Ireland is a young country in a multicultural sense, if you consider the changes the country has experienced in recent years with the arrival of many different nationalities. These are people who have made Ireland their home for study or work, temporarily or permanently, and they have brought some of their culture and their roots with them.
Irish people, for their part, are increasingly more open to other cultures and interested in getting to know them better. Music forms an essential part of Irish life and is a channel through which people here relate their history and life stories. They show their pride in their roots through their traditional Celtic music, which is to be heard from the smallest pub in the most remote village to the most famous pubs in Dublin.
However, in the last few years the sound of other, more exotic rhythms have reverberated in the same streets; rhythms like salsa, samba, flamenco, and forró, with new sounds continually coming to the fore and gaining popularity with the Irish public.
The streets themselves in cities, such as Dublin and Galway, are a stage for musicians of all kinds. Strolling down Grafton Street or through Temple Bar you hear a fascinating range of sounds and rhythms – traditional music, rock, classical, and ethnic music, played by both groups and solo musicians.
These musicians, often students which many of them are completely unknown, offer their best repertoire to the public for just a few coins. They do it for fun, or sometimes in the hope of finding fame and opportunity.
For whatever reason, the music you hear in the bars and streets of Ireland is no longer just Celtic music. Irish tradition now walks hand-in-hand with cultures, languages, and rhythms from other parts of the planet. This intercultural-era Ireland has been experiencing for the last decade and a half has given thousands of international students the opportunity to integrate into society, become part of it, and co-exist with it without abandoning their own origins.
Without having to go too far from Dublin, you come across interesting examples of this phenomenon, like the Baque Soul Band. Juliana Duares, lead singer of the group, is from Brazil and has lived in Ireland for over two years. Like many students, she came to Ireland to study English.
“About ten years ago in Brazil, I had a plan to come to Europe and play music. I knew Ireland was more open to that kind of thing, so I started off in Grafton Street. It was a great opportunity for me to do what I dreamed of and study at the same time,” Juliana explains.
Baque Soul Band was set up in Dublin in 2010 and has built up a following over the last two years, playing in pubs and clubs in Dublin to both Brazilian and Irish audiences. An interesting thing about the group is that its members are of different nationalities, with musicians from Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and Ireland. They bring together their previous experience and musical influences to produce an interesting mix of rhythms like funk, soul, samba, and hip-hop.
“We created the band step by step – first there were two of us, then four, and now six: two Irish people, one Mexican, one Venezuelan, and two Brazilians,” Juliana recounts.
Another case in point is Tania Ordaz, who took part in the 2011 Dublin Latin Festival, both as presenter and performer singing at the National Concert Hall. She is a Latin American who came to Ireland from Venezuela seven years ago to study English and Business. One of her greatest passions is music, and she hopes to create a Latin music band in Ireland.
“A group of friends and I are thinking of starting a new Latin music group here; we are discussing the project at the moment,” Tania says.
Tania sees Ireland as a place where she can settle and make her aspirations a reality, especially in the area of music. “I feel that being connected with music keeps me happy and that I can transmit that energy through my voice and through different types of music. I like boleros, for example, but I can also see myself singing salsa and some good meringue – and who knows if the next day I might transform them by adding in some Celtic music.”
Clearly then, Ireland is opening its doors to new sounds and rhythms, and a diversity of cultures is being united through music. The public’s enthusiasm encourages the musicians and they in turn perform at their best.
“So many countries are represented here these days; there is so much diversity that simply walking down the street is a great cultural experience. Irish people are open to those experiences and that’s one of the things I like about them – that they truly appreciate and learn from our roots,” Tania remarks.
“I find that the Irish are very open culturally. They listen to us. For me, it’s a great opportunity and source of satisfaction to be here, as it’s a place where I can meet people and musicians from so many different countries,” Juliana adds.
Tania, Juliana, and her group, Baque Soul Band, are just some of those who have found in Ireland the opportunity to do what they truly enjoy and find exciting, expressing their own identity while furthering their selves academically.
Music is truly a force that unites cultures, reducing distances between people and eliminating frontiers.