, but the collections date only as further back as 18th century. Many people believe that the folk music born in Ireland survived more robustly than those originating in other European nations because Ireland did not transform into a battlefield during any of the world wars and the nation’s economy is largely derived from agriculture, where oral music generally thrives. Musicians employed the use of such instruments as bodhran, fiddle, tin whistles, harp, wooden flutes, concertinas and accordions in Ireland to develop the scenario of Irish folk music. The most important collections were partly preserved by collectors like George Petrie, Canon James Goodman, Francis O’Neill and Edward Bunting.
It was not until the late ‘50s that folk music of Ireland achieved mainstream popularity. The association primarily responsible for its resurgence is the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, which promoted Irish folk songs and music through its famous music festival called Fleadh Cheoil. Besides that, notable Irish musicians such as the Clancy Brothers, the Chieftains and the Dubliners helped a lot in spreading the ethnic music of their nation all across the globe during the ‘50s and ‘60s. In the ‘70s, other artists like Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher fused the music with punk, and rock and roll.
Some of the most popular Irish folk songs are as follows:
‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’, an antiwar song that dates back to early years of the 19th century when East India Company used to force Irish soldiers in serving them. This track has been performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio, Karan Casey, The Tossers and Joan Baez.‘The Wild Rover’ was composed sometime during the 1800s. Whenever this song is performed live, it is mandatory for the audience to participate by clapping during bridges in chorus or banging on tables rhythmically. It has been covered by several artists including The Seekers, Orthodox Celts, Four to the Bar and The Dubliners.‘Danny Boy’ is another famous folk song of Ireland, which was composed in 1910. The lyrics have several interpretations including a letter to a soldier from his father and a love letter from a woman to her lover. The track is also considered to be an anthem and has been performed by artists such as Seamus Kennedy, Diana Krall, Connie Francis and Charlotte Church.
‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ is about a man’s travel from Tuam, his hometown, to Dublin. The song was written sometime in the 19th century and artists like The Dubliners, The Pogues, The Clancy Brothers, Dropkick Murphys and Fiddler’s Green have covered it.