Celtic Music–What is it?

I’ll start by saying that I certainly don’t have a definitive answer to this question. I do have observations that are the results of the last dozen years surrounded by Celtic music both as attendee and producer of events. So remember, these are observations.

What is it? Should be an easy question to answer but not as easy as you may think. Defining traditional Celtic music is difficult enough but when you look at the variations that have sprung up using “traditional” as a starting point, you’re finding Celtic music to be much more diverse than most folks realize. You still have the balladeers and the instrumentalist that deliver what most consider the traditional Celtic music offering with passion and precision. But the direction that Celtic music has taken is proving to be much more of a broad appeal than previously conceived.

So what qualifies as Celtic Music? You can start by identifying the instruments, bagpipe, fiddle, harp, whistles, percussion, etc. but you’re missing a big part of the phenomenon limiting the definition to just those items. The fact that so many are combining traditional instruments with the full gambit of instrumentation (didgeridoo, banjo, mandolin, djembe, etc.) you wind up with some very interesting results.

Perfect example of combining various musical styles with Celtic as the root, listen to Bad Haggis. Featuring one of the world’s best pipers, Eric Rigler, BH have put together a mixture of Celtic, World, Latin, Jazz, Hip Hop and other styles to create a truly unique sound but it most readily falls under the Celtic heading due to Eric’s playing. Of course, this is the same guy that has played on such soundtracks as Titanic, Braveheart, Million Dollar Baby & Cinderella Man, just to name a few. He’s recorded and toured with such mainstream artists as Madonna, Phil Collins, & Rod Stewart, showing how Celtic has a fit within contemporary music.

You also have to consider the influences of culture. Obviously Celtic music is a combination of styles with Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Brittan and many other influences that give us the wide range of meaning to the term. Even history has had an impact on this music’s past. At one time the bagpipes were banned as an instrument of war by those seeking to control a population. The fiddle was termed the “devil’s instrument” and therefore destroyed by the hundreds along with the written music that it created.

Now you have groups within the Celtic music world that are labeled as primal, tribal, new age, contemporary, cutting edge, punk, heavy, rock and it goes on. The merger of other styles with the Celtic roots continues to expand the meaning of the term. From mainstream to “out there”, Celtic seems to encompass a wide range of styles and feel, not to mention some great results for the listener.

So, what is Celtic music?


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